Stress and the Immune System

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By: Robert Zieve, M.D.
If we were to seek one word to em­body external life issues that give us dif­ficulty, that word would be Stress. Many of us perceive stress as something out­side ourselves to tolerate and work through, something that stands in the way of our happiness. The word "stress," like the word "money," has negative con­notations. It has become our scapegoat.

The immune system, on the other hand, is deep and internal. Its home is in the blood, where white blood cells and other components stand ready to defend us, and in the mucus membranes of the intestines and respiratory organs where immune cells protect our boundaries of self and not-self. The immune system is at the core of our being. When it is weak­ened, which is becoming increasingly ap­parent in millions of people, we experi­ence epidemics of chronic fatigue syn­drome, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, au­toimmune illnesses like multiple sclero­sis and rheumatoid arthritis, and finally cancer.

The immune system is stressed to­day by an ever-increasing accumulation of internal and external toxic elements. There are externally generated toxins from heavy metals (especially mercury, lead, and aluminum), petrochemicals, radiation, vaccinations, electromagnetic fields, pharmaceuticals, and microorgan­ism imbalances. These toxins are very real, and represent an assault on the hu­man "I," or ego forces. (They are the visible examples of the lies, intolerance, and wrong social laws that Rudolf Steiner spoke of as being the demons, phantoms, and ghosts in contemporary society.)

There are many things that can minimize the effects of these toxins on our immune systems. Examples include using non-toxic home supplies, eating organic and biodynamically grown foods, removing silver-mercury amal­gam fillings, and turning off all the lights in our bedrooms at night.

Our culture's obsession with sup­pressing fever in acute illnesses is a sup­pression of our immune response, and a suppression of the internal warmth or ego forces that make us human.

It is also important to refrain from being hyper-vigilant with information. Gertrude Stein is quoted as saying, "Ev­erybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense." People become ill in part because they are overloaded. Part of what we are overloaded with is information, which if not brought into our whole being in a rhythmic and willful way generates chaos and fear, which weakens our im­mune system.

At the same time we have been ac­cumulating external toxic stressors, we have also increased our reservoir of in­ternally-generated toxins. These may derive from a lack of connectedness to spirit, an overabundance of fear and a deficiency of deep trust, and over-in­tellectualized education and thinking.

Weaknesses in the fabric of our family souls that burden us to unconsciously carry the unresolved difficulties in our hereditary lineage are also internal stres­sors. Unresolved conflicts from chronic internal stress store in the hippocampus of the brain and weaken immune func­tion over time. The chaos and lack of self-generated rhythm in our daily lives creates an internal environment where our immune systems become more sus­ceptible to being weakened by external stressors.

These cumulative stressors weaken our organism's capacity to self-regulate. Anthroposophically, self-regulation is an ego function of the human I. In Jun­gian terms, self-regulation represents a healthy working together of our own mature King/Queen, Warrior, Lover, and Magician. Self-regulation means that when we rise from sitting, our blood pressure and pulse adjust accordingly; or when we pass from cold to warm our hypothalamus regulates at a constant internal temperature. It also means that we are internally strong enough to gen­erate healthy electromagnetic frequen­cies that inhibit microorganism over­growth and maintain healthy cellular function, and self-regulate our thinking and actions.

We have become chronically ha­bituated to stress today, and this has weakened our immune system func­tions. We have become too earthbound -- too material in our will and too mechanistic in our thinking. A weak­ened immune system is unable to react and respond appropriately. A weakness of the will leads to a premature harden­ing and rigidity in our bodies and in our lives. As our immune system weakens over time, this rigidity may be seen in the narrowing of our visual fields in op­tometric testing, and in the rigidity and loss of mobility of our white blood cells under dark-field microscopy. Our head forces are overwhelmed and our will forces become deficient. Chronic im­mune deficiencies and cancer are what are termed "cold diseases," or weaknesses of healthy metabolism. Our metabolism is where both warmth forces and the hu­man will reside.

Anthroposophy offers much that can strengthen our immune systems in times of stress. This may include prac­ticing such prescribed eurythmy move­ments as the "B," which strengthens our boundaries. Taking anthroposophical remedies such as those made from gems and the ashes of trees strength­ens our immune systems. These rem­edies are specifically combined to be representative of deeply archetypal patterns of self-regulation within us, as they are architecturally portrayed in the Goetheanum building in Switzerland.

If we as conscious beings learn to live with and accept stress as an integral part of life's growth and de­velopment, then our immune system can function with healthy self-regulation, and protect the integrity of our being. The idea is to minimize the potential harm of accumulative stres­sors by altering our lifestyles and re­lationships so that they are increas­ingly guided and directed by our deepest spiritual forces. The strength that grows within us then generates a "field" that communicates a spirit of symbiosis with all our micro-or­ganisms. This gives us the necessary strength to work with others in commu­nity to build new social and economic forms that are life-sustaining and transformative.

What can we do to meet stress and have healthy immune systems?

1. Be aware, but remain internally relaxed, quiet, observant and honest with ourselves

2. Be willing to change when necessary, especially subconsciously-driven habits that become our armor

3. Be centered in a feeling of trust in the goodness of life and in the ever-present support from unseen forces that guide and protect us.

ROBERT J. ZIEVE, M.D. practices Home­opathy, Anthroposophical Medicine, Eu­ropean Biological Medicine, and Nutri­tion. He is past presi­dent of the Arizona Homeopathic Medi­cal Association. Dr. Zieve has published Conscious Medicine: An Introduction and his book, Rhythms in Time: The Homeopathic Future are available at

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