The Bare Bones of It: Vitamins, Immunity, and the American Health Care System

By: Dylan Rodgers

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," was advice I heard often while growing up.  In 2009, it was estimated that an average of $8,000 was spent on every American in health costs, and considering the population at the time, almost 2.5 trillion dollars were spent fixing our broken health.  This got me thinking-I wonder how much our medical bill would have been in an America where preventative care was our top priority.  I'm not really talking about wearing helmets to walk around the city, though that may not be a bad idea.  I'm talking about your IBDS (Internal Biological Defense Systems).

On February 22 of this year, Science Daily reported on the importance of micronutrients (i.e. small doses of vitamins and minerals) in prenatal nutrition.  Put simply, micronutrient levels determine how a well a person develops.  The study found that vitamin supplements during pregnancy had astonishing effects on the newcomer's immune system.

"Wait a second!" you're probably thinking to yourself, "Didn't you, Mr. Rodgers, write on the proven incompetence of religious vitamin consumption?"

The truth is-I now realize that the study in Minnesota was flawed.  Thirty-nine thousand women took vitamins by the handfuls without proper nutritional knowledge (as most people do).  Assuming you'll absorb 100% of your daily dose of vitamins A, D, E, and K by taking a synthetic, pressed pill is just bad chemistry.  The results showed how damaging vitamins can be if taken incorrectly; maybe more so, the results showed how people can just as easily kill themselves with nutrition as they can with cigarettes.

As you know from your history books, the only way to rid ourselves of bad science is to kick it in the teeth with good science.

Let's start with the basics-vitamin A, D, E, and K are fat soluble (F-vitamins).  Taken with H2O, low fat, or fat free foods results in the majority of those nutrients remaining as incompatible with your digestion as a steak is to a vegan; just isn't going to work out.  So even though you may take a multivitamin every day, you might end up with an F-vitamin deficiency.

Well... what's the big deal?

Vitamin A is necessary for cell growth and reproduction.  Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium and magnesium, two key elements for healthy bones.  In essence, vitamin A stimulates the growth of skeletal bricks and marrow while D brings the mortar that holds it all together.  A weak skeleton sends you rushing head on into biological warfare without protection.

Believe it or not our skeletons are an incredible system of biological integrity; they hold us upright and their marrow creates our immune hard-drive, so to speak.  The immune system develops and learns on its own, almost as if it were a separate entity.  Keep it healthy and it will keep you healthy.

Here's how it works:  bone marrow grows two basic types of white blood cells:  B-cells and T-cells.  B-cells are the ones that target intruders with antibodies, acting like our bodies security cameras.  T-cells are just one type of soldier that develops mainly in the thymus, an organ specialized at building immunity.  T-cells and phagocytes ingest and break down viruses and bacteria in order to further educate the entire immune system on potential threats.

The good news is that our bone marrow stores all the information gathered from viruses and bacteria within itself like an immunity memory, giving it the ability to create the most up-to-date form of antivirus.  The bad news is that the thymus stops working completely in adulthood thereby degrading our immune system's ability to learn.

So what does this all mean?

The short answer is a vitamin A and D deficiency leads to a bad immune system and more medical bills.  This goes to show that proper nutrition can play a huge role in biological and economic well-being.  If we spent a little more time and money on eating right, we could spend a lot less in the cold, impersonal, pathogenic breeding grounds we call hospitals.  The case of the thymus, though, demands a much broader view of preventative healthcare.

Its short life span suggests that if our children built excellent immunity at a young age, they would have the same immunity as adults.  Consider it a form of investing in their futures.  The best thing you can do for your kids' health is to teach them about nutrition, let them play in the dirt, touch a bird, eat an insect, and avoid constant use of anti-bacterial cleaners.  The sooner we embrace this gross, biological world of ours, the sooner we can stop worrying about sickness and start worrying about more important things:  enjoying our lives.

Dylan Rodgers is a writer with dreams of existential understanding and lyrical nonsense.  Share with him in the well of human experience

Photo: Wellcome Images

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