The bitter remedies of a suicidal society
During the night, after completing this piece, I dreamt I was serenely commenting an opinion about knowledge with my analyst of many years. I said: “In life we have just enough time to put one book after the other.” Now that I seem to be awake, I still agree.
I wish to point out that this piece is not only the result of actual scientific research by qualified scientists, but comes also from a series of personal experiences and opinions which are offered to you for reflection from the standpoint of someone who is far less qualified.
In other words, in order to increase the flexibility of observation and not to be tied to a stereotype.
It is therefore also the result of my personal experience as physician and psychoanalyst.
The field of autoimmune disease has greatly expanded since the distant days of my graduation; but, as yet, little has been said either of their aetiology (founded primarily on consequences rather than causes), or the so-called therapies, based as they are on immunosuppressants, in which the remedies are more often than not more damaging than the disease.
Over the years, I have learned a few things:
1) Allowing for a natural margin of imperfection, the body does nothing to kill itself. The body does whatever it can, whenever it can and however it can to help us. In fact, it implements the law of least resistance, or the lesser evil. We might cite a temperature as the appropriate response to an offence. Even when it results in death. But always as the lesser of evils.
2) The energetic potential we have available to us is far greater than we suppose. Nobody is disputing that matter, and therefore the body, is made of energy, nor that all biological functions produce and consume energy. Therefore, quality of energy equals quality of matter. I am what I believe to be. Health and disease are interdependent transmutations, minor swings in the universal balance.
3) It follows that, most of the time, I have the life I want to have, otherwise I would have a different life. Of course without considering external limitations, the definition of which is highly debatable.
That it is highly unlikely that we can control our energetic potential, otherwise known as miracles or spontaneous healing in the field of disease, is a fact that does not invalidate the conclusions. In the course of my career, I have witnessed hundreds of cases of “spontaneous healing” (an expression that says absolutely nothing), involving nothing other by way of cure than a simple change of mind. Conversely, I have never seen anyone survive, in spite of science and all its therapies, when there was a will to die. But, again, as the lesser of evils.
4) All this leads the individual back to the responsibilities of free will with regard to life and death, and the definition of their quality and delimitations.
So much for the first of the three sections of this piece.
Next, as succinctly as possible, a few words on the immune system, which protects us from foreign bodies and is therefore based on the discrimination between ‘self’ and ‘non-self’. There are many operators in our bodies dedicated to this task which have two types of response: the innate, i.e. not acquired, response, which does not depend upon a previous encounter with an antigen (or agent capable of provoking an immune response) and the acquired response, which depends upon first having met the enemy.
The difference between the two responses consists in the fact that in the first case there is no modification over time, whereas in the second there is a growing capacity to respond with each successive encounter. The immune response in this case is determined by the activating effect generated by the antigen on the specific lymphocytes that identify it, whereas in a second phase these lymphocytes organise their response with a view to eliminating the aggressor.
The two major classes of leukocytes involved in the process are B lymphocytes (from ‘bone’, whence they are derived) and T lymphocytes (from ‘thymus’, where they are born). B lymphocytes produce antibodies, cytotoxic T lymphocytes kill infected cells and T helpers coordinate the immune response, assisting B lymphocytes in generating antibodies by means of information and interaction with the production of cytokines. B lymphocytes recognise complete antigens, whereas T lymphocytes recognise the fragments of antigen they are presented with.
An important group of white blood cells consists of phagocytes (monocytes, macrophages, neutrophilic granulocytes), or “eaters”, which are a part of innate immunity. It is they who present T lymphocytes with the products of antigen digestion, making them identifiable; the T cells, for their part, can issue cytokines to activate the phagocytes.
These processes contain many mediators, such as the complement, the antibodies, the reactive C protein and fractions of immune response. For instance, cytokines include interleukins, TNF, interferons.
There are four types of immune response: 1) effective 2) deficient 3) excessive 4) improper for self antigens, or autoimmune, thus resulting in the production of autoantibodies.
In autoimmune diseases, the body appears to take the wrong direction, but, I would add, it remains a faithful servant. Functionally incorrect behaviour originates in our unity of biological functioning.
Autoimmune diseases therefore involve the failure to distinguish between ‘self’ and ‘non-self’. An effective immune response distinguishes between alien and non-alien, enemy from friend. In an autoaggressive response, on the other hand, the non-self has various degrees of access.
Little is presumed to be known regarding the causes: malicious genes, stress, paranoid hormones, all of which look more like consequences, but beyond this screen we know nothing. This is not to deny the enormous importance of genetics. But with the persistence of the causes autoimmune diseases are generally chronic, meaning that there is no tendency to heal.
It is a fact that growing numbers of people are suffering from some form of autoimmune disease, more than we can imagine; it is equally certain that new varieties are always being added to the classic ones. Here is a non-updated list: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, primary myxedema, thyrotoxicosis, pernicious anaemia, chronic atrophic gastritis, Addison’s disease, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Goodpasture’s syndrome, myasthenia gravis, pemphigus vulgaris, pemphigoid, sympathetic ophthalmia, phagogenic uveitis, multiple sclerosis, primitive hemolytic anaemia, chronic active hepatitis (HbsAg negative), cryptogenetic cirrhosis, ulcerative colitis, Siorgen’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, dermatomyositis, sclerodermia, mixed connectivitis, discoid lupus erythematosus, systemic lupus erythematosus, some cases of premature menopause, and male infertility. It is enough.
I believe that the attribution of so many labels is not only the result of increasingly sophisticated research methods. I also doubt that animals entirely unaffected by captivity and contact with our civilised world will develop autoimmune diseases. But I also doubt that such animals still exist. Likewise for the normal human.
I recall that my graduation thesis on anxiety and depression featured then (1964) pioneering research on the fact that 20% of depressed people (depression is itself a form of autoaggression, in the form of giving up active defences) easily become hypothyroidal; likewise, 10% of people suffering from anxiety (anxiety is the result of a conflict) would develop forms of hyperthyroidism with a certain frequency.
I will make a chance reference to the frequent callous crimes of the depressed, caused by the “therapy explosion” of a fierce check on repressed aggressive impulses, or the hyperthyroidism of the father of the current Bush (along with his wife) when the Gulf War still seemed uncertain. At the time, I was in Pennsylvania with Clauser, and the papers were joking about the president being temporarily radioactive due to the splendid thyroid suppression therapy he underwent as a definitive cure. Which made the president permanently hypothyroidal.
Each of the listed disturbances contains diversities and variables; all, or almost all, are homologated in immunosuppressive treatment, the damage caused by which I will spare you. I need only quote the Bollettino d’informazione (the journal of the Italian medicines agency), which is delivered to my home regularly (and I regret not being able to remember the issue number), that says: “…as for immunosuppressive drugs, they are carcinogenic, but the benefit-risk ratio justifies their use.”
The phrase is a global cover for much therapeutic wrongdoing, insofar as it is true within the context in which it is used. The question that the man in the street will naturally ask is very simple: but those billions of dollars spent on research in the world might have been used in order to not arrive at such conclusions? Or was it simply not cost-effective? Because the alternative can only be stupidity, which is irreversible, unlike bad faith.
Note: that immunostimulation therapy provokes a worsening of autoimmune diseases is highly questionable, and likewise it is not true that positive immunomodulation therapies (negative immunomodulation also exists) can lead to deterioration. In my own modest experience, too. But in the business of immunosuppressive drugs one hears only trumpets, or rather lots of trombones, which drown out the music. And if, despite this, someone does manage to hear other instruments playing, one need only look at the ferocity of the internet alerts against Nieper, the great German scientist and nuisance, which, due to the lack of scientific arguments, even go so far as to deny that his multiple sclerosis treatment with EAP calcium (Calcium 2 aminoethanolphosphate) has ever been officially registered by Germany’s Federal Health Authority. Or if you want a collection of anathemas for almost everything connected with natural medicine, try clicking on ‘quackery’, and you will find homoeopathy, acupuncture and other such non-patented facetious nonsense. It is clear that these people “don’t know” that the distinction between the mental and the physical has been replaced with the concept of the functional network in which neuropeptides govern interconnections. I must say, if I were them, I would do the same. But I am not, and I blow the trumpet of my own parish.
But, as usual, I run the risk of preaching an imprudent sermon.
I shall now turn to a few facts that may be judged from their conclusions.
I have said elsewhere that each year our immune defences decay at varying rates, according to the cells examined. NKs, natural killers, alone show, for the USA, a 30% decline over the past 15 years. Unfortunately, however, the rate of decrease, which was 1% per annum, is now 3%, and is still accelerating. The figures are enormous, and don’t think that matters in Europe are any better. Soon, NKs will become the subject of hematic archaeological research. What is even more alarming is the fact that NKs do not require a previous encounter with the antigen because they are part of the innate immune system, and they have, for instance, the task of killing off cancerous cells. There is more: very recent research has demonstrated that there is a close link between NK deficiency and autoimmune disease, especially systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, and type I diabetes.
This is true for all degenerative phenomena, as well as senility, and they are clearly sign-posted. Starting with menopause and the sperm-count.
In support of such instructive data on the future zeroing of counts, there is other data which you will have noticed also. If there is a doctor here who is close to retirement like myself, he will recall that when in his day lymphocytes exceeded 30% in children, the mothers were advised to take them to the seaside, in that they were defined “lymphatic”. Currently, 45% is still within the norm (I will point out that lymphocytes have receptors for the autonomic nervous system and are therefore sensitive to emotion-induced variations). In my day, lymphocytosis was fine for tuberculosis sufferers, and the increase was explained with chronicity. There is no contradiction: just as certain fundamental elements decline, so too are there increasing numbers of soldiers who are on permanent leave, hysterical and badly equipped. There are in fact links between lymphocytes and autoimmune diseases.
Generally speaking, autoimmune diseases are classified as either organ specific or non-organ specific. In the first class, the most representative is perhaps Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, whereas in the second it is systemic lupus erythematosus. There are also multiple situations (for instance, thyroiditis-pernicious anaemia) and family-related instances, although the genes involved do not make autoimmune diseases genetic: genes may predispose an individual to developing such diseases, but it is free radicals that modify them. A bit like star-signs for the question of birth, or the way in which the family environment predisposes an individual to developing cancer in more or less subtle ways, or a dog ends up looking like its owner. The examples are not great, but they make the point.
Autoimmunity, and this is my personal opinion, is only an effect. The possibility of inducing autoimmune reactions experimentally only proves that it is possible to cause lesions from the autoimmune processes artificially obtained from autoantigens.
At any rate, T lymphocytes play a vital role in the development of autoimmune diseases, although the only certainties one has from reading authoritative studies are maybes.
What is sufficiently clear, however, is the concept that T cells recognise small peptides presented by the MHC (Major Histocompatibility Complex) by means of the TCR (T Cell Receptor). The fact that such interaction is flexible, allowing receptors to interfere with different peptides, is also reasonable. So far, we are within the normal mechanism of the immune process, in which we can see that crossed reactions are essential, but carry the danger of the autoimmune condition. These implications add little to what we know and anyway belong to the latest studies in Psychoneuroimmunology.
Third part, in other words let’s try to look at it from a different angle, however clumsily. Firstly, on the level of meaning.
The immune defences represent our collision with the outside, the “non-self”, thus our hostility, the necessary outcome of which is the attempt to control. Notice that the first response of the media to an uncontrollable disaster, whether natural or not, is: “The situation is under control.” This reassures homo contentus (cum tengo), i.e. restrained, controlled (an association that is far from insignificant), pace the Latinists. It reassures, as it reassured our mothers, where restraint was the basis for affective consensus. Along the lines of “sit straight”, or “a man never cries”.
Ultimately, defence and control have no borders beyond those inside us, because we create them. Indeed, outside there is no problem, since reality exists only in the eye of the beholder. The only real problem is certainly that there is no problem.
I often tell my patients and an allergy is a form of defence that is hysterical, explosive, which liberates us from an aggressive internal condition that is unaccepted and compressed. The droplets of a sneeze during an attack of vasomotor rhinitis have the speed, violence and (veiled) intention of bullets. So it is that our desire is realised, fear is circumvented with the overlay of an allergy, and the objective is achieved. I have a patient who is completely harmless and compliant with her husband, but has an irrepressible bout of sneezing every time he comes into the house. Twenty or so times, and then stop, whatever the hour.
Now let us imagine that the fear of a repressed desire, such as aggressiveness, turns into the violence of compression, and is so strong as to manifest itself right to the very borders of the ego, but is then abandoned and so returns to the origin. In this case, however, there has already been an internal manifestation which, when it regresses, shall acquire autoimmune characteristics complete with autoantibodies.
The autoimmune sufferer does not express, like the allergy sufferer; he simply sends back. This is not the right place for a disquisition on feelings of guilt; suffice it to say that where there is a sense of guilt, there is unaccepted and non-integrated guilt. The feeling of guilt is therefore different from sorrow. It is singular that the autoimmune sufferer has far fewer enemies than the allergy sufferer, who finds thorns of irritation, or opportunities for violent crusades (triggering causes) wherever he is led by an image that clearly represents that which he has repressed. It has been proved that it takes a bunch of fake roses to trigger an asthma attack in someone who is allergic to roses. That is why I spoke of image, or symbol. And if it can happen with roses…!
I would like to sum up the differences between an allergic manifestation and an autoimmune manifestation with a kind of metaphor. When I was a kid, I had a boomerang. If when it flew away from me it found its target, it released its kinetic energy. If it failed, it returned to the thrower.
I would say, therefore, that an allergy is an expression of the subject on an object, whereas the autoimmune phenomenon is regression of the expression towards the subject.
As you can see, I have simply shifted the focus from the outside to the inside. It is not all that difficult. One easy example: Westerners are full of justified external enemies, from germs to those who abuse human rights. Even an imbecile can see the extent to which we exorcise our violence with an allergy (or intolerance) against the violence of others. If I do not accept that I am “bad” I need to find it outside of myself in order to feel “good”. And in the event of embarrassing reports, I can invoke studies that show how the bad person kills more than I do with government-sponsored killings, or that count the number of massacres perpetrated by the enemy with an abacus, comparing the result with the number of those committed by me, which, obviously, were committed in the name of peace.
I have said elsewhere that I do not believe that truly free animals generate autoimmune diseases. I would add, if I am not mistaken, that years ago it was scientifically declared that they do not even have antibodies. In fact, the free animal accepts its own natural aggressiveness, which is not violence, and does not transform it into allergy or autoimmune disease with feelings of guilt. It is clear: no antigens, no antibodies. I have also said that autoimmune diseases are on the rise. You can draw your own conclusions.
And now for the bioenergetic aspect.
I shall take the bioelectronic perspective, in which the values of pH, rH2 and ρ are considered to be fundamental; pH indicating the magnetic state, as determined by the greater or lesser presence of H ions, rH2 indicating the electric state, expressed in Millivolts, with the power to oxidise or reduce, and ρ indicating the state of electrolyte concentration, expressed in Ohms.
In a cell, an electric oscillator-emitter, life is defined by electronic exchanges. As in electrolysis, the direction of the current goes from anode to cathode. In other words, from the positive cytoplasm to the negative nucleus. This enables not only correct exchanges with the extracellular medium, but also, because the movement is centripetal, cellular cohesion.
Let us now turn to the autoimmune phenomenon. Living in a state of contradiction increases oxidation in a patient, as a consequence of both increased processes of combustion and the action of adrenal hormones, which not only produce free radicals, but also themselves become free radicals. I will remind the reader that free radicals, a reactive species of oxygen, are fragments of molecules with an unpaired electron that are frantically seeking equilibrium and are highly destructive. Furthermore, in autoimmune diseases, the weapons of the immune system, such as hypochlorous acid (itself a free radical) are turned against the body. To sum up: autoimmunity is a symptom of hyperoxidation (or electron loss) caused by:
1) increased energy production
2) increased alarm hormones
3) increased damage caused by the defensive reactions of the immune system.
These three points translate into an increase in free radicals and oxidation.
And so we come back to bioelectronics. Increased oxidation leads to slower bioelectric exchanges and therefore an increase in electrolytes, which in turn translates into an increase in osmotic pressure. The latter determines an intracellular electric inversion. In other words, the direction of the current will be from the nucleus to the cytoplasm, which from negative will have become positive. This leads fatally to the reduction and then loss of cellular aggregation, as a result of centrifugal movement.
The term ‘centrifugal’ should bring to your mind something that is expansive, anarchic, excessive, like an allergy. But also, in some respects, like cancer.
Given such a communication marasmus, the non-distinction of self from non-self typical of the autoimmune disease can set in, in which the T lymphocytes are no longer able to identify the proteic fragments presented to them by the MHC. Also because they have changed their electric charge. Indeed, peptidic connections and proteic migration depend on pH and oxidation, so, for instance, a protein migrates as an anion in a base environment, becoming positively charged. Hence the production of autoantibodies from autoantigens.
These notes might constitute an angle for research, if one is still needed, into the causes for the myopia or blindness of the elements of the immune system, whose functioning is indeed based on evolved and variable recognition, which are nevertheless also characterised by repetitiveness and stability.
I shall conclude by returning to the fact that autoimmune therapy should be based on:
1) positive immunomodulation, in other words restoring order to the superstructure, thereby reducing or eliminating instances of autoaggression.
2) on the integration of what is considered negative and unacceptable by the “ego”, which would eliminate dissent and therefore the enemies that need beating. In otherwords, ourselves,in the surrender of the “ego” itself. But at this point, the border with utopia becomes extremely hazy.
Otherwise, allergies and autoimmune disease really shall continue to be a bitter remedy in a suicidal society.
I have already said elsewhere that health and happiness unite in the absence of diversity between internal and external. Like a river flowing into the sea at its estuary in a state quiet.