For the last three years or so, I have not had any cough-and-cold. Every time I felt the prodromal ( early ) symptoms of itchy nose and throat, these would promptly go off. Previously, these symptoms would invariably develop into full-blown runny nose, sore-throat, cough and usually fever as well. And it would usually take 1 to 2 weeks for me to recover fully.
So it was a great surprise to me when I was badly hit by the flu bug recently. My daughter brought the infection home from school, and soon my other children got it too, but they were only transiently ill. My wife was then overcome with high fever and bad coughs, and was bed-ridden for four days. I was as usual confident that I would only get the prodromal symptoms, which would abort within one day, as has been the norm in the last three years.
But this time I was wrong. I had mild blocked-nose and slight coughs on the first day. By night I was having high fever with painful coughs and severely blocked and discharging nose. I was spewing out thick greenish phlegm. I also had diarrhea which persisted throughout the illness. The swinging fever and chesty coughs grounded me for four days, and I was feeling like a zombie when I forced myself to work on the fifth. Even after ten days, I still had residual phlegm and coughs. A sputum culture yielded “normal flora”, signifying a viral and not bacterial infection.
Viruses have a knack of mutating and there are always new strains that our body have to combat, with no previous exposure, and therefore no immunity. The older people are well-advised to have flu vaccination to prevent serious consequences. I also blame the perennial air and other environmental pollution for our weakened immunity. The number of people having respiratory tract infections at all times is unnecessarily high.
Throughout the illness, what struck me most was that I felt drained of energy, and since this is the area of my interest, I took the opportunity of the free time ( whenever I was able to think straight ) to ponder on how this energy-drainage happens during an illness.
During a fever, the metabolism goes up, and more energy is actually being produced. But where does this energy go? Much of that is converted to heat, hence the fever, but why is it not available for the cells to utilize, thus causing lethargy and weakness, which occur early in the course of the illness? Although the appetite is lost during such an illness, it would usually take a few days of total fasting to feel that weak.
Being a scientist as well as an exponent of Qigong who understands the workings of qi (the life force) gives me a unique opportunity to distinguish the different energies that are affected during an illness.
VIRUSES AND BACTERIA STEAL QI
Anyone who can feel the workings of qi in the body will confirm that the first thing that happens during an illness is the loss of qi. This causes rapid onset of tiredness and weakness.
Just like our cells, viruses and bacteria have to harness energy to multiply to sufficient numbers and cause illness to the host. Understanding how this happens will open doors to blocking and preventing such infections in the future.
By the time the infection becomes obvious, the virus or bacteria would have multiplied billion-folds, and this would have required lots of qi, as qi is the force behind reproduction or multiplication, whether in viruses, bacteria, plants or animals.
In a viral infection, the entire host-cell mechanism is hijacked to reproduce countless copies of the invading virus, often resulting in the demise of the host cell. Bacteria that can infect a certain host have the ability to “steal” the qi from the host to fuel its multiplication. This phenomenon is gradually being understood, and already science is using this knowledge to good use.
As mentioned in earlier articles, in our cells, the energy powerhouses are the mitochondria. Here, energy is produced for consumption by the rest of the cell. Cellular energy production requires qi to power the mitochondria, just as you need a charged battery to start a car engine. Once running, the engine is now able to utilize the fuel ( food for cells, and petrol for cars ) to produce the brute energy to keep it running.
So even if you have lots of stored fuel ( body glycogen and fat ), if your mitochondrial battery is flat ( no qi ), you are unable to use the fuel for energy.
During an infective illness, however, much of the qi is utilized to power the reproduction of the virus or bacteria. And the fuel energy from the burning of glycogen and fat is diverted to heat production instead of to the muscles for activity.
CANCER CELLS ALSO STEAL QI
Cancer cells also need a lot of qi to fuel their relentless abnormal multiplication. Cancer patients become weak and cachexic not just because much energy is utilized in forming the masses of cancer cells. That energy is easily replaced by eating ( or by intra-venous alimentation if necessary ). The qi that cancel cells consume is tremendous, and depletes the body of its reserves. The normal cells become weakened because of this, and the healing capacity is severely reduced. Hence it is no real surprise that so many have recovered from all stages of cancer, including the terminal stages, after practising many hours of anti-cancer Qigong. By recharging the body with qi, the normal cells are re-empowered to perform their duties, and the immune cells can slowly but surely fight the cancer.
If we know of ways to block the qi from being hijacked, then we can try to reduce the damage caused by such infections and even cancers.
We have known for sometime that our defence cells ( white blood cells ) use free-radicals to attack bacteria and cancer cells. What is not generally known is that certain defence cells and certain chemical compounds are able to steal or hijack the energy from another cell. This knowledge has enabled scientists to formulate innovative compounds that may be the future answer to preventing infections and cancers.
LAPd PREVENTS CELLS FROM LOSING QI
One such compound is the anti-oxidant lipoic acid. When combined with the rare mineral palladium, the lipoic acid palladium complex ( LAPd ) is not only able to prevent cells from losing the qi ( scientists call this “electrical potential” ) by stabilizing their membrane properties, but is also able to steal the qi from cancer cells, thus preventing them from multiplying. So, like the police ( LAPD is also the acronym for Los Angeles Police Dept ), it protects the good guys and fights the bad guys. Although research on LAPd is over 10 years old, and encouraging results have been achieved in preserving energy in sickness ( especially in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy ), it is not so well known as a supplement because of its prohibitive cost.
I am sure soon there will be other cheaper alternatives that we can take to prevent our cells from losing qi during illnesses, and also to rob cancer cells of their qi as cancer treatment.
HEALTH IS A VALUABLE GIFT
That brief bout of illness is a welcome reminder that health is a valuable gift that should not be taken for granted, and should be ardently preserved. I am thankful that overall I have been blessed with excellent health. Apart from an appendectomy surgery 14 years ago, at 49, I do not have any major health problem. However, my family history is not that good. My late father was obese, smoked, never exercised, and had hypertension from about the age of 46. At 56 he had a major stroke which left him incapacitated, and he died at age 66. My eldest sister also has hypertension since age 46. She is overweight, and now at 56, is at high risk of following father’s history.
My mother, however, is healthy and robust at 72 years. She was always slim, is ever active, and her energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to whatever she does are envied by us all. All her life she has been proactive. She was among the first women to get a driving licence in our hometown ( Kota Bharu, Kelantan ). In fact she still drives me around when I return for a visit! She was also among the earliest local women social and political activists. And when our father had to stop working, she took over the economic burdens of the family. I hope I inherited her healthy genes, and I hope to emulate her in living life to the fullest, and always having something to do which keeps the body active and healthy.
Health is about making choices. The only thing that we cannot choose is our genes. The rest – having healthy diet, habits, lifestyle, preventive health measures, etc – are up to us. I can choose to follow my late father’s example and expect to die at 66, or follow my mother’s and expect to live a healthier and longer life.
The Muslims who are fasting now should fast as how Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him ) fasted so that they become much healthier ( physically and spiritually ) after one month. Unfortunately, for many, the over-indulgence in the rich foods and expensive hotel “buka puasa” buffets make them end up worse.