With all the travel Ivan and I do around the world, not to mention all the people we meet on a regular basis, it was important before Ivan received his diagnosis of cancer to keep our immune systems strong. After we learned the added importance of how vital white blood cells are in the effort to keep healthy cells in the body, we were even more focused on all the ways we can have a positive impact on our immune systems.
When we first started learning what we could about how the body handles cells with DNA damage (which is what cancer cells are), we learned that part of the immune system has certain cells called Kupffer cells, stationary cells located throughout the body, which receive a chemical signal known as Interleukin (IL-1, IL-2, etc., depending on what the enemy is) when a damaged cell, or the virus or bacteria which can damages the cell’s DNA, is detected by the immune system. This signal alerts the Kupffer cells to call for killer cells by emitting another chemical signal. The killer cell comes to the site, locates the cell with DNA damage, and injects it with yet another chemical which basically dismantles the damaged cell. Then another type of white blood cell comes along to absorb the remains of the damaged cell. Viola, problem solved!
We were able to watch Ivan’s macrophages absorbing a mold spore in one of his live blood analysis slides done at the Center for Advanced Medicine. It moved like an amoeba and completely engulfed the mold spore, taking it into itself to protect the red blood cells and the organs. It was really quite remarkable to observe.
That is all well and good to know, right? But what else we learned was that when the body is under the influence of prolonged stress (two years or more), the Interleukin signal is no longer emitted regularly when there are damaged cells, viruses or bacteria found in the body. Also, if the liver is not healthy, the Kupffer cells which are located in the liver cannot receive the Interleukin signals which are emitted and the killer cells are not summoned.
I asked our doctor recently what the difference is between being in remission and being cancer free. After a brief pause, he said, “There really is not a time when a person is cancer free.” He went on to explain that we all have DNA damaged cells which our body is handling all the time. When our bodies are not hospitable to the proliferation of these cells, the immune system wins and we do not develop tumors or other cancerous conditions.
What about protecting the body from viruses and bacteria? Both of these invaders can not only damage DNA, but they also weaken our immune systems and reduce the effectiveness of the killer cells which protect us from the proliferation of cancer cells. So, protecting our bodies from viruses and bacteria is important.
We probably all know that we should wash our hands with soap and water several times a day, especially after using the toilet or before eating. But how many other times during the day do we actually wash our hands or use hand sanitizer? Probably not very often. What about after a networking meeting, when we have shaken hands with many, many people? What about after going to the bank and receiving cash back from a banking transaction? I will never forget the MythBusters episode Ivan and I watched where the team discovered that paper money had more bacteria than toilet seats did. Oooooo yuck! What about paying cash for a fast-food meal and then sitting down to eat that same meal? Double yuck!
It is important in the quest to avoid viruses and bacteria that we wash our hands frequently. It is also important to protect our bodies from the onslaught of viruses on long-haul flights. Our immune system can fight viruses for about 3 hours before the viruses will overcome the system. You will often see Asian men and women wearing face masks . . . after the SARS outbreak, they were advised to wear face masks to keep viruses from overwhelming their immune systems. Ivan and I started wearing face masks on flights of more than 3 hours in duration, but Ivan found he was unable to breathe well or sleep wearing the mask.
Our acupuncturist, Dr. Ray Chen, showed us the iFresh negative ion electronic mask. It is a small, personal air purified you wear around your neck. The air purifier protects the face, nose and mouth from viruses, bacteria and other particles in the air which you do not want to breathe in. Since using the iFresh on long flights, we have not become sick after any flights or international travel! Prior to this time, it was not rare that we would return from a long trip with sore throats or full-blown colds. It is so nice not to be getting sick so much. The electronic mask has made a substantive difference for us.
Staying well hydrated on the plane helps to protect the integrity of your mucosal linings in your nose and mouth, which are the first line of defense against viruses and bacteria. This means forgoing drinks and coffee on a long-haul flight as alcohol and coffee are both dehydrating. If you drink either alcohol or coffee, try to drink 2 glasses of water to offset the dehydrating effects on your body.
To avoid frequent colds, we eat foods high in Vitamin C, such as lemons – you can get your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C from one lemon! – berries, red chili peppers, guava, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kiwis, papayas, sweet potatoes, oranges, and cantaloupe. When you eat lots and lots of brightly colored vegetables and fruits, your immune system is getting strong support, so that is happening just by how we are eating. These vegetables and fruits are extremely high in antioxidants which support a healthy immune system. They are also high in other phytochemicals which are being shown in scientific clinical studies to have cancer cell killing capacities.
Apignen, found in parsley, celery, spices such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil and coriander, chamomile, cloves, lemon balm, artichokes and spinach, peppermint, red wine and licorice, is one such phytochemical. Another is tetrahydroxystilbene, found in the Osage orange. The ellagic acid found in pomegranates has been shown in scientific clinical research to inhibit cancer growth, specifically prostate cancer. Green tea has also been studied for its specific polyphenols, the most powerful of which is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is found only in green tea. EGCG has been shown to reduce enlarged prostates and prostate tumors. Selenium (get your daily amount in just 5 Brazil nuts) and lycopene (cooked tomatoes provide the highest levels) also help maintain and promote normal prostate function.
There have been some supplements we have added to build up our immune system, such as vegetarian capsules with oregano oil, Pure Synergy vitamin C which is simply powdered berries in a vegetarian capsule, and a zinc/herbal throat spray.
In addition to these sources of immune system support, we are also paying attention to whether we are oxygenating the body. Our cells, including the white blood cells, need to be oxygenated in order to function properly. Cancer cells thrive in a low-oxygen environment. They do NOT do well in a highly oxygenated environment. So breathing exercises have become very important. Cardio exercise has the dual benefit of helping the heart muscle remain strong and also causing us to breathe deeply and oxygenating the body, organs and cells.
Since the entire protocol Ivan followed centered on building his immune system so that his body would simply take care of the tumor, it is not possible to write about everything he did in this one article. Eliminating toxins in the body and nourishing the liver, one of the important locations of the critical Kupffer cells, were paramount. We start each day with a liver and gall bladder cleansing smoothie made of a whole, thinly peeled orange and lemon, 1 Tbsp of peeled and freshly grated ginger, 1 Tbsp of coconut nectar and a handful of ice cubes (double the amounts for two people). Our friend, Joan Emery, shared this recipe with us. We request this smoothie when we travel and most hotels are able to provide it to us.
We use freshly squeezed lemon juice and olive oil on most of our meals as a liver-nourishing dressing. We have both reduced our alcohol intake, limiting our consumption of alcohol to no more than one glass of red wine per day. The health benefits from red wine diminish with the increase of its consumption and compromises the liver’s ability to participate strongly in the immune system’s carefully orchestrated processes.
When we do get sick, we have stopped chugging Dayquil, Nyquil, Vicks Formula 44-D (and all the chemicals, artificial colors and alcohols they contain) and instead we drink ginger tea with honey and lemon, Dr. Mohammad Nikkhah’s herbal T.A.B. tea and a strong, black tea made with cinnamon, honey, lemon, ginger and cayenne pepper. This strong, black tea is nature’s Dayquil. It opens our sinuses, gives us energy and soothes our sore throats and/or coughs. It really does work!
Just remember, the key to health and longevity is a strong, efficient immune system. There are many natural ways to keep your immune system strong, and many supplements you can take, but nothing replaces eating those brightly colored vegetables and fruits. They are perfectly designed to complement our immune system’s needs and keep us productive, fit and healthy for a long, long time. To stay well, eat a rainbow of natural color every day. It’s fun and it’s effective.