Life Health

Learning to survive in a world full of toxins

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones.

By Dr. W. Gifford-Jones, Special to Postmedia Network

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How many of us would like to live like a hermit?

I doubt that many would decide to give up the comfort and pleasures of civilization. But we pay an increasing price for comfort.

Today, it's impossible to escape fumes from cars, radiation from computers, earth's depleted ozone layer, foods that have been over-processed and pesticides sprayed onto crops, to mention a few. It's no wonder that so many North Americans suffer from toxic inflammatory diseases. But there's a natural way to boost the immune system to decrease the risk.

Dr. John Wilkinson, Senior Herbal Medicine Lecturer at Middlesex University in London, England says the answer is plant sterols which, like vitamin C, cannot be made by the human body. Studies show that plant sterols reduce inflammation, which decreases the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries), often requiring by-pass surgery. This explains why plant sterols have been called nature's "immunologic scalpel."

But plant sterols are not only for the number one killer, cardiovascular disease. Every year North Americans on average suffer six common colds due to weakened immune systems. Such infections become more dangerous as we age. For instance, during early life, influenza is rarely fatal. But later, when it strikes an exhausted immune system, it results in the deaths of thousands of seniors every year.

Today's stressful life is also not kind to our immune system. Chronic stress triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and auto-immune disorders such as psoriasis, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, along with aching muscles, fibromyalgia and constant fatigue.

It's estimated that in North America there are 30 million allergy sufferers. Some people have acute anaphylactic attacks that are life-threatening. But the majority are affected by pollen, animal dander, dust mites in bedding, and molds that collect in showers, window moldings, and damp basements. All can cause inflammatory reaction in the body's airways.

Another threat today is exposure to radiation. In addition to X-ray and CT scans, we're constantly exposed to home-radiation from cell phones, microwave ovens, transmission towers, along with radiation from long hours of looking at television. And unlike an infection that goes away, radiation never does, accumulating more year by year.

Fortunately, our own immunity system works 24/7 against toxins that enter the body and trigger allergic reactions. Without this natural defense our bodies would decompose in a few days due to microbes, parasites and toxins.

So can we increase the amount of plant sterols to boost our natural immunity against so many diverse diseases? It's easier said than done. For instance, three ounces of unprocessed plant food contain 4,200 milligrams (mg.) of sterols. But after processing it into flour, 90 per cent of the sterol is lost. This is the high price we pay for civilization.

But we can all get more plant sterols by eating more grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes and seeds. Research has also shown that regular exercise can bolster the immune system by stimulating the body's natural killer cells.

A natural remedy is also available in health food stores, called ImmunoCare. This product helps to restore balance to the immune system. One capsule contains 400 mg. of plant sterols along with a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants help to detoxify free radicals, the waste products of an aging metabolism. And to assure that the capsule is not destroyed by the stomach's acid, it's coated to allow absorption in the small bowel.

The dosage of ImmunoCare is one capsule daily taken with water or fruit juice 30 minutes before a meal. Women who are pregnant, nursing or diabetic should consult their doctor before taking this supplement.

An added benefit is that ImmunoCare, when taken before a meal, blocks the intestinal absorption of cholesterol, resulting in decreased bad cholesterol and increased good cholesterol.

To learn more about the incredible benefits of plant sterols, look for the book "Immunity, Thrive in a Toxic World." It is available in some health food stores.

Dr. Ken Walker (Gifford-Jones) is a graduate of the University of Toronto and the Harvard Medical School. He trained in general surgery at the Strong Memorial Hospital, University of Rochester, Montreal General Hospital, McGill University and in gynecology at Harvard. His column is published by 70 Canadian newspapers, as well as internationally. For more information, visit docgiff.com or email info@docgiff.com.