What Ailed Our Ancestor’s Immune Systems?
There’s an underlying belief these days that our immune systems are more powerful than they were ever designed to be. We are told that we are what we eat and that certain foods should be our medicines. Many also believe that detoxing and other wellness practices are enough to keep humanity on its course to achieving longevity. Last but not least, there’s an increasing but troubling belief that modern medicines and technologies may very well be the culprit rather than the reason we are living so much longer.
Yet, the reality of the situation is that we doubled the average lifespan less than a hundred years ago.
Prior to that, the average lifespan was around 45 and prior to that even lower. There was a time when 25 was the average lifespan. The concept of grandparents was unknown because people didn’t live long enough to become grandparents.
Yes, we’re living in unprecedented times. Even in third world countries 54 is the expected lifespan.
So what changed for us? Our ancestors ate only organic food. Pesticides didn’t exist. They ate mostly locally grown food. They weren’t overweight. They were physically active and got plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Why weren’t their immune systems enough?
Why were we finally able to do something that had never been done before, double the lifespan?
Technology and modern medicines were introduced and became a successful means of support to our natural immune systems. Without that progress, something as simple as a cut would still be killing us. But our current progress is always under threat.
There are new viruses and super bugs just lurking in the background like little demons.
The progress that we’ve made hasn’t yet been delivered to all countries, however. There are still countries in the world where the average lifespan is around 54 years old. Greater than our ancestors were promised but yet not up to par with the richest countries in the world.
When the citizens of the richest countries hear that, they sometimes become a little sheepish.
After all, we now expect to live to at least 78 and most of us want to live much, much longer if at all possible. Even while we ignore how blessed we are, even though our current lifespan is a recent accomplishment, we’re pushing to increase our lifespans. We want to live forever. We must think we’re very special.
At the same time, the very things that keep us living this first world mentality of privilege, we not only take for granted but have decided to demonize in many instances.
Thus an entire wellness movement of fakers and takers have evolved into a very dangerous community. They promise cures for everything and their remedies are always accompanied by this familiar warning:
“I’m about to share information with you that your doctor will never tell you.”
For me, that’s the statement that serves as a red flag. Of course, they don’t stop there. Next, they introduce an unregulated form of treatment that not only offers relief but often a cure, not just for what ails you but for a long list of additional medical issues as well. There’s little to no studies that have been conducted on the efficacy of the treatment nor a way of keeping track of the success rates, failures, or possible deaths as a result of these treatments.
Everything tends to fly below the radar with a simple warning suggesting that a consumer should consult with their doctor before taking any kind of new medications.
Do you think that they already suspect that many of their consumers only consult with their doctors as a last resort? With no accompanying list of possible side effects and no way to sue these charlatans, they offer hope to desperate people who have already outlived many of their ancestors due to modern medicine.
They also offer fear to younger patients who have fallen prey to the deep mistrust of experts that modern Americans often harbor.
Where does that mistrust come from? It comes from the propaganda that these charlatans relentlessly spread in order to build a thriving business for themselves.
Americans have a long history of snake oil salesmen traveling the countryside while going door to door trying to sell a magic elixir guaranteed to fix anything from hammer toes to gout to indigestion. Of course, our great grandparents didn’t have access to the modern treatments we have today. They were still trying to heal themselves through folklore and home remedies.
My grandmother certainly fit that description.
She grew up in the hills of Kentucky, coal-mining country, where there wasn’t a high school nearby for her to attend. Even though she was a good student who liked school and possibly had the prettiest handwriting in the county, she was forced to quit at the end of the eighth grade. Actually, she repeated the eighth grade by choice until she ran off with my grandfather and got married at age fourteen.
She practiced a lot of home remedies.
Once, while my family was visiting my grandmother, my sister had an awful earache. My grandmother convinced my mom to fill an eye dropper with my other sister’s urine in a desperate attempt to stop the pain. Needless to say, the next morning my dad was forced to take my sister to see a doctor. She started taking an antibiotic and that pesky ear infection went away.
Yet, nowadays, we seem to have a huge number of people who prefer to rely on the wellness world of urine and foot soaks.
Their cabinets are full of vitamins and supplements and their kitchens are stocked with every herb known to mankind. The blender starts their day followed by ingesting enough supplements to stock the shelves of an all natural pharmacy.
The amount of money they have spent over the course of their lives might have provided vaccines for an entire village in a third world country.
Many of these people are highly skeptical of modern medical treatments even as they give strong consideration to drinking their own urine. Yes, that’s a thing right now as I write this article. Americans are actually less skeptical of the wellness guru that suggests sipping on a glass of one’s own urine than they are of the doctors who have devoted their lives to the study of modern medicine.
Recently, a friend of mine ended up in the ER with COVID.
She received a round of monoclonal antibodies and her symptoms began to improve. Yet, during a followup conversation, she spent 98% of her time providing me with links to a type of foot soak that she’s now using to improve her immune system. Detoxing after the ER visit was given far more credit than her monoclonal treatments.
I was glad to hear that her health had improved and as always allowed her offerings of alternative treatments to go unchallenged.
What’s the point? One’s beliefs don’t necessarily require facts to back them up. They can even be quite contradictory and yet are clung to as a chief source of comfort.
I actually don’t care if people want to experiment with home remedies on their own time.
As long as their choices don’t effect me, I suppose it’s harmless enough. And if they’re treating a chronic illness that has no cure, well, I suppose that’s their choice. I have an acquaintance, however, who actually died because she refused to receive treatment from her doctor for something that was manageable with modern medicine. She became so paranoid about modern treatments, doctors, hospitals, and pharmacists that she locked herself in her house, refusing to see her family in order to double down on her home treatments. She was convinced that she could cure herself.
She died. She died from something that her doctor could have easily treated.
To be living in an era of unprecedented life expectancies, in a region of the world where the most modern treatments are available, and choose to treat our health issues with the same methods that were once used in mideval times is weird to say the least.
I have to wonder how this has come to be.
And, I’m left with a couple of possible explanations. First and foremost, we are highly susceptible to snake oil salesmen. We want to believe so badly that there’s an easy cure for what ails us and that we can control the outcomes. So, broccoli every day in a blender and a sip of our own urine can give us hope. Wouldn’t it be just wonderful if that’s all it took?
Second, the Internet is making it possible for anybody to make claims that go unchallenged by the FDA and totally unregulated.
This creates a whole world of danger that no one challenges. It takes us back to the good old days when without regulations they could put whatever they pleased in anything they pleased. There were no food labels. Buyer beware was the only warning given to consumers.
It also takes us back to the day before vaccines existed. Illnesses that our immune systems had little to no chance of combatting wiped out entire communities.
That’s where I draw the line. That’s when I get mad. During a pandemic when our scientists are working day and night to find a way to protect us from the devastation of an airborne disease that is sweeping the world, that’s when I want to scream at the idiots that welcome the snakeoil salesmen into their homes with a bottle of pee and foot soak packet.
That’s when enough is enough.
Teresa Roberts is a retired educator, author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. Her books can be found on Amazon.