New Zealand’s asthma rates and immune system problems aren’t ‘psychological’

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, and a good deal of research has been done locally to find out why.

Wright_StonesRecently it appeared that tests run on asthmatics and non-asthmatics show much the same response to specific inflammatory markers, therefore asthma can’t be due to allergy and must be psychological. Yup, apparently everybody who spends their lives struggling to breathe around privet hedges, dust, pollen and so forth can rest assured: SCIENCE has proven it’s their own fault for choosing to be psychologically weak and not having strength of character.

Setting aside the likelihood of the tests being based on a false premise – they’re not testing the actual causes – the main problem, as always, is the philosophy. To me, one of the flaws in medical thinking in general is an inability to capture a complex raft of factors, fuelled in part by the ‘recency effect’ that makes new discoveries loom as sole explanations. When mixed at the sharp end with the subculture of the medical profession – in which many specialists seem to validate their personal worth by their perceived ability to diagnose – any puzzling question leads, usually, to the patient being blamed. And the easiest point of blame is, of course, their personality.

This isn’t new. Back when I was a kid I had a friend with chronic asthma who huffed, puffed and chuffed through every day. Pharmacy-loads of pills and powders did nothing. His mother even took him to Rudolf Steiner ‘colour treatment’, involving coloured lights being shone at him. Apparently if Steiner doesn’t work, it’s because you’re not intelligent enough to understand Steiner’s advanced science. So there the kid was in their damp house with its privet hedges, gasping and wheezing for no reason other than his own supposed bad attitude.

We refer to some immune responses as ‘allergies’, but immune system reactions – often, themselves, symptomatic of innate imbalance that is no choice or fault of the patient – can provoke all sorts of symptoms. Most look like – but are not – symptoms of other conditions. For instance, immune imbalances can raise the uric acid content of the blood, which then looks like – but is not – emblematic of a self-indulgent diet filled with rich foods and alcoholic excess. And that, of course, becomes the first standby of a specialist who doesn’t know about the deeper causes. Yup – it’s really the patient’s fault for being so mentally weak they gobble down all these indulgences, and if they protest that they’re not eating those things – well, of course they’d deny it, wouldn’t they, and the first step to a cure is for the patient to confess how weak and wrong they are.

One of the weirdest outcomes I’ve heard of involves lupus, a complex and serious immune disorder characterised by elevated Th2 factor, which provokes responses that lead to women who have lupus reading mildly positive for a pregnancy test, even when they are not.

Asthma, too, is implicated in Th2 elevation. Mix in the Th1, Th3 and Th17 factors – all of which have their own outcomes, and things get more complex. And this is only the beginning. I’ve looked into it, in some detail, and – trust me – Einstein’s theories of relativity are kids’ play by comparison, partly because the human immune parameters aren’t yet fully defined.

Perhaps the main problem is that medical professionals – specialists, particularly – view symptoms as isolated, whereas the human body is an integrated system. Combine that with the normal medical standby of blaming the patient if the specialist can’t explain something, and the fact that many specialists are very skilled in asserting passive-aggressive power over their patients, and the result can be dire:

Patient: The car won’t move. It has a flat tyre.
Specialist: I’ve checked the fuel tank and it’s full, so the car can move.
Patient: But the tyre’s flat.
Specialist: Nonetheless, the fuel tank is full. You must be imagining a problem.
Patient: What about the flat tyre?
Specialist: You just have to accept that I’m right. Um… Perhaps you should see a psychologist. That will be $400 please.

I once had this style of conversation with a specialist who was so personally abusive I wondered if he was trying to provoke a punch-up. I certainly left feeling as if I’d been in a bar brawl. I asked the Medical Association to check his registration as a first step to a complaint, but then declined to take it further even though it turned out he wasn’t registered for what he was doing. The guy was a nasty, egotistic little asshole whose first priority was gratifying his ego – not supporting the well-being of others – and I’m sure the first response would be to have his lawyer threaten and intimidate me.

As for New Zealand’s problems with asthma, I’m sure the reasons will be found – and they’ll be complex and differ between individuals. However, if science veers towards blaming the patient and labelling it ‘psychological’, I’ll be disappointed. ‘Psychology’ isn’t science and never has been. By its very nature, it’s a device for ‘psychologists’ to validate themselves by invalidating the self-worth of the vulnerable people who come to them for help – in short, ‘psychology’ is an easy mechanism for bullying.

 Copyright © Matthew Wright 2017

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6 thoughts on “New Zealand’s asthma rates and immune system problems aren’t ‘psychological’

  1. Over time I have had conversations with various people, which involved the questions, “what is ‘cancer? is this an easy diagnosis as they cannot be more accurate, cannot actually, accurately diagnose what is wrong? it appears to be everywhere.” As you mentioned “allergies”, there also appear to be a great deal of these so called general “allergies” going about, as well as general “viruses” with no further explanations given. What I have seen over the years also, the medical profession appear very reluctant to actually diagnose as well as prescribe. Albeit, I am not a believer in instantly running to the doctors, reaching for a pill bottle every time I feel a bit under the weather.

  2. When I was diagnosed with epilepsy they seemed a bit vague as to the cause. The seizures stopped back in 2011 and no one knows why. I refused to take any more seizure meds because of the side effects so my neurologist told me to take magnesium (Mg). Best thing he’s ever done. I researched Mg and learned a lot!! Mg is needed by every body system we have–that’s over 300. A low Mg can cause seizures, incontinence, pain, a runny nose, cancer, high blood sugar, oh, the list is lengthy. Breathing problems were probably on the list as well. It may be that New Zealand is sadly lacking in magnesium.
    Two of the biggest issues with Mg is knowing how much your body needs and getting a reliable brand. USA has no laws covering OTC supplements which means you can buy a bottle of Mg or any supplement and get nothing more than a sugar pill. Each of us is different. I’m taking 500mg in the AM and 500mg before bed. Our bodies do a lot of work while we sleep so I wanted to make certain it had some Mg. The list is long for how much my body changed after starting on Mg. The best ones: fibro pain gone; incontinence decreased dramatically; bowels much better and without pain (some people don’t like going more than once a day; I’ve decided going more often is probably normal for our bodies); losing inches and weight; and psoriasis cleared.
    Determining your magnesium level is not easy. A serum level will not give you an accurate picture. You need a cell count. A serum level is often within normal limits because your body is pulling Mg from one area to another which shows plenty in the blood. If your potassium (K+) is low than chances are good your Mg is low also. I’ve had low K+ twice and was put on a daily K+ supplement. Mg and K+ work well together (I take K+ only once a day). I always thought I was a well informed nurse, but I never knew any of this about Mg. As the wound nurse I taught my patients to take several vitamins and minerals to help with healing. Mg was one of them, but I never thought about how much was needed. FDA says 400mg/day is all we need. Of course, they also say we need only 60mg vitamin C a day which is a joke. I believe we should get what we need from our food, but that is almost impossible in this modern age.
    From my years as a nurse I’ve learned not to discredit the powers of the brain. I’ve known a handful of people who believed they were too old to live and died around 50.
    Do some research on magnesium and you may be as surprised as I was.

  3. Just did a quick search on magnesium rich foods and came up with this: ‘..dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, dark chocolate..’ The average Western diet is sadly lacking in most if not all of these things. And then there’s the question of how much nutritional value those fresh foods actually contain.
    I don’t know about NZ, but I know that soils in Australia are poor in minerals. Our food is also deficient in iodine, to the point where we have to add it to salt. Yet our immune systems require iodine to work properly. So if we aren’t ‘feeding’ our immune systems, how can we expect them to work at peak efficiency?
    Given that the immune system is the body’s ‘policeman’, a poorly functioning immune system could explain the rise in auto immune conditions from asthma to ulcerative colitis. And perhaps even cancer.
    Sadly, Big Pharma cannot make money out of good food, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the medical community is focused almost exclusively on ‘medications’. They do make money, lots of it.

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