Oh crap.  I seem to be doomed to become an expert on almost every new major epidemic in America — and to do it the hard way.  First I had friends die of HIV-related causes back in the 1980s.  Then more of my friends became parents of children with autism back in the 1990s.  And now I have lots of friends with kids that suffer from asthma.  What’s with that?

America is spozed to be the healthiest country in the world.  So why aren’t we?  Why are Americans by the millions now falling victim to these new plagues?  And, further, might these three currently-upsurging epidemics have anything in common that could possibly give us a clue?  Yeah.  The people who get them mostly seem to have weakened immune systems — even before they actually start presenting symptoms.

But then, heck, lots of other modern upsurging diseases such as cancer, diabetes, the flu and even the lowly common cold appear to affect people with weakened immune systems the most.

According to www.cancerfightingstrategies.com, “For most of your life, your immune system successfully fought cancerous cells, killing them as they developed.  That’s its job.  In fact, the only job Natural Killer cells have is to kill cancer cells and viruses.  For cancer to develop, your immune system must either be worn out, ineffective, unable to kill cancer cells as fast as they normally develop, or you must be exposed to a mass of cancer causing toxins, radiation or some such thing, that increase the rate of development of cancer cells to an abnormally high level that your immune system can’t handle.”   I rest my case.

But this association with modern diseases and immune system vulnerability should (but rarely does) bring up the next really important question:  How come American immune systems are now suddenly starting to suck eggs?

You and I now live in one of the most richest, most well-off countries in the world.  We’ve got clean houses, air-conditioning, abundant food, luxury cars, malls, all kinds of wonderful things.  But our immune systems are now clearly sagging.  Why is that?

Even Ann Romney has multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease — and she’s freaking rich beyond belief.

And even I have immune-system issues — despite the fact that I mostly eat organic stuff and lead a boringly-clean life (except of course for the occasional slice of chocolate cream pie from Sweet Adeline Bakeshop http://www.sweetadelinebakeshop.com/ or cupcakes from Love at First Bite http://www.loveatfirstbitebakery.com/).

According to Donna Jackson Nakazawa, “Autoimmune diseases are the eighth leading cause of death among women, shortening the average patient’s lifespan by fifteen years.  Not surprisingly, the economic burden is staggering: autoimmune diseases represent a yearly health-care burden of more than $120 billion, compared to the yearly health-care burden of $70 billion for direct medical costs for cancer.”  And that’s not even counting asthma, HIV or autism — which are not autoimmune diseases per se but are also related to having a weakened immune system.  http://www.alternet.org/story/80129/the_autoimmune_epidemic%3A_bodies_gone_haywire_in_a_world_out_of_balance
So even though we’ve got more money here than we know what do do with, America’s health is getting worse instead of better.  Plus all of these chronic diseases and infirmities are now costing us barrels — to say nothing of funeral expenses.

So what’s my point — that it’s not safe to live in America any more?  That living on American soil is a death sentence?  That I should win the lottery and move to some isolated south-sea island?  Or just simply “shelter in place”.

Perhaps there is no clear answer to this conundrum — but I would really like to know why no one seems to be asking this quintessential question:  “Why are so many of my friends and their children suffering from asthma, autism, multiple sclerosis and, to quote Nakazawa again, ‘type 1 diabetes, Graves’ disease, vasculitis, myasthenia gravis, connective tissue diseases, autoimmune Addison’s disease, vitiligo, rheumatoid arthritis, hemolytic anemia, celiac disease, and scleroderma’?”

Why here?  Why now?

Perhaps the answer to these questions might be found in the concept of “body burden” — that it’s not just one thing or another that is weakening our immune systems.  Rather, it is all the small things in our lives that are being added together.  You add up a little bit of pesticide exposure and combine it with a small bit of air pollution, a few dozen vaccines, a whole bunch of food additives and trans-fats, some radiation left over from Chernobyl, Fukushima, San Onofre and depleted uranium, drinking from plastic bottles, black mold, allergies, pharmaceutical overload, constant cell phone and computer usage, lipstick, fluoride, hairspray, antibiotics in beef, diet colas….  The list goes on and on and on.

So what can we do to stabilize or even reduce our own individual “body burden”?  And why isn’t your doctor and Big Pharma working on this instead of just pushing more pills at us — pills that may or may not reduce the symptoms but not the cause.  Pills that add to our body burden instead of reducing it?  Pills that do NOT strengthen our immune systems.

PS:  Since there are over 60 vaccines being given to children right now, a wise parent might consider using a little common sense when jabbing the tots.  If it’s a vaccine for a life-threatening disease such as polio or if the kid is living in an environment where diphtheria or something is an immediate threat, then by all means go for it.  Otherwise?  Not.

Also, it’s a good idea to only give our children one shot at a time.  Giving five different vaccines in one day — and many doctors do this — is a hecka “body burden” for little kids to absorb all at once, especially babies and toddlers.  Ouch!

PPS:  My theory about the main reason why people get sick involves the fact that, in the long run, our bodies are always stronger than our minds.  You think that your mind is the boss of your body?  Think again!

“But Jane,” you might say, “everyone knows that illness is caused by germs!”  Not really.  There are always germs all around us.  Germs are always with us.  But we generally only become susceptible to all but the most evil of these little critters only when our bodies become run down and our immune system weakens — or our “body burden” hits a red zone on the charts.

“But how exactly do our bodies actually overpower our minds?” you might ask.  “That sounds really weird.”

Here’s how it happens:  In today’s modern life, our minds are always trying to get us into stressful situations or do just one more thing before bedtime or live in the fast lane of our choice or dine only on junk food.  But our bodies are actually the ones who are really running the show — and when they need a rest, no matter what our brains are thinking, our bodies just open their doors and invite in the germs.  And we get sick.  And our bodies get their well-needed rest.  End of discussion.

“What?” screams our bodies, “You want to stay up all night and party and then live on Twinkies and then work day and night for three days straight?  Forget that!  I’m going on strike!”  And they do.

And what our bodies say goes.

And this is why no one will ever get rid of the common cold.

And, also, when our “body burden” gets too heavy — from all the junk food that we eat and/or the chemicals, pesticides and radioactivity we are exposed to — then our bodies also falter, no matter what our brains tell us, and then we also get sick.

But do you really wanna know exactly what our brains are thinking about all this time, way back in our subconscious mind, back in our “reptile” brains, back beyond our control?  That’s easy.  “Junk food!  Sugar!  Hot caramel sundaes!”  (Not to mention happy thoughts of starting “preemptive” wars, robbing the national treasury in order to hoard billions or cheating on your wife.)  And there’s no mention at all back there of stuff like wheat-grass juice or carrot sticks — let alone Christ-like behavior or world peace.  Sigh.

Sometimes our brains need to be put on a short leash — and sometimes only our bodies are up to that task.

PPS:  According to the Human Morality Database project at U.C. Berkeley, “The life expectancy for American women is now dead last among developed nations.”  http://rainbowpush.org/commentaries/single/a_shocking_silence_on_lives_cut_short