Immunity and Health Pt. 1

February 29th, 2016





“Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.”





Most of us, most of the time take our immune system for granted. After all, its job is to take care of us often before we are even aware there is a problem. In the earliest part of our lives, both in the womb and at the breast, much of our immunity is still supported by our mother.


© Alex Grey

© Alex Grey


Once we start introducing all the new and varied bacteria of the world via earthly food sources however, we have to engage and train our own immune system. By adapting our own intestinal and mucosal flora to the incoming challenges presented in the food and water we ingest and the air we breathe, we learn how to interact successfully with our new environment. Like so many other things for young humans this comes not through innate ability but through the challenge and response of experience and adaptation.



Nature vs nuture


Nothing much comes naturally for a human infant. The sum total of our talents at that point in our lives can be summed up in three ‘skills’: we can breathe, evacuate waste and suck. Our early vision is poor. We cannot even roll over by ourselves to relieve discomfort. While insects are flying or crawling around in search of food or baby turtles scurry over the beach into the sea to swim into the ocean of their new life, the human infant is forced to lie in a largely passive state and hope for the tender mercies of its parents to feed it, keep it clean and separated from its own waste, regulate its temperature and move it around.




We do have one very important attribute lying deep within us however. It is probably the single greatest reason for our rise to our current position on this planet: The ability to adapt. Yes, this does take considerable time to reveal itself and in the meantime we are largely dependent upon others but eventually this potential reveals itself in many internal and external ways.


Our greatest adaptive ability to avoid being killed by our environment is the responses of our immune system. Like everything else in the human struggle for survival, it does not come naturally but is trained. How can we train our immune system? By getting sick via agents our body is not familiar or capable of dealing with and adapting our responses. These agents often take the form of bacteria and viruses.



 “Fool me once…” The role of childhood diseases in training our immune system


The reason why adults (usually) do not suffer from childhood diseases like chicken pox, measles or mumps is because they have already had them as a child. Their system has adapted its immune response making it impossible to suffer the same childhood disease twice.


This is why childhood diseases are so useful. Not only do they protect us from contracting them as adults where they could do us more harm they also train and amplify our ability to handle many other potential attacks to our health.


In modern life, childhood illnesses need not present a threat to life. Simple, common sense, nursing management is enough: stabilising temperature swings, maintaining fluid intake and rest are usually all that is required to enable the body’s adaptive immune system to do the rest.



 Antigens, immunoglobulins and macrophages


Being a product of the culture that helped shape it, the Western medical model employs a warlike metaphor of the body to describe disease. This has quite profound ramifications in itself regarding how we view our own bodies and the methods we employ to treat them. [1] To help you through the terminology here is a quick primer:




  • Antigens represent a potential threat to our immunity and health. They take the form of toxins, bacteria or viruses.
  • Immunoglobulins are glycoproteins produced by white blood cells that possess the ability to become highly specialised in targeting equally specialised antigens so they can be neutralised.
  • Macrophages (from the Greek literally meaning ‘large eaters’) originate from a form of white blood cell (called monocytes) that mediate general and specific immune responses. They also serve to ‘rally the troops’ by stimulating other parts of the immune system into action. That is, they can function as amplifiers of the immune system.



In the meantime, there are other medical models that support the adaptive theory of health.



 The Triple Heater/Burner (‘San Jiao’)


This mysteriously named system in traditional Chinese medicine covers our metabolic processes from breathing and circulation, to digestion, elimination and reproduction. The saying “The Triple Heater is activated after the first breath.” infers its role in taking over responsibility for our welfare from the mother once we have engaged with the planet first hand (or at least, first breath).


The Triple Heater is a member of the Fire element – the most adaptable of the Five Elements of traditional Chinese medicine. It is responsible for adapting the external and internal environments to each other. In order to do this, it has to learn and adapt. Now what does that sound like?


A strong, developed Triple Heater energy creates a strong adult with all the signs of health: Energy and vitality; appetite and desire; joy and enthusiasm; robustness and resistance. The metabolic flame is high and can transform external energy sources like light, food and water into useable internal energy while neutralising potential harmful substances that would damage our energy.


swiss outdoor school



In the Taoist tradition one is encouraged to engage their environment in order to build a strong and adaptive energy system. This includes plenty of fresh air and sunshine and all the wonderfully inconvenient discomforts that nature can offer in order to help us adapt to it.




 Vaccination and the immune system


In recent times, in the West in particular, there has been increased pressure to vaccinate against everything, including childhood diseases. While this may compel panicked parents to the vaccination clinic (which in itself, has become a new business specialty) it may not be in our children’s best interests.


As we have seen, these relatively harmless diseases play an important role in training our immune system and guaranteeing a degree of immunity in adult life. While, for example, it may be stressful or inconvenient to stay home from work to nurse a child through chickenpox we may consider it an investment in their future health and wellbeing.


Vaccinations are not without their own dangers as well. They can create their own health issues even if that is considered a statistically acceptable risk by the medical community – less acceptable if one becomes one of those statistics however.


Perhaps more concerning is that vaccinating early in life removes the immunity training phase we would normally endure in exchange for stronger immunity in adult life. The rise of both auto-immune and inflammatory diseases and the vaccination industry may not be coincidental. That is cause for a separate blog in itself and indeed will be next week in part two of this short series on immunity and health. The answers (and perhaps more questions) are coming. Try and stay healthy till then.




Till we are immune from the Monday blues for another week,



[1] Different angles on this subject has been discussed in previous blogs which you can check out here and here.





© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:

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