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Our Repair System: The MASH Unit

THERE WILL. ALWAYS BE CASUALTIES OF WAR. AND THE WAR THAT IS being waged in our bodies is no different. In spite of our tremendous antioxidant defense systems, the enemy gets through and damages lipids (fats), proteins, cell walls, vessel walls, and even the DNA nucleus of the cell. Many research centers have now confirmed the existence of damage removal and repair systems for al1 of these oxidized (damaged by free radicals) proteins, cell wall lipids, and DNA. Simply put, our bodies have a sophisticated, state-of the-art MASH unit.'

When I was a young physician, I realized the strong possibility that I would be called up to be part of a MASH unit in the Vietnam War. During my training at the University of Colorado Medical School, most of the residents had been to Vietnam and most of the interns were on their way But as it turned out, by the time I finished my internship the war had pretty much ended and the draft was no longer in effect.

Though I never actually went to Vietnam, I remember the original movie, M*A*S*H, with al] of the v.7ounded soldiers being brought in by helicopter. The stressful, frantic surgeries that followed in attempts to mend soldiers are still vivid in my mind. Did you know this same scenario is happening every day inside our bodies? We have a sophisticated team of triage nurses. anesthesiologists, and surgeons that are busy repairing the damage caused by the free radicals our body is producing.

There is both a direct repair system and an indirect repair system within each of our bodies. We really don't know much about the direct repair system; however, it is well documented that it does exist. Most of our knowledge centers instead on the indirect repair system.

In the health care field, triage nurses are the ones who evaluate the patient to determine which patient is in the most critical condition and will be seen by the doctor first. Extensive studies have revealed that the "triage nurses" in our bodies recognize damaged cell parts and then repair them.2 The body doesn't just patch these cells; it actually tears them down completely and then rebuilds from scratch. Incredible, isn't it? Damaged proteins become brand-new proteins, made with recycled amino acids. The body repairs altered fats and DNA in a similar matter. It is critical that you understand that the body has an amazing built-in ability to heal itself.

As I reflect on the complex nature of this repair system and the functions of the cell, I know beyond doubt this is no random act of nature. During my first year of medical school, I studied the anatomy and function of the eye. As I observed the intricacy of the structure, I realized that this object could never have been the result of accidental chance and random selection. The retina itself is made up of twelve intricate layers and billions of specialized cells. The rods and cones in the retina gather the light waves and send these messages to the brain. Our brain interprets these impulses and creates our vision in vivid, moving, full color. Just take a moment to look out your nearest window and simply marvel at the gift of sight. This is no accident-it is an ingenious creation!

These same thoughts come back to me now as I study the body's astonishing immune system and antioxidant defense system. I have no doubt that God is our true Healer. "I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made," David exclaimed.4 God created a magnificent "earth suit" f'or us to take care of and to nurture. The best defense against getting chronic degenerative diseases is provided in our own bodies, not in the drugs I prescribe.

Biochemical researchers are now able to study the inner workings and complexities of each cell in our body. The cell is not simply a shell that contains a soft consistent gel, as many early evolutionists believed. It is instead filled with sophisticated structures, genetic codes, and transport systems that support life by their elaborate biochemical reactions.

When I look at an ink pen, I try to imagine that some plastic, metal, and ink sat around for millions and millions of years and then suddenly, by chance, accidentally formed this pen. But then I think, Maybe someone made it! The human body is a profoundly complicated creation, and the secrets we are learning about how it works and functions make it all the more incredible.

The Devastation of War

In spite of this tremendous defense and repair system inherent in our bodies, damage can still occur. Oxidative stress has the potential to overpower all of these protective systems and cause chronic degenerative diseases. During periods of particularly high production of free radicals, the defense and repair system can break down and no longer cope with the number of damaged proteins, fats, cell membranes, and DNA structures.

When not properly repaired, damaged proteins can create further problems in cell function. Damaged lipids lead to rigid cell membranes; oxidized cholesterol often leads to hardening of the arteries. And poorly repaired DNA chains lead to cell mutation as implicated in cancer and aging.

Simply stated, when we overwork our built-in antioxidant defense and repair systems, significant damage occurs to the body and eventually may lead to any one of a number of chronic degenerative diseases. Biochemical researchers realized years ago that based on their estimates of damaged cells from oxidative stress, we would die quickly from this damage to vital cellular parts if the antioxidant enzymes and compounds were our only means of protection.4 This is why it is essential that we optimize all of these natural defense systems.

Our Best Defense

Outside of Eden, our food and our environment have totally changed. Consequently, our bodies are literally under attack. Air and water pollution, the long-range effects of smoking, and a faster-paced and pressure-packed lifestyle add up to stress on our bodies. Even our diet has suffered. Our food supply is significantly deficient in quality nutrients. In 1970 Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2000 they spent more than $110 billion. Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music combined.5

All of these factors mean free radicals are more active and damaging than ever. Nutritional medicine, supplementing our diet with vital antioxidant vitamins and minerals, is the only means we have to supercharge our body's natural defense and immune system.

Nutritional medicine protects our health by enhancing the nature systems God has created for a polluted world. When we provide the proper nutrients at the optimal levels that the body needs to function, it can do what God intended.

Once you understand the concept of oxidative stress and its deleterious effect on your body, you will want to learn how to have victory over it. You will want to know how to have enough antioxidants and their supporting nutrients on board to handle the number of free radicals your body produces.

As simple as this sounds, it is a revolutionary concept when it comes to our health. The longer we are able to prevent or delay these chronic degenerative diseases, the longer we are able to enjoy good health. We are all going to die sometime, unless the Lord returns first, but as my friend claimed, I too want to live until I die.

Balance is the Goal

When I was a young teenager, the federal government decided to take most of the silver out of our coins. Instantly, all the old coins, which were solid silver, were worth much more than the new coins the government was minting. Many individuals and businesses began buying up these solid silver coins and, of course, we teens gathered up as many solid silver coins as we could find too.

I was especially in luck. My dad owned a Dairy Queen, and he brought home a pile of coins each night that I would have to roll up in paper rolls. I would carefully select out the solid silver coins (with my dad's permission) and then take them out to sell them.

I loved pulling open the heavy wooden door at the hardware store off of Main Street. The musty smells of old wood, furniture polish, and oil would welcome me along with the friendly voice of Mr. Smalley saying, "Hello there, son!" When Mr. Smalley saw me coming he'd bring out a scale to weigh my coins (he paid by the weight). He used the old-fashioned kind that had two trays on either side of a balance arm. Mr. Smalley loaded my coins on one tray, then placed weights, one at a time, onto the other tray.

I remember holding my breath with excitement when he had to keep pulling out more and more brass weights to counterbalance all my coins. As it got close, he'd glance over at me out from under the bill of his cap and wink. "Bingo!" he'd say when the scale finally balanced out. Then he'd tell me how much money I was going to get for all those silver coins.

Balance is key when it comes to oxidative stress. The anecdote I've told offers a useful analogy Our body is always trying to put enough brass weights (antioxidants) on one tray to balance out all of the silver coins (free radicals). The body makes some of those antioxidants, but they are simply not enough. Our food, especially fruits and vegetables, used to provide all the extra antioxidants our bodies needed. A generation or two ago, people ate more whole, fresh foods that contain significantly more antioxidants than today's diet does. But as a result of the tremendous increase in the toxins in our environment today, along with the depleted nutrients we receive from our highly processed foods, our scale is out of balance-in favor of the silver coins (free radicals).

We need to add nutritional supplements to the balance in order to provide the level of antioxidants our bodies need. In fact we want the brass weights to tip the scale in its favor because then we won't have oxidative stress.

Remember, there are two sides of the coin: the amount of free radicals our bodies have to deal with and an optimized antioxidant/repair system. In the chapters that follow, I will lay out the medical evidence that shows how you as an individual can improve your antioxidant defense system by eating a healthy diet, exercising moderately, and taking high-quality nutritional supplements. I wil1 also show you how, by taking what I refer to as "optimizers" (super potent antioxidants), you can even regain your health if you have already lost it.
"What Your Doctor Doesn't Know About Nutritional Medicine May Be Killing You."
Dr. Ray Strand