Almost 45 years ago, when I was a student in the US at the University of Florida, I wondered whether because of rampant use of modern medicine mankind was doing a disservice to itself by hindering the evolutionary process
Almost 45 years ago, when I was a student in the US at the University of Florida, I wondered whether because of rampant use of modern medicine mankind was doing a disservice to itself by hindering the evolutionary process. Nature sees to it that weaklings do not survive most of the time. Thus survival of the fittest - the main tenet of Darwinian evolution - takes place. However, we as humans disrupt this process by prolonging life through medicines, though sometimes one wonders about the quality of this the extended life.
I was later ashamed of this thought since it went against all the definitions of empathy and humanness.
Yet now with COVID-19 bearing down on us I feel that that the thought was correct since the present calamity is because of the unsustainable lifestyle that we have been following that has made us soft and thus compromised our immunity. These viruses in one form or the other have been with us for a very long time. It is only a person’s strong immune system that can take care of them.
For every small ailment we pop a medicinal pill in our mouth and do not allow our body’s natural immunity to fight, thereby weakening it. In fact, indiscriminate use of opioids and other painkillers has further compromised our immune system.
Pain is very beneficial for the human body. It helps the brain send signals to the body part having the pain sensation so that appropriate chemicals are released to reduce the pain. This process strengthens the body’s immune system. However, when we keep on taking pain killers the immune system is affected, and with time it gets lethargic, and does not react in a timely fashion to the onslaught of a virulent disease like COVID-19.
It has been observed that most of the patients of COVID-19 are dying because of an overreaction of the body’s immune system called ‘Cytokine storm’. Cytokines are small proteins released by many different cells in the body to fight infection and trigger inflammation. When the immune system is not properly tuned and has become lethargic because of dependence on medicines then the chances of a ‘Cytokines storm’ increase.
Similarly, when we have even a slight fever we have the tendency of popping paracetamol tablets. Fever is the mechanism of the body to fight infection. When it gets lulled into inaction by external medicines like paracetamol it loses its ability to fight major infections.
Good way to improve the immune system is to use homeopathic medicines since they help the body to fight disease rather than affecting the disease itself. Similarly naturopathy also helps the system to fight disease. Both these systems of disease control are benign, don’t have side effects and help the body in the long run to develop a good immune system.
Naturally one of the biggest reducers of human immunity is stress. Stress causes inflammation that the body has to constantly fight and, in this process, the general immunity of the body is reduced.
Whether the stress is because of lack of sleep, worries, fights or any other conflicts it creates fatigue both in our body and mind and has a tremendous negative effect on our immunity.
Our present competitive world also puts pressure on individuals all the time. Overachievers and ambitious people have more stress since they have to struggle to achieve their goals. Most of the time achievement of goals is difficult and requires considerable nervous and physical energies leading to stress.
This increased stress has been compounded by our unsustainable lifestyles. We have become soft and with ever improvement in technologies are getting lazy and obese. Scientists have long suggested that obesity is an inflammation of the body and severely compromises our immune system. Thus with the present lifestyle our immune system never gets stretched and tested and I have a feeling that in the coming years and decades we will have many more such epidemics unless we strengthen our bodies and mind.
One of the best ways to reduce stress is by developing a healthy and emotionally stable brain. Large numbers of studies world over have shown that a healthy and emotionally stable brain helps keep the body healthy and reduces stress.
The Indian yogic system, through the method of pranayama and meditation, is one of the best methods to keep the mind calm. The practice of 'sanyam', as enunciated by Sage Patanjali, where one concentrates on a single thought for a long time, helps in focusing of mind, relaxes it and brings in general happiness and peace.
Similarly, vigorous physical activity in any form helps strengthen the body and helps in getting good sleep. Both these activities make the immune system strong.
(The writer is Director, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Phaltan, Maharashtra. He can be contacted at email@example.com / https://www.nariphaltan.org/writings.htm)