I remembered a newspaper photographer killed about 20 years ago by rampaging soldiers when someone spoke with me last week about systemic lupus erythematous (SLE). We were in the newsroom when the news came that some soldiers had been killed in his village in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Almost everyone old enough to know what may follow the killings asked this gentleman not go home when he wrote an application for casual leave . But who could stop him? His parents were old, and lived in the village. He left. He found that all the young men had fled. His parents asked him to get out. But he objected, saying he had a newspaper identity card. When angry soldiers stormed the village on a vengeance- taking mission, they seperated no wheat from chaff.
I have forgotten this photographer’s name. But I still remember his face and story. I thought of him again yesterday because health challenges such as SLE, which are over-reactions of the immune system or auto-immune diseases, are like soldiers, or anyone for that matter, who does what American lieutenant William Cally Jr did in the Vietnamese village of My Lai on 16 March 1968. About 500 unarmed people were massacred after the women and girls were gang raped. One of the most touching cases of murder was that of a baby.
He was placed on the ground and the nozzle of a gun was inserted in the ear. Then, the trigger was pulled and the small head blasted. A war commander explained it off in the following words “…it became necessary to destroy the city in order to save it”.
Of 26 soldiers charged with the murder, only Lt, William Cally Jnr was jailed, originally for life, but later commuted to three and a half years under house arrest. Thus, in My Lai, the medicine for headache was to behead the sufferer in order to cure the headache whereas, in America, it may very well be Panadol.
At 18 in 1968, I was an avid reader of my father’s daily copy of the DAILY TIMES newspaper, and followed the Vietnam war with passion, supporting the khamer rouge and denouncing B-52 Napalm bombings. And when I became old enough to appreciate what goes on under the human skin in auto immune diseases, I saw similarities in these immune system destruction of the body and the wanton recklessness with which an insane army may carry out simple tasks which require no more than horsewhips to accomplish.
It is just about when some people are told their immune systems are underfunctioning or overfunctioning, like rampaging soldiers, that they begin to wonder what the immune system is all about. It is like any system of the body, such as the locomotive or skeletal system, the digestive system or the reproductive system or the newly discovered Endocannabinol system. Its job is like that of the military and industrial complexes of any nation… to defend the body against its potential enemies. The enemies may include microbes of all sorts which come into the body through food, air, water, damage to the skin, contact with saliva through kissing, using infected cutlery, sexual transmissions, through handshakes with infected hands before eating with it. As a boy, I was taught, for example, to wash bananas before eating them. As an adult, I found that one of the best ways to rid bananas of germs is to soak them in vinegar solution for about five to ten minutes before peeling them. For if microbes are on the peel, and one peels them off and cuts the banana to eat with unwashed hands, those microbes on the peel may find their ways into the stomach. If one is young and one’s stomach acid and digestive enzymes are still “sharp”, as we say, they may kill these germs, otherwise they may continue their journey to the intestine where they may cause all sorts of disturbances. Only people who visit gastrointestinal clinics or hospital almost all the days of their lives will appreciate what it means to have healthy bowels.
Vegetables, tomatoes and peppers, too, need to be sanitized. Turning the door knob or turning the steering of a car may be a cause of trouble. When we fail to keep the enemies out, there’s an army within the body to take them on. This is the immune system. It is not an amorphous system. It is real. Infact, man has patterned the defence of his societies after the formations of the body’s immune system. This system comprises fixed and mobile entities as well as chemical arsenal. Among the fixed entities are the TONSILS, SPLEEN, BONE MARROW and LYMPHATiC SYSTEM, the thymus gland and others. The mobile system comprises the white blood cells of all descriptions. These cells are broadly named as LYMPHOCYTES, and PHAGOCYTES. Lymphocytes comprise T-CELLS, B-CELLS, MAST CELLS and NATURAL KILLER CELLS. In their formations, we may see them as differentiated and specialised in activity as infantry soldiers, signals, air Force, artillery, military police and all that.
LYMPHOCYTES and PHAGOCYTES mediate immune responses, that is the recognition of foreign and harmful entities. LYMPHOCYTES have about three basic formations or kinds…T-cells, B-cells and Natural killer (NK)cells. While T-cells destroy germs and stimulate B- cells to produce antibodies which are antigen specific, PHAGOCYTES surround foreign bodies, engulf them and destroy them. That is like saying they eat up germs. An antigen is a protein which announces the existence of any dangerous substance, such as a cold virus, which can harm the body, and cause the body to produce antibodies against it, in a bid to fight off disease.
Natural killer cells are known to contain viral infections. On the other hand, PHAGOCYTES have a broad extended family as it were which include macrophages, NEUTROPHILS, monocytes, dentritic cells or mast cells. They destroy foreign bodies by eating them up(phagocytosis) LYMPHOCYTES are different from PHAGOCYTES in that they develop specific antibody responses to foreign materials, whereas phagocytes employ a one way mechanism. In other words, lymphocytes would study the chemical structure or protein make up of a dangerous cellular or multi cellular body and create the type of “poison” that would kill it. Thus, if there are 1,000 different “illegal” migrants in the body, lymphocytes would create 1,000 different chemical “poisons” against each of them, then keep a record of the poisons which work in each case. This is like generating a biological “biometric” identity card and criminal record entry for each of them. In future, they would handle these criminals without us even knowing that anything is going on. But that is if we feed them right, on the right diet and maintain a clean internal hygiene which provides a healthy “work environment”.
We can observe two activities of the immune system at work. For while lymphocytes are ADAPTIVE in nature, helping us to adapt to pathogens as they come, phagocytes are innate, acting in multilateral ways.
UNDERACTIVITY / HYPERACTIVITY
We are again in the province of THE LAW OF BALANCE, a law of nature. This law governs the stability or equilibrium wherever we find it in the universe. It is the law which prevents the atom from cracking up on its own and makes the solar systems and the galaxies to not collapse. If a building or a bridge collapses, or there are pot holes on a motorway on which billions of naira had been spent, it is because The Law of Balance was infringed in the structures of these forms. Being a glaucoma challenged person, I have not failed to recognise, and to tell fellow challenged persons of the missing links of this law in our eye structures and function. As for the immune system, an underactive system shows the system is weak. In the hyperactive immune system, there is an irritating environment or other factors which are overcharging the system.
Immune system or immunodeficiency may be primary or congenital(that means we are born with it), or secondary, that means acquired. Immunodeficiency people suffer regularly from health break downs and hardly enjoy their lives. Some researchers link it to conditions such as protein-deficient diet, poor diet, sleeplessness, stress, certain drugs such as chemotherapy. Some of the tell tale diseases of immunodeficiency include yeast infections, colds and flu, diarrhea, sinusitis, pneumonia.
In hyperactive immunity, the immune system is literally “trigger happy”, attacking the body instead of defending it. The results of this unwholesome activity are called autoimmune diseases. Among them are multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, auto immune thyroid gland disease.
Auto-immune diseases are a group of ailments before which orthodox medicine still bows. Orthodox medicine believes they are caused by genetic and other factors impacted by viruses, bacteria, parasites or drugs in persons genetically predisposed to them. But it is well recognised that inflammation and pain are hallmarks of some of these conditions, so non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs play a huge role in their management. On the other hand, alternative medicine takes a broader view. The hygienists speak about a toxic internal environment which offers viruses, bacteria, fungi and mycoplasma a huge breeding ground. The PH of this environment is acidic, oxygen deficient, demineralised, suffused with microbial toxins, and unsupportive of life forms friendly to the human system.
Hygienists remind us that the 100 trillion or so cells in an average adult human body originate from one male cell which fertilized the female egg to form the ZYGOTE, a single cell which thereafter continued to subdivide until a maximum number is attained for differentiation into all body organelles, cells, tissues, organs and systems. All of these 100 trillion cells or so, therefore, speak a common language by which they recognise one another. This language is a SIGNALLING frequency. Every living form, be it a germ or a human cell, signals its existence on a vibrational frequency specific to it. It is like an Igbo man or a Yoruba man or hausa or efik man suddenly hearing a person speak his language in a crowd of about 1,000 people abroad. They would automatically become relaxed towards each other and friendly. The same scenario happens between the lymphocytes and phagocytes and the 100 trillion cells. There are certain nutrients in the diet which enhance this speaking ability or signalling of every cell, tissue and organ. Where the cell is “dumb” an account of not having enough of them, or the human cell is deaf and cannot hear friendly signals, “friendly fire” of the immune system is inevitable. That occurs, also, on the human battlefields where friendly bombers bomb out friendly troops. How can a national army fight effectively and efficiently without robust signal departments? Where only three apartment blocks are to be taken out in an air raid, may the attack not lay waste to a whole neighbourhood in the absence of satellite and signalling guidance? We can observe signalling guidance in the journey of the sperm cell to the egg in the fallopian tube. Both signal their whereabouts to each other. Some fertility researchers attribute this to calcium and Omega 3 fatty acids in particular. In osteo-sarcoma, researchers speak of healing therapies supported by the signalling enhancing potentials of such natural compounds as curcumin, resveratrol and apigenin in particular.
Beyond blaming free radicals in food, air, water and from metabolic processes for pollution of the internal environment, and poor nutrient and antioxidant to address them as to cause the erratic immune system, there is also much talk about leaky gut syndrome. This means the pathways of the intestine through which digested food migrates into the bloodstream have become so enlarged or porous or leaking that the sieves allow abnormally large molecules to pass. This means the digestive system, right from the mouth is compromised. Polysaccharides, for example, are to be broken down by the pytalin in saliva into disaccharide which digestive enzymes in the intestine convert to monosaccharides for absorbtion. Many people swallow heavy carbohydrate foods rather than chew them to paste or puree before sending them downstream, The effect after many years may be a leaky gut syndrome which, in men, may even leak fetal matter to the prostate gland, causing its infection, inflammation and disease.
On a much serious note, when larger food molecules migrate or leak into the blood, the immune system is believed to recognise them as “enemies” and pursue them to wherever they go. By this hypothesis, tissues and organs which harbour and use them in the event of having nothing else to feed on are attacked as well when the immune system opens fire on these molecules. In my 40s, I literally lost use of one arm due to inflammation and pain. I could not turn a steering wheel with it or wind down the door glass. I could not carry a brief case for long. As the second arm became threatened, my doctor gave me non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which failed to stop the problem. He then switched me on to corticosteroids, a set of more powerful drugs which unearthed simmering eye pressure. I went along with mother nature afterwards, using fruits and vegetable juices and ginger, which has been shown to have good anti inflammatory effects. My family switched from croaker fish to Titus fish for omega 3 fatty acids, another anti-pain and anti-inflammatory aid. I cleared up my liver and intestine using vervain(verbana histata). One day, I over reached myself by adding four leaves to a pot of vegetables. Good as I still am on bitters, we threw away the soup. It was about this time that I also got involved with tumeric, lecithin and many other herbs.
It is impossible to address as many ramifications of auto-immune diseases as pop up almost everyday on the Nigerian health landscape. Therefore, this column will restrict itself to the subject of the day, systemic lupus erytomatosus (SLE). The first case I witnessed was in the 1980s and involved the daughter of a priest from my village, ISONYIN, resident in Lagos. Her bedroom had to be located downstairs because she had no energy to climb the stairs. That was when I learned that, in such diseases, immune system boosters are out of the equation. You do not arm a soldier who has gone beserk and is on a firing spree with more ammunition. It is much better to clean up the internal hygiene and feed the patient with adaptogenic herbs which calm the immune system, curb inflammation, heal injury and damage and avoid diet and environmental triggers of this condition.
This young woman died. But I have seen and heard of many survivors with long spans of remission and what would appear to be complete remissions.
The battle against SLE(Lupus which has engulfed the systems) begins with DETOXIFICATION of the liver and digestive system. Organic coffee (not edible) enemas are highly recommended. From weekly intervals, frequency may be minimised to monthly therapies, with the intervals suffused with bitters before meals. Maria Treben bitters has been my first choice since the 1980s. Curcumin 2000x is a good anti-inflammatory because the addition of cayenne and capsiasin is reported to have upgraded it’s activity 2,000 times over. Pure Omega 3 oil is a good compliment. So are many aromatic oils of plants with anti inflammatory and pain relief properties.
CBD OIL AND ADAPTOGENS
Jennifer Chan informs us that, with many chemical drugs failing to live to their Billings in Lupus therapy, Dr Fotios Koumpouras, rheumatologist and director of Lupus programme at Yale, is investigating cannabinoids for their anti inflammatory and anti pain effects in Lupus therapy. He says the landscape of conventional “treatment of Lupus is a bit bleak”. Jennifer says the body produces cannabinoids and that CB1 and CB2 receptors for cannabinoids in the body or from plants can be found throughout the body. CB1 receptors are in the “nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands and organs”. CB2 receptors are in “the immune system, spleen, liver, heart, kidneys, bones, blood vessels, lymph cells, endocrine glands and reproductive organs”.
The psycho-active elements of hemp oil bind more to CB1 receptors, whereas the medical and health improving cannabidiol(CBD Oil) binds to CB2 receptors, which are in the organs often affected and damaged by SLE. So, using CBD oil in SLE should promote symptoms relief and healing.
Jennifer Chan says : ” The National Academies of sciences, engineering and medicine released a report detailing the potential health benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids. A committee of 16 experts from a variety of scientific and medical fields analysed more than 10,000 scientific abstracts determining there is conclusive or substantial evidence supporting the use of cannabis or cannabinoids for chronic pain in adults, multiple sclerosis, related stiffness and muscle spasms as well as chemotherapy induced nausea and committing. The researchers also found moderate evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids reduced sleep disturbances in people with obstructive sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis”…
CBD oil may be taken orally or massaged into areas of CBD impact such as the scalp or skin, or broken blood vessels. Being adaptogenic, calming high acting immunity or bringing up low immunity, CBD oil should have good company in adaptogenic herbs such as aloe vera, curcumin, ginseng, licorice, borage, ashwaganda, wild yam, schizandra, goji berry, eluethroroot , tumeric etc