Recent research has some interesting implications for the direction of modern medicine when in comes to the complex area of immunity. The human immune system keeps people healthy and alive. When there is immune system dysfunction then allergies, skin conditions and breathing difficulties . In the past the medical treatments for immune system problems was avoidance of allergens, or drugs that suppressed immune response. That approach may be changing.
There are many old sayings that are a part of traditional medical systems that refer to the idea of a healer being a teacher. The assumption in old systems of medicine was that if something was wrong, the healer found ways to teach the body how to function better. This is seen in sayings like “ it is better to teach a man to fish rather than give him a fish” and “ that which does not kill me, makes me stronger. At their heart, the medical techniques of massage, herbal medicine, acupuncture as well as many others, were about stimulating a response in the body that helps the body learn to cope with whatever the current stress was. Old medical systems like Chinese medicine and Ayurveda view all of life as a process of learning and adaptation. The medicines of these medical systems corrected imbalances to help that growing process, help the body learn how to deal with the environment.
Slowly there is a growing understanding in the modern medical community that when it comes to the human immune system, education is important. Vaccines teach the body how to fight specific diseases and are one of the greatest successes of modern medicine. Vaccines continue to be an area of research for dealing with possible modern pandemic threats like Ebola. More and more studies are similarly finding links between the bacterial microbiome of the human digestive tract and immunity. There have been interesting studies in the past that showed that children who grow up around farms and farm animals with a high exposure to a wider variety of bacteria have less problems with allergies. The most recent interesting study shows that there is a correlation between families that hand wash dishes and lower incidence of allergies. The thought is that expose to more bacteria on a regular basis strengthens the immune system. Another line of research has been showing that children with peanut allergies may be able to train the body not to react to peanuts through carefully controlled small dose exposure to peanut allergens over a long period of time, particularly if started early in a child’s life.
All of these research ideas that are being investigated, have much in common with the healers and their medicine of old. Healers looked to ways to help a patient cope with the stresses of life. The healer does not assume that they understand everything about how the body works, but the healer does assume that the body can learn and adapt if given the help and sometimes proper training to do so.