As a follow up, we thought it important to address the underlying question - just what is health? What does it mean to be healthy, and what steps can we take to achieve that state (if we have lost it), and to maintain it (once we have it)?
While there are probably thousands of factors that affect our health, luckily we don't have to address all of these different factors individually.
In fact, there is really only ONE main area which determines whether or not we are healthy, and whether we stay that way. If you can keep this one facet of your bodily systems healthy, you will greatly decrease your odds of contracting any disease, and greatly increase your odds of living a long, healthy, and happy life.
Just what is this miracle "cure"?
This is actually the greatest difference between those who practice natural health, and the modern mainstream medical profession. Sad as it seems, the allopathic way is to wait until you are sick (or even dying) before addressing health problems. (To be entirely fair, this isn't completely the fault of doctors or even the medical system in general - it's partly due to our tendency as human beings to take the "easy way," and avoid taking responsibility for our own state of health. Procrastinators to the core, many of us would rather pop a pill when we start showing symptoms of some disease, rather than being proactive and taking steps to avoid getting sick in the first place.... Okay, I'll get off my soapbox for the moment!)
So just how do you prevent all illness?
There's just one way, and that is, to build a strong immune system.
As any doctor would agree, without the immune system, we would all die rather quickly. (This is why cancer patients are advised to stay away from anyone with any known illness during and following chemotherapy, which basically kills off your immune system.)
The immune system is the body's defense against all pathogenic invaders, as well as the internal cell mutations and abnormalities which we all have thousands of. We all contain the seeds of cancer within our bodies every day, but a strong, healthy immune system works hard to remove these cells and keep them from multiplying.
Not only does your immune system keep you from getting sick, but it is in charge of ridding your body of nastiness like dead cells, bacteria and viruses, toxins, and more, so that you can heal faster after an infection or illness.
Unlike other bodily systems, such as your digestive system or reproductive system, the immune system is not confined to any one area of the body. Rather, it exists throughout your entire body. Organs of detoxification, such as your liver and skin, are involved, as well as your digestive system (one of the largest components of your immune system), and immune cells circulate throughout your blood and lymphatic system.
Since the immune system is not limited to any certain organ or set of organs, you may be wondering how on earth you are supposed to keep the entire thing functioning at peak performance??
In actuality, it's not that hard, and most of the things you've probably heard you "should" do to stay healthy are most likely immune-system related.
There are really just three things you need to do in order to build and maintain an optimally functioning immune system, and stay healthy and disease-free. The first two are actually the basic requirements for any living thing, in order to stay living!
1. Put Good Stuff In
No system can function for long without the proper fuel. You wouldn't put sand in your gas tank if you want to go far, so why would you feed your body a diet of nutrition-less junk food and expect to be healthy? To keep your immune system healthy and doing what it's supposed to do, you need to provide good fuel that contains the nutrients your body needs to do its job. A diet high in antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, along with healthy essential fatty acids and high quality protein, such as the Mediterranean diet, will do the job quite nicely.
Avoid processed foods as much as possible, stay away from processed trans fats (all hydrogenated vegetable oils), and cut out sugar. This last one is important. Sugar is a huge depressant to the immune system. Some research has shown that drinking ONE can of regular soda pop can depress immune functions by 80% for up to 6 hours. Sugar is a major source of energy for cancer cells, not to mention what it does to your blood sugar. Just say no to sugar!
2. Take Bad Stuff Out
Getting rid of "the bad stuff" means avoiding non-nutritious and potentially harmful foods as mentioned above, but it also means getting rid of waste efficiently, and helping your body perform its natural detoxification functions. While you may not to go to extreme lengths with all sorts of weird "cleanses" (although some detoxification programs can be very helpful), at the very least, you want to provide your body with adequate amounts of fiber, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep to allow your immune system to rebuild and eliminate waste efficiently.
You will also want to make sure you are getting regular exercise. Exercise is a major detoxifier, which gets the blood flowing, helps lymph fluids circulate, and eliminates toxins through your skin via the sweat glands. It's one of the best things you can do to help your body rid itself of toxins - and it's totally free and available to everyone! (See our Exercise page for some fun ways to get more of it.)
3. Provide Extra Support When Needed
For those times when your immune system may be facing an extra challenge - either due to an illness, or recent exposure to a toxin or a pathogen, it can help to provide it with some extra support. Certain herbs such as echinacea have been shown to have immune benefits, as have some mushrooms such as reishi and cordyceps. Some swear by vitamin C, but others dispute its effectiveness.
However, two things that just about everyone should be using on a regular basis are vitamin D3, and probiotics. You may know that Vitamin D is good for your bones, but did you know that it is one of the most important vitamins for a healthy immune system? Unfortunately, since the Industrial Revolution, we've become more and more afraid of the sun - in some ways, we've become an indoor species! This means the vast majority of us in the Northern hemisphere are greatly deficient in this important vitamin. (It is possible to overdose on Vitamin D, but it's pretty unlikely. If you're worried about it, see your doctor for a blood test to make sure.)
A good probiotic supplement is pretty much a must for a healthy immune system these days (remember, the digestive tract is the largest part of the immune system). If you've ever taken an antibiotic, you will want to make sure you are taking probiotics to restore the healthy balance in your digestive system. Other prescription drugs can also upset the delicate balance of microflora in your gut. With the huge amount of pathogens and toxins that enter your body daily in today's modern world, giving your immune system this extra form of support is relatively cheap and painless.
Whether you choose to use these natural supplements is up to you, but they can potentially have a positive impact on the health of your immune system. (By law, I must tell you that they have not been approved by the FDA to treat any disease, and that you are recommended to consult with your doctor before using them. )
By taking care of these three essential areas of your physical health, you will be helping your body build a strong, resilient, and highly effective immune system. With that in place, you will virtually have the cure to any disease - or at least be able to prevent it from taking root in the first place!
To your health,
P.S. For more detailed information on the immune system and immune support, download the free book or audio at http://jonbarron.org.