Ray Fisch, C.H. is a certified clinical hypnotherapist, certified acupressure practitioner, medical products distributor, and an adjunct instructor at South Florida Community College. Ray's Natural Wellness Journey column appears in the News-Sun newspaper in Sebring, Florida. You can contact Ray at 863-699-2296 or visit his website www.naturalwellnessjourney.com

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The human body contains a miraculous healing machine called the immune system, which defends us from parasites, bacteria, toxins, and viruses. It does this work by sending more than 130 types of white blood cells circulating through our bloodstream to identify, lock onto, and destroy invading cells. Our complex immune defense system, which also involves our thymus gland, lymph glands, and bone marrow, can hold off and neutralize infection so that the body can heal itself. It is this quality of being a part of us, yet not under our conscious control, that manifests its greatest power. And sometimes its greatest problem.

First, the system is continually involved in fighting a "rear guard" action against a constant immune-depressing overload of antibiotics, cortisone, and antacids, etc., that destroy vital enzymes.

Second, it is dealing with foods full of pesticides, chemicals, and preservatives. With such a toxic overload, our immune system eventually reaches a point where it can no longer distinguish harmful cells from healthy cells. Then it just attacks everything.

You already know that the immune system is what stops you from catching a cold or the flu, but did you know that almost every disease you develop has something to do with a failure or defect in your immune system? Did you know that your immune system creates your allergy symptoms? That it sends out the signals that cause the pain and swelling associated with arthritis? That when it goes awry, it can attack your body?

To prevent the immune system from misfiring, it is useful to look at the causes of the diseases we develop and support our body's healing by correcting the underlying abnormalities. Cardiologists have learned, for example, that bacteria not destroyed by the immune system are getting into our arteries and causing hardening or narrowing of the arteries, which leads to cardiovascular disease. And neuroscientists have discovered that an over-stimulated immune system can promote inflammation of the brain, which causes irreparable damage in the brain and leads to Alzheimer's disease and other memory problems like senile dementia. Auto-immune diseases are serious defects in the immune system. They attack and destroy the body's tissues, organs, and cells. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Type-1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease are some of the over 80 auto-immune diseases we recognize. We also know that cancer is a failure of the immune system to recognize abnormal or renegade cells.

Our immune system is the body system most sensitive to nutritional deficiencies. Lack of sufficient minerals and oxygen in vital fluids allows an unhealthy environment to build up. Providing optimum nutrition at the first sign of infection or loss of health, therefore, vastly improves our body's defense shield.

We can further strengthen our immune system by
(1) finding healthy ways to deal with stressful events,
(2) improving our nutrition by eating more fresh organic foods and less processed food,
(3) reducing our exposure to environmental pollution,
(4) making other wellness-enhancing lifestyle changes, and
(5) most important, adding more laughter to our life. Laughter not only boosts our immune system, but it also lifts our spirits and generally makes us feel better.

This article is adapted from the Sunday, April 13, 2003 Natural Wellness Journey column in the News-Sun newspaper.