By Dr. Steve Prentice, Sandusky osteopath
Much fear and anxiety has been created by the public health community in its warnings concerning the potential death and destruction from the H1N1 "swine" flu threat. In the midst of this latest germ scare, many wrestle with the decision whether to accept the flu shot.
In times like these it seems the fear of the flu spreads faster than the flu itself.
All of us are exposed to massive numbers of microorganisms on a regular basis, including cold and flu viruses. Not a day goes by that we do not inhale viruses, ingest bacteria or breathe in molds and fungi yet somehow, we're not all sick.
If exposure to a flu virus causes the flu, how is it possible that one or two people in a household can become sick but not the rest of the family that breathe the same air, use the same dishes and handle the same food?
If exposure to cold or flu viruses caused illness then how do the staffs at health care facilities, who treat sick people daily, manage to get through the day without becoming deathly ill?
How is it possible the bacteria that causes strep throat is often found in the throats of people who are not sick?
We as human beings are quite capable of living in harmony with our environment, which includes microorganisms. In fact, there are normally more than 100 trillion bacteria in our bodies , outnumbering our human cells 10 to 1. These bacteria assist us with digestion, immunity and vitamin production.
Under normal conditions our own immune system handles foreign invaders and keeps the internal levels of virus and bacteria in balance -- so effectively that we aren't even aware that we've been exposed. What determines whether we get sick is NOT exposure to microorganisms but rather the overall state of our health, especially our immune system.
We do not need to live in fear of germs. They are around us constantly. It's only when our immune systems become weakened that they are able to gain a foothold in us and cause illness. Whether we get sick is determined by us.
The key to preventing illness is to stop focusing on trying to eradicate every germ known to man with antibiotics and vaccination campaigns and instead focus on how to strengthen and support our own immune systems. Nothing is as effective at protecting us as a healthy immune system and strengthening our internal defenses has no harmful side-effects.
Research is showing that our obsession with the "war on bugs" with excessive antibiotic use and over-vaccination may very well may be coming back to haunt us in the form of mutated viruses and antibiotic resistant super bugs. The time has come to save those drugs for when we really need them and focus on our own defenses.
Strengthening the immune system all comes down to how we live and maintain our bodies.
Optimal nutrition and hydration, exercise, reduction of stress and proper rest are just some of the many things you can do to increase your internal resistance.
Proactively increasing our level of health through lifestyle changes is the real solution to protecting ourselves against illness. We are far from helpless against germs, including H1N1, and outside-in interventions are not the only way to go. In the end, wearing a paper mask at the airport is not the answer to staying healthy. We are.