Immune system

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ann-britt@sternfeldt.se
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Nov 15, 2019 2:01 am

Immune system

Post by ann-britt@sternfeldt.se »

I read in your book Bernie something that got me a bit confused. Note 12 on page 25.
"We need to have stress, and then rest, in all areas of our life.... For example, cancer patients rareley gets colds before getting cancer. Their immune systems were not exercised by colds, and thus where weaker than the immune systems of people who did get colds regularly. We need to appropriately stress our immune systmes in order for them to be strong, but we also need to rest".

So me who seldom get a cold, compared with some other friends, does it mean that my immune system is weaker? it doesn't make sense to me.
Bernie
Posts: 1165
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Post by Bernie »

Hello Ann. Human variation can be quite dramatic. So much so that comparing yourself to someone else can be very confusing and often not useful. The real question is - will exercising your immune system make your immune system stronger?

You may get few colds because 1) you have been lucky, or 2) you have a strong immune system that takes care of the virus quickly, or 3) any exposure you did have to these viruses were in small doses versus someone else who got a big dose of the virus. (This is a key consideration today in terms of why do some people have such a mild response to the corona virus that causes covid-19: if your initial exposure was to a very low dose, you will have a healthy response with few symptoms. However, if your initial exposure was to a big dose which overwhelmed your immune system, you will have strong symptoms.)

My point is, getting a mild cold is one way to exercise your immune system and help to make it stronger. If you never get a cold, your immune system will be relatively weaker in the same why that if you never exercised your body it would be weaker than it would be had you exercised. As an example, there is a theory called the “hygiene hypothesis, which speculates that the rise in modern rates of allergies and asthma is due to our immune system not experiencing as many germs as a child as our ancestors were exposed to or as people who grow up on farms or very rural environments. If we are exposed to more germs as children, our immune system seems to be more robust as adults. Now, saying that your immune system is weaker if you never get a cold, does not mean that it is weaker than someone else's. Maybe you have a very strong immune system relative to others, but it still could be stronger.

Did this help, or did I confuse things even more?
Cheers
Bernie
ann-britt@sternfeldt.se
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Nov 15, 2019 2:01 am

Immune system

Post by ann-britt@sternfeldt.se »

Thanks for such a quick and thorough reply!
Well, I got some of the points you made, for sure. And I fully believe in the hygien hypotehis - which is one reason I believe I got some resistance in my system. I never use any antibacterial stuff in my house, just some natural and simple stuff. And I drink tap water in many countries where others buy water in bottles, and I eat food at simple food stalls. I believe that some shit is good for you :-) I do get a cold once in a while, but not at all as often as some others as I said, and have my fresh ginger in my tea twice a day to keep my system healthy. I don't like to get colds :-)
Cheers Anna
kmwands
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:46 pm

Re: Immune system

Post by kmwands »

Hello,

I have just started to read Yin Yoga, and so far have thoroughly enjoyed this book. However, I am deeply disturbed by the footnote reference regarding the immune system and cancer patients. The statement reads: For example, cancer patients rarely get colds before getting cancer. Their immune systems were not exercised by colds and thus were weaker than the immune systems of people who get colds regularly.

This statement is massively confusing and outright baseless. Are you claiming that people who get diagnosed with cancer had weak immune systems? Or, had they come down with viral illnesses regularly, they would not have gotten cancer? How are you defining when someone "gets cancer"? There are over 100 types, some slow growing others more aggressive. Where is your evidence for making this claim?

It is disappointing that such a statement was made in an overall wonderful book. It makes me question the validity of other claims made. As someone who is publishing information that is widespread, it is critical that health information not be confusing or misleading. Your example in this thread of allergies and the "hygiene hypothesis" does not equate with the immune system and cancer. I am not disputing your general thoughts on stress and rest, and why both are needed in a broad sense. However, cancer and the immune system are greatly complex, overgeneralized statements such as that in the book are at a minimum unhelpful.

If there are health claims made, you must back up these claims with evidence. The level of misinformation and mistrust in the overall medical community is disastrous for public health. You bear responsibility as the author of this book.

Information that may be helpful for clarification:

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/und ... -is-cancer

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/kimmel_ ... e%20system
https://www.cancer.net/sites/cancer.net ... cancer.pdf
Bernie
Posts: 1165
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Re: Immune system

Post by Bernie »

Hi K…

I agree with you!

Let me start with that first and foremost and then add a bit more to my mea culpa. :-)

The statement you quote is from a footnote buried in the first edition of The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga. One of the horrors of being a writer is that your written words are static and do not change, even though you, as the author, continue to learn more as time goes on. This is life in general, I suppose. I sometimes cringe to think of what I taught students in the 1990s when I first became a yoga teacher. Years later, after more education and experience, I can only hope all those students survived!

In my latest edition of The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, released in 2019, that statement, and many others, has been deleted. In the second edition I took far more care in sourcing studies to back up my assertions, and where I could not be convinced credible evidence existed, I deleted the assertions. (Thus you will find all the first edition quotes from BKS Iyengar are highly caveated in the second edition. His benefits for postures were anecdotal at best.)

The original source of the cancer statement was from a friend who also happened to be a doctor who offered treatment for cancer patients. He was the one who told me of a study that he had just read saying that cancer patients had fewer colds before they acquired cancer than people who were cancer free. I took him at his word.

While it is true that our immune system doesn’t combat cancer once the tumours are established, that is the problem! Cancer is very good at hiding from the immune system, but it is also true that our immune system is constantly removing cancerous cells from our body. This is called the “elimination phase” where our immune system does keep nascent tumours under control. Sometimes the tumour and our immune system come into a sort of balance where the cancer is not destroyed but neither does it run rampant. This is the "equilibrium phase". However, once the tumour’s growth outstrips the immune systems ability to control it, due usually to mutations that allows the cancers cells to hide from the immune system, we are in the "escape phase" and now the immune system is helpless to combat the cancer. (However, there is some interesting research under way to retrain the immune system to recognize the cancer again and thus eliminate it. This new approach is called immunotherapy. This is the area my friend is now working on. It is not ready for prime time, unfortunately, and lots of work is still needed.)

In any case, when it came time to write the second edition of the book, I wanted to footnote the exact study the good doctor told me about. I could not find it and he could no longer remember it. So, I deleted the statement entirely, just as you suggest. It is not that I no longer believe that there is no role for a healthy immune system in controlling cancer cells, but if i can’t point to the particular study about gettig colds lowering cancer risk, I can’t state that claim. (Curiously, there is some research showing injecting of the cold virus directly into a bladder cancer tumour can help kill it, but that is not the same thing as i was referring to.)

So, again, mea culpa! I do attempt to find credible sources for all my claims and in this case, I should have asked for the paper first and cited it. Instead, I simple repeated the assertion from a credible person. Thus my deleting the statement in the new edition.

Thanks for letting me know your thoughts.
Bernie
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