Immunity from childhood illnesses: Developmental illness

These include some of what are classically known as the childhood illnesses, as we elaborate on the nature of these responses we shall see that they can equally occur in adulthood. For the purposes of medical study the body has been divided into separate systems, each classified according to its main function, for example; the digestive system, endocrine system, nervous system, cardio-vascular system, respiratory system, immune system etc. In looking at the developmental illnesses (childhood illnesses), much of our efforts are focused on the immune system, in terms of function and development. However the body doesn’t function using single systems and there are no distinct lines where one system starts and another finishes.

Immunity is a whole body process

For example in dealing with poisons and associated microbes in the digestive tract, all systems have an integrated function; the digestive system plays a part in creating boundaries using the intestinal membrane, enzymes from the liver, pancreas and intestinal mucosal wall will help to break down certain molecules, resident microbes limit the growth of disease associated microbes, the blood and cardio-vascular system bring white blood cells to appropriate areas; hormones of the endocrine system regulate blood pressure, vaso-dilation and permeability; kidneys of the genito-urinary system filter the blood; the nerves of the nervous system coordinate voluntary and involuntary muscle movement and so on. Therefore, when considering immune development, there will be a concomitant development of other systems, including mental and emotional behaviour; each system is in fact inextricably linked to other systems.

Immunity from the skin and membranes of the body

We shall at first consider the mucous membranes of the human body. In the digestive tract this is therefore part of the digestive system, but also the immune system, endocrine system, nervous system, it has elimination functions as well as absorption and assimilation functions. This membrane provides, among other things, an effective barrier between the external environment and our internal systems (blood, organs and nervous tissue). A newborn child does not have a fully developed immune system, including therefore underdeveloped membranes; these are more porous than in a healthy adult with fewer resident microbes. Similarly many detoxifying enzymes and immune cells have not yet developed, kidney and liver function is also minimal.

Consequently in order to carry out digestion functions, foods have to be simple; hence the necessity for breast milk or similar food, (more complex foods could not be broken down and would actually cross the delicate membranes of the digestive system and poison the child). Similarly exposure to other potential toxins in the environment would have more severe consequences in a child than an adult – smoke, cosmetics, pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, chemical additives, pollutants etc; the newborn child is less able to keep things out and less able to detoxify poisonous elements once within their system.

Remember, any acute reaction can be brought about by a combination of factors:
  • An increased amount of toxicity
  • Any physical or emotional stress that could adversely affect the system
  • Immune suppression
Immunity requires the ability to keep out and eliminate toxins
Most of the toxicity for the average child comes from what enters the digestive tract (ignoring the effects of drugs and vaccines) and as previously discussed, should there be anything in the diet that the child is unable to cope with then the child will react by eliminating. In the first instance this could be mucus elimination (nasal discharge, cough), vomiting and diarrhoea, (an inflammatory response cannot be produced in the first days, this ability takes some time to develop).

Exposure to toxins, as described in the previous chapters, could lead to a build up of toxicity that could cross the membranes into the blood with the accumulation of viruses. The elimination of this, involves blood immune cells and the phenomena of viral shedding i.e. “the rash”, as in measles, rubella, chickenpox and the numerous rashes of children that are now classified as “just a virus”.

The resolution of the blood toxicity by this elimination leads to a more integrated robust membrane, more able to keep out toxins and microbes from the blood i.e. ‘natural immunity’, as you would gain from naturally contracting measles. Suppression of this process, would lead to a build up of toxins within the blood, a more leaky membrane and consequently the child would be sensitised to elements that can more easily gain access to the blood system and may be left with symptoms of ‘allergies’.