Can’t We Do Both?

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made: your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:13-14)

In my teens and twenties, about the time I was going through my “body image issues” (starving, binging, and self-loathing), I had a related problem: I seemed to be perpetually sick, especially from October to April. A day or two of allergy symptoms would escalate into a full-blown cold – a nasty cold with all the symptoms, keeping me out of school for 2-3 days, followed by about a week of feeling run-down and sick-ish but going to school anyway, because “You can’t miss any more school!” followed by a week or so of feeling OK, then the cycle would start all over, with This is probably just an allergy … isn’t it?

During those years there would be times in the wee hours of the morning when the rest of the family was enviably sound asleep, while my head was pounding with sinus pressure, sore nose throbbing, throat burning. I would lie in the dark, thinking, If this is the way my life is going to be from now on, I think I’d rather not …

Somewhere in my twenties or early thirties I became more and more aware of this thing called an immune system, and I did all the research I could to see if there was any way I could help mine. Of course my eating disorder had been steadily taking its toll on my health (Gee, ya think??), and the biggest step towards good health was when God graciously delivered me from that personal demon. (I still plan to write about that journey in more detail in a future piece.) Over the years I learned about balanced nutrition (No, the crash diets weren’t cutting it.), the right supplements (No, Vitamin C wasn’t the “magic bullet.” I needed more.), the importance of sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and staying hydrated. Thankfully I had never taken up smoking, loving singing the way I did, and I wasn’t a drinker, for fear I’d be even more out of control than I already was. But I still had to learn to make better choices than junk food, avoid sugar, and choose water over diet soft drinks.

In spite of needing regular allergy shots and sinus surgery, my health did improve over the years, and in the fall of 2019 I seemed to have found the final “missing piece” – probiotics. I sheepishly told my doctor I had bought into an infomercial for a probiotic that said 70% of the immune system is in the gut, and to my surprise, she said, “Oh, that’s true.” (confirming the connection with the eating disorder) With that revelation I started taking the probiotic first thing in the morning, along with practicing the other healthy lifestyle choices, and for the first time in six decades, I went a whole year without a single cold or sinus infection!

The first thing to hit me in 2020 was Covid, which I came down with in late November. Although it brought back some unpleasant memories, it wasn’t horrible (unlike all the viruses I got as a young person) and lasted just a few days. I did quarantine for two weeks, and although Thanksgiving Day I couldn’t smell or taste anything, my husband, who also had Covid, didn’t feel like eating anyway. So, instead of cooking all day, I relaxed with him and spent Thanksgiving … well … giving thanks. (I think that’s the point anyway, right?)

So why am I telling you all this? Because the CDC isn’t exactly highlighting this kind of information. For the past year all we’ve heard is wear-a-mask!-stay-home!-wash-your-hands!-socially-distance! … ad nauseum. We’ve been terrorized by the nightly news with daily stats on new cases and deaths, but not the 45 million Americans that have had the virus and recovered. Ironically, fear, stress, rage, and the related loss of sleep has a devastating effect on the immune system.

One day just out of curiosity I visited the CDC website and did a search for “Maintaining a Healthy Immune System.” My search turned up 350 results, all articles with the words “maintaining” (about maintaining social distance), “immune” (about vaccines), or “system” (as in “health care system”). I found nothing about keeping our bodies strong enough to fight off disease. Later my son told me to try “maintaining a healthy immune + system.” I tried a few searches adding a “+” and found there were thousands of articles. With some digging I was able to find mention of healthy eating, sleep, etc. But as far as Covid, avoidance was definitely front and center. I have yet to hear on the news about any proactive steps we can take to strengthen our resistance naturally. Just fear-fear-FEAR.

Am I saying we don’t need to do anything to avoid viruses? Not at all. This doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. Sure, wash your hands (Are there really people who don’t?) and use hand sanitizer. Cough into your sleeve, and stay home if you’re sick. (In other words, practice common courtesy -and common sense!) Avoid crowds if you get sick easily, and – my personal flu season recommendation – carry your own pen. (Make it a cheap one, so if anyone asks to borrow it you can tell them to keep it.) Just know that viruses are the tiniest living things known to man, and they’re virtually everywhere. This is why our loving Creator built a system of defense into our bodies.

It’s not that we have to choose between minimizing exposure to illnesses and arming ourselves against them. Why not do both? Our bodies are gifts from God, but we are stewards of those gifts. He has made us partners with Him, and I believe He wants us to be responsible for what we can do to stay healthy and strong, while He takes care of the rest – the things that are out of our control.

As for “divine perspective,” there is a spiritual parallel to this, which I’ll deal with next time.

Prayer: Lord, we know it was Your creative genius that formed our bodies. While we don’t take a single breath without Your enabling us, You have called us to care for Your creation, including ourselves. We want to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, set apart for Your service. Show us how to keep these vessels strong, healthy, and able to serve You for as long as You would have us on this earth, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

37 thoughts on “Can’t We Do Both?

  1. Annie, your post reminds me of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, about our bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit, bought at a high price. After all he’s does for us, we owe it to God to honor him with our bodies–in just the ways you describe here! I’m surprised the CDC does not include articles about a healthy lifestyle. Maybe they’re counting on other websites to do that?

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    1. Nancy, please reread the post. I had to edit that part after another search, where I tried something my son recommended. I did find some information they had on healthy lifestyle. Not that they’re sharing any of it on the nightly reports. 😒

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  2. Thank you for a wonderful post. I am convinced the name Jehovah Rapha (God our healer) means, well, that God is our healer. That Christ has already borne both our sin and our sickness is amply supported in scripture. As you ably point out, that does not relieve us of the responsibility to be good stewards of our bodies (doing all the things you mentioned, plus keeping our spiritual, mental, and emotional states in order). We have been given the charge to care for our physical equipment so that we can carry out His will on the earth. I am grateful that our all-wise Creator added to His creation the human immune system. He knew we were going to need it. How great is it that the immune system can learn identify new (novel) viruses and kick them out! We need to remember also, the enemy of our souls is not above handing us a bill for debts already paid in full by our Savior. Just say “No!” to those… After I read T.L. Osborne’s book “Healing the Sick”, I was amazed to be pointed to the enormous list of scriptures that one can draw on concerning health. I recommend reading that book. If read for no other reason than the scripture references it is still plenty valuable.

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    1. Sounds good, Jon. Another whole dimension of a healthy lifestyle has been my daily prayers, including offering the Lord my body as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and asking Him to cleanse it of anything that would harm me or others (diseases, especially contagious ones) or that would hinder His will. The peace of trusting Him is SO much healthier than the stress produced by all the negative reports. I sleep well at night, knowing I’m all His – and He takes good care of His stuff! 😉

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  3. Great post! I too was sick all the time, especially in my 20’s , before I discovered the wonders of our immune system. So eating right, getting plenty of rest, and probiotics. Where I live, vitamin D is also critical and deficiencies are common. We really are wonderfully and fearfully made!

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    1. I agree, Goldie.
      In a group email planning a reunion, I found myself in the middle of a heated political “discussion” that was getting downright nasty. One person said there was “no way in hell” she’d get together with certain others. One of the more dignified members of the group just commented, “Oh my …”
      I later opined that nobody in our group was stupid, and that we came by our personal convictions based on our education, experience, personalities, and priorities. And I suggested we respect one another even if we didn’t agree. I got a personal email from one of them later, thanking me. … “Respect. What a concept.” 😏
      What’s funny is that earlier I had thought of all kinds of clever comebacks but sensed the Holy Spirit telling me not to join the conversation just yet…

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  4. This is so true. Our bodies are designed to fight off the bad guys. It does seem that science has been slow to discover how our immune system actually works or they just don’t want the information to be known. It was over a decade ago when I started experimenting with natural remedies. I first switched from OTC allergy medication to stinging nettle. It worked as an anti histamine but I decided to go a step further and rid myself of things that caused the allergies. Most of them were brought on by fragrances added to cleaning supplies, skincare products and things like air fresheners and dryer sheets. ( I now make most of our cleaning supplies and skincare products.) After that my allergy symptoms improved immensely (though cottonwood season can still be a trigger) and I rarely got sick.
    Two years ago after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and the doctor’s only offering deep brain stimulation as a treatment, I started doing more research. I was already convinced that there was some relationship between gut health and PD as my symptoms were worse when my gut was not healthy. I began using probiotics both in foods (sauerkraut, yogurt, kombucha) and supplements. I have experienced some improvement in my PD symptoms and also have not been sick since.
    Incidentally the other thing I did after being diagnosed was had all of my metal filling removed and replaced with resin fillings. I learned that mercury from metal filling can leach into our brains ( while the FDA does not recommend that everyone remove them they do confirm this.) I really can’t say forsure what measures I have taken have helped but even though this is said to be a progressive disease my symptoms have gotten better instead of worse.
    It really is up to each of us to make the best decisions possible to maintain our own health. I think that blindly following the advice of the medical professionals can have adverse effects. I always pray for wisdom when making these decisions.

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  5. I do take the COVID-19 virus seriously and am practicing the recommended precautions such as social distancing, mask wearing, etc. A cousin my age who was fairly healthy died from it, and my husband has several underlying conditions, so I’m not taking chances. But I agree it’s not either/or. I do think the health authorities could do a better job of telling us how to improve our immune systems and take better care of ourselves.

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  6. I am so glad you are getting this information out about probiotics. After Lily was hospitalized a year and a half ago, she had a lingering cough for months. But when I was able to get to the U.S. and buy her some good probiotics (not very available here unfortunately), the cough disappeared and hasn’t been back since! (I made sure and stocked up 🙂 )

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    1. Wow, that’s great, Jennifer. We are so complex, and everyone’s body is different. I am not one who says, “This worked for me, and it’ll work for you!” But rather, “This worked wonders for me, and you might ask your doctor about trying it. Maybe it’ll work for you, too.” I’m sorry you don’t have better access to probiotics where you are. You might look into things like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and other fermented foods you could buy or even make yourself.

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      1. Yes, that is definitely the right approach, inviting people to check things out. We do have yogurt here, but it has so much sugar added to it. My mom regularly makes her own kefir, so that is close to home. Thankfully, we usually get visitors from the U.S. often enough to restock us on things we can’t get here. But that is a very good thought for sure, thank you!

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  7. Yep, sugar pretty much cancels out the good the probiotics do. I have been avoiding sugar for many years, ever since I learned what a huge part it played in my achy joints. Not real good for the immune system, either. Or teeth. 😉 (Stevia rocks!)

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