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Why You Get Sick
by Mike Oppenheim
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Dr. Mike Oppenheim writes a column for the Richmond Register.


By Doctor Mike Oppenheim

Many of my patients know why they’re ill. They also blame themselves. In both cases they’re usually wrong. Here are the facts.

You don’t get sick because:
1. Your “resistance” is low. You got that cold because another person gave it to you. If it’s your fifth cold of the year, this is a sign of what we in the medical profession call bad luck. It’s not a defect in your immune system. People with poor resistance suffer terrible diseases. There is no immune defect that gives victims too many minor infections.
2. Your diet is missing something. Americans suffer plenty of nutrition-related ailments, but most result from too much rather than too little of some element. Examples are obesity, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and tooth decay. Deficiencies are less common with calcium leading the list. The average American women consumes too little. Lack of calcium increases the risk of osteoporosis (fragile bones), but this takes decades to develop.
3. You don’t get enough (sleep, exercise, water, leisure). Researchers have proved beyond a doubt that lack of sleep makes you sleepy. Subjects kept awake for days become very drowsy. They don’t go crazy or get sick. Exercise improves your sense of well-being and strengthens muscle and bone, and it probably slows osteoporosis. Vigorous, long-term activity may lower cholesterol enough to protect against coronary artery disease and prolong life. Among younger people, sloth is not responsible for any disease. Drinking x glasses of water a day is a harmless folk remedy. It doesn’t flush toxins from the body. Doctors often prescribe it to prevent bladder infections, but there’s no evidence that it works.

You do get sick because:
1. No one is perfect. The healthiest human is full of clumsy design defects. Our back muscles are too weak, so even normal activity can injure them. Human veins are too flabby to support a normal blood pressure; that’s why we get hemorrhoids and varicose veins. Roughage may be good for you, but humans can’t digest some of its carbohydrates. That’s why a high fiber diet causes gas.
2. Your “resistance” is too strong. Don’t blame your fever on that infection you caught. Your body itself generates extra heat whenever an invader is present. Some experts claim fever is good for you, but the evidence is thin.
The human immune system is too strong for its own good - and trigger happy! Allergies occur when it tries to defend you against an innocent pollen, drug, or food. Even worse, it may decide one of your own organs is the enemy and mount a vicious attack. Thyroiditis, the most common cause of thyroid deficiency, is an “autoimmune” disease. An overactive immune system may also assault the heart (rheumatic fever), liver (chronic hepatitis), kidney (nephritis), joints (rheumatoid arthritis), or skin (eczema, hives).
3. Nature plays no favorites. It assumes germs and viruses have as much right to exist as you. Catching the flu, for example, is not a sign of weakness. Most healthy people exposed to a new flu virus get sick. Then they recover, but this is not a defeat for the virus. Multiplying during the illness, many escape into the air to infect others. The flu virus normally infects a victim for a week or so, then moves on. That’s the role it plays in nature. Your role is to get the flu now and then.
Medical science works to give humans an advantage in this competition, and we’ve done pretty well. But nature is impartial.

Published: Jul 13,2008 19:56
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