Dr Philip Incao: Childhood Illnesses Shape the Immune System

Supporting Children's Health
by Philip Incao, M.D.
From Alternative Medicine Digest (September 1997)
The rate of chronic illness in children has tripled since 1960, possibly due in part to the overuse of childhood vaccinations. The surprising news is that the standard childhood illnesses these vaccines suppress may actually benefit the immune system.
One of the best ways to ensure your children's health is to allow them to get sick. At first hearing, this concept may sound outrageous. Yet standard childhood illnesses, such as measles, mumps, and even whooping cough, may be of key benefit to a child's developing immune system and it may be inadvisable to suppress these illnesses with immunizations. Evidence is also accumulating that routine childhood vaccinations may directly contribute to the emergence of chronic problems such as eczema, ear infections, asthma, and bowel inflammations.

It's a challenging medical proposition, but ever since the 1920s, many European physicians and a small band of American doctors (myself included, for the past 23 years) have avoided using most vaccinations, based on a medical approach called Anthroposophic medicine.

In this field, we regard childhood vaccinations as anything but routine; rather, we consider them in most cases to be suspect, dangerous, and worthy of exceedingly rigorous review. Generally, we try to avoid giving most vaccinations and rely instead on alternative, more natural ways of helping the child cope with what we contend are the necessary and beneficial illnesses of childhood.

The Immune System Benefits from Early Illness
Before these concepts make sense, it must be pointed out that the immune system has two different aspects. One aspect is called the humoral immune system whereby antibodies (specialized defense proteins) are produced to recognize and neutralize antigens (foreign particles in the body).

The other aspect is called the cell-mediated immune system, and involves white blood cells and specialized immune cells called macrophages which "eat" antigens. These also help drive the antigens out of the body, causing skin rashes and discharges of pus and mucus from the throat and lungs. Both are typical signs of the beneficial acute inflammatory illnesses of childhood.

These two poles of the immune system have a reciprocal relationship. That means when the humoral pole is overstimulated (for example, from vaccines or allergies), the cell-mediated pole tends to be relatively inactive. Vaccines do not stimulate this pole, so their contents never get discharged from the body.

Polio and tetanus do not belong to this group of beneficial standard childhood illnesses. I use the word "standard" to denote acute inflammatory illnesses (usually with rash and fever) typical and common to children in Western, industrialized nations. These illnesses are also standard to childhood as a developmental phase, something akin to the predictable change in teeth around age seven.

Many years ago, Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian scientist and founder of the Anthroposophic approach to medicine, argued that childhood illnesses are a standard feature of childhood because the young body needs them. Now let's see how this plays out in a standard childhood illness or its suppression with vaccinations.

An acute inflammatory childhood illness--measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, scarlatina, or whooping cough--develops the cell-mediated immune system, while a vaccine activates the humoral immune system. The difference here is crucial because it is the cell-mediated response that protects the child from future illness and that provides, in effect, the deeper immunity.

Physicians who practice anthroposophical medicine generally believe that having acute but limited inflammatory diseases as a child helps protect one as an adult against more serious, long-term, chronic illnesses. Not having these childhood illnesses (because of multiple vaccinations) can lead to a greater incidence of adult health problems. The same is true when these childhood illnesses are routinely suppressed with antibiotics rather than helping the cell-mediated immune system to work out the illness in a rash or mucous discharge.

Recent research in conventional medical journals is now confirming this view. In early 1997, a team of British physicians writing in Science made this provocative statement: "Childhood infections may, therefore, paradoxically protect against asthma." In other words, these infections have a purpose in building general immunity.

The British physicians noted that the incidence of asthma has doubled since 1977 in Western countries and in the U.S. it is responsible for 33% of all pediatric emergency-room visits. Yet this growing incidence of asthma seems to be related more to the suppression or absence of respiratory infections than to the commonly perceived cause, air pollution.

Highly polluted European cities where the use of antibiotics and immunizations is less than in the U.S. have lower asthma rates than comparable U.S. cities. Conversely, in Tucson, Arizona, despite the dry heat and lack of irritants (such as dust mites) in the air, the rate of asthma is the same as elsewhere in the country.

The Science physicians suggested that diseases such as tuberculosis and whooping cough may permanently alter a child's immune system such that they confer a lifetime protection against asthma. Certainly they were not saying children should have tuberculosis, but they noted that the humoral immune system needs to be tempered by the cell-mediated response, and this best happens during an infectious childhood disease.

When a child undergoes an intense but short-term lung infection, this provides the necessary exercise of the cell-mediated immune system. If this does not happen, the humoral system is left unbridled and subject to over-reaction to otherwise harmless pollen and dust particles; eventually, this may lead to asthma.

Let's follow this idea in the case of measles. When a child gets a measles rash, the body excretes the virus through the skin, usually within about four days after rash onset. If the child does not get a measles rash, some of the measles virus remains unneutralized in the body where it can act as a chronic irritant to the immune system and contribute to degenerative disease later.

The fever and rash of measles enable the body to burn up the virus; having a measles vaccine is like planting a seed of future infection in the body and tricking the body not to reject it. This is because a vaccine results in only a partial immunity; i.e., the humoral system is triggered while the cell-mediated system remains dormant or can even be inhibited by the vaccine. This insight was first put forward by Boston homeopath Richard Moskowitz, M.D., in the early 1980s.

Danish physician Tove Ronne stated it simply in The Lancet in 1985: "Measles virus infection without rash in childhood is related to disease in adult life." Among these, Dr. Ronne listed skin disease, immune dysfunctions, degenerative diseases of bone and cartilage, and certain cancers. It's alarming to note that a few years later, in 1991, the National Cancer Institute announced that the rate of all cancers among white American children grew by 4.1% between 1973 and 1988. More specifically, the rate of childhood leukemia increased by 10.7% while brain cancers soared by 30.5%.

Predisposing Children to More Disease Later?
Put simply, the research suggests that if children do not undergo some type of limited respiratory infection, they are more at risk for developing asthma, among other problems. Michel R. Odent, M.D., and colleagues at the Primal Health Research Centre in London, England, documented this connection in a report on 448 children, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1994.

Out of this group, 243 children (average age, eight years) had been immunized with the pertussis vaccine for whooping cough. Of these, 26 (10%) had asthma compared to only four (1.9%) of the 208 children not immunized. This suggests that having the pertussis vaccine can increase a child's risk of developing asthma by more than five times.

Similarly, in the vaccinated group, 130 children had ear infections compared to only 59 among the 208 non-vaccinated. Here the risk of developing subsequent ear infections was increased by almost two times in pertussis-vaccinated children. The incidence of other diseases (excluding asthma, ear infections, eczema, and whooping cough) was also noticeably higher in the vaccinated group--34.6% versus 24% for non-vaccinated children.

The measles vaccine has been linked with higher rates of inflammatory bowel disease. Based on a study of 3,545 people who received live measles vaccine as children, their rate of developing ulcerative colitis was two-and-one-half times higher and three times higher for Crohn's compared to an unvaccinated group, as reported in The Lancet. The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine has also been implicated in higher rates of diabetes (see accompanying sidebar, "Do Vaccinations Cause Diabetes?").

There are still other data suggestive of a vaccine link with disease. For example, for largely "unexplained" reasons, between 1960 and 1981, the rate of activity-limiting chronic conditions among children doubled from 1.8 to 3.8%, most noticeably in allergic and mental/nervous system disorders. By 1995, this figure had climbed again to 6.7%. In other words, the rate more than tripled since 1960. I contend the rise is not "unexplained;" rather, it is explained by the fact that we have overused antibiotics and immunizations.

Certainly this evidence paints a picture, and it confirms what anthroposophic physicians have contended for 75 years. It is healthier for the child to undergo an acute upper respiratory infection (with appropriate herbal and homeopathic support, described below) than to suppress or preempt it with antibiotics and vaccinations. The more you allow children to work out their acute illnesses, to really exercise their immune systems without suppressing the process, the stronger the system will be and the less prone the children will be to serious adult degenerative illnesses.

When an adult comes down with an infectious, inflammatory disease, it is actually a blessing because it might prevent them from developing a more serious chronic problem. I've seen adults who suppressed inflammatory diseases, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, then five to ten years later came down with cancer. Letting the inflammations run their course instead (with support, naturally), may have prevented the cancer from developing.

How Measles Can Cure Eczema
Now let's see how undergoing childhood measles may actually improve a child's health, both immediately and in the long-term. Consider the case of Hans, whom I first treated for measles when he was nine.

Hans did not receive the measles vaccine because he was allergic to eggs. The vaccine contains an egg product and is not recommended for children with this allergy. When he was nine, he came down with measles, which is a bit late for children. Of considerable interest here is the fact that for years Hans had suffered from severe eczema; his skin was dry and cracked, particularly behind the elbows and knees, and occasionally it bled. In fact, Hans often could not straighten his legs because the eczema made it too painful.

His measles produced a strong rash and a fever of 104° F, yet I did nothing to suppress these reactions with Tylenol or Advil, for example, as conventional medicine would recommend. Instead, I gave Hans Anthroposophic remedies to support him through the measles process. Specifically, I gave him low potencies of Apis, Belladonna, Argentum/Carbo/Silicea, Ferrum Phosphate, Prunus Spinosa (from the sloe plum), and Echinacea.

These remedies do not suppress the fever, but allow the constitution to tolerate it better. The temperature does not need to come down, but the child needs to be able to tolerate it. Again, the important concept is that the fever is a natural, useful, necessary process for a child's health. The child must be closely observed by a medical professional during the illness process to be sure the course the illness is taking is benign. It is important to find out if complications like encephalitis or pneumonia are developing. These rarely occur and are not directly linked to the degree of the fever.

The remedies we use for children make the body more transparent or permeable to allow the toxicity or fever process to flow through it without getting stuck. Let me illustrate this principle with an analogy.

If you have a copper rod and you light a candle at one end of it, the warmth of the flame will flow quickly through the rod and you feel the warmth at the other end. Similarly, if the body is like a copper tube, the warmth of the fever will flow through it but not cause a complication such as a convulsion; but if the body is more like lead, which is dense and does not conduct heat well, complications are likely to arise.

The lead does not conduct or dissipate the heat; rather, it starts to melt at the point of contact with the heat. It remains cold at one end and gets overheated at the other. This is analogous to the undesirable situation of children having cold feet and a hot head. Care should always be taken that children have warm feet, especially during a fever.

If you suppress the fever with drugs or antibiotics, you block this flow and make the body more like the lead in this analogy. How long a child has the disease is not as important as avoiding complications. The length of time depends on how much toxicity the body needs to discharge through the fever.

When Hans' measles were over, his eczema had almost completely disappeared. Hans is now in his twenties and has never had a recurrence of eczema since his measles. This is a typical example of how stimulating the cell-mediated side of the immune system can help the body overcome an allergic problem. The measles process enabled Hans' system to stop reacting allergically and producing the eczema symptoms. In a sense, you could say that the fever burned the allergic reaction out of his body.

His case also underscores the fact that childhood measles in industrialized countries is a benign disease if you understand how to treat it. Hans' symptoms, the high fever and intense rash, were not mild, but scientific studies have shown that the stronger the initial symptoms, the less likely it is that the child will get the damaging or dangerous complications, such as encephalitis or pneumonia.
How a Fever Can Reverse the Effects of a Vaccination
It is increasingly noted that many of the routine childhood vaccinations can produce a variety of side effects and complications, posing both immediate and long-term dangers. Todd, aged 19 months, had all his vaccinations, including DPT, MMR, tetanus, polio, and Hib (haemophilus influenza type b).

After his first two DPT shots at two and four months, Todd screamed every night for a week, after which his parents and pediatrician realized he had reacted to the shot and should have no more DPT. At 18 months, Todd received his MMR and polio immunizations, after which he slept almost continually for two days; when he was awake, he was lethargic and his breathing was shallow. A week later, Todd had trouble standing erect and did not want to walk on his own. About two weeks later, Todd came down with a 104° F fever and a rash. When both subsided, he was his normal self again.

To understand what happened with Todd, you need to appreciate the documented fact that some vaccines can produce a slight but significant state of encephalitis, or brain inflammation. While this is usually reversible, it may also leave lingering effects such as dyslexia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I didn't get to treat Todd until after all this had happened, so I focused on giving him remedies to heal his post-encephalitic state. I gave him Arnica, Belladonna, and Formica to take for the next six to 12 months for the aftereffects of the brain inflammation caused by the vaccines.

Todd's fever and rash following his MMR vaccination was his body's attempt to "burn" the vaccine toxins out of his system. The first sign that these materials irritated his system was Todd's lethargy, two-day sleeping binge, and inability to walk; these symptoms, in fact, indicated a slight brain inflammation. The second sign was the rash and fever which arose to discharge these toxins from the body.

In Afghanistan, the common treatment for measles is to wrap the child in blankets to produce a rash. The idea is that the more the measles comes out as a skin rash, the less likely the child is to get encephalitis or pneumonia. Anthroposophic physicians concur with the thinking behind this "folk remedy."

In the months immediately following his MMR injection and reaction, Todd developed constipation (with movements only every 2-3 days) and a spastic bowel. I regarded this as another symptom of his vaccine reaction. Spastic colon is often a symptom of food allergies and according to research reported by Harris L. Coulter, Ph.D., in Vaccination, Social Violence, and Criminality: The Medical Assault on the American Brain (North Atlantic Books, 1990), many of today's food allergies are traceable to vaccines. Dr. Coulter noted that encephalitis, especially derived from vaccinations, can produce allergic states, adding that "the interrelation among allergies, vaccination, and encephalitis has been an active topic of medical investigation since the 1930s."

While conventional medicine sees no connection between the digestive and nervous systems, the interrelatedness of the two is strongly acknowledged by practitioners of Anthroposophic, Chinese, and homeopathic medicine.

To correct Todd's intestinal problems, I started him on ground flaxseed at the rate of two teaspoons, twice daily. Six months later when I saw him next, Todd was having daily bowel movements; the stools were softer and were eliminated without pain. He also had no problem standing up or moving around on his own and by all visible signs was developing normally.

Todd cured most of the brain inflammation himself by getting the rash and fever. However, Todd is still at risk for a learning disability such as dyslexia--in effect, a third layer of reaction and damage from the vaccines--when he eventually attends school. Many of these relationships are subtle and problems may not surface or become noticeable until years later.
Remedies for Dealing with Childhood Illnesses
Most of the illnesses common to childhood are the standard upper respiratory tract conditions. While in the view of physicians practicing Anthroposophic medicine it is crucial to not suppress the illness with drugs or antibiotics, we offer many remedies to parents to support the discharging--we call it "the expressing"--of the illness, driving it out of the body.

Typically, I find that about 90% of the childhood illnesses can be helped with about a dozen low-potency home remedies. I often prescribe my personalized home remedy "kit," which contains 13 Anthroposophic or homeopathic medicines, to parents wishing to approach their children's health in this way. For example, Ferrum phosphate is effective for relieving colds, flu, sinusitis, or any upper respiratory infection such as bronchitis; Cinnabar is for sore throats and swollen lymph glands; and Apis belladonna (a homeopathic combination of the honey bee and deadly nightshade) works well for fevers and pain.

These are classical homeopathic remedies, but among specifically Anthroposophic medicines we often use Infludo for flu, bronchitis, or pneumonia. This formula contains phosphorus, Aconite, Bryonia, eucalyptus, Eupatorium, and Sabadilla. For earaches, my home remedy kit includes capsicum (red pepper) and the herb lovage, given orally or directly into the ear where it has a gentle warming effect that relieves the pain. The parents obtain the kits (and other Anthroposophic medicines) from Weleda Pharmacy which prepares the kit according to my prescription for each child. Certain old-fashioned remedies, including milk of magnesia which cleanses the colon, are handy for treating children with inflammatory diseases.

From our medical perspective, it is often not the type of childhood illness that determines the mix of remedies, but rather the child you are treating. You have to individualize, based on symptoms and the child's particular constitution. Two different children with the same illness may require quite different treatments.

Anthroposophic, homeopathic, and other natural medicines have also enabled me for the last 20 years to avoid using antibiotics in treating children. The aim of treatment is to support the externalizing and discharging of the illness process--to get it out of the body--so that no residual illness remains to become a chronic problem later in life. The essential point is that health is not merely the absence of illness, as conventional medicine presumes. Rather, it is the balance between acute inflammatory and chronic illnesses; when you suppress the first in childhood, you're likely to get much more chronic illness in adulthood.

Do Vaccinations Cause Diabetes
While the U.S. population has only doubled since the 1940s, the number of Americans with diabetes has increased 200 times, and it has increased by 300% in the last 15 years alone, representing about 15% of all U.S. health-care costs. Routine childhood vaccinations may be a prime cause of the diabetes epidemic, according to testimony presented before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations on April 16, 1997, by Harris L. Coulter, Ph.D., medical history scholar and president of the Center for Empirical Medicine in Washington, D.C.

Based on animal studies, the pertussis vaccine (part of the DPT vaccination) is known to stimulate overproduction of insulin by the pancreas. This is followed by exhaustion of that organ's "islets of Langerhans" (which make insulin) and underproduction of insulin, resulting in chronic low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and eventually diabetes, says Dr. Coulter.

Both untreated rubella and the rubella vaccine (part of the MMR inoculation) produce immune complexes that can damage the pancreas and significantly reduce the levels of insulin that organ is able to secrete. As an untreated disease, mumps can damage the pancreas. As a vaccine, there are now many case reports directly linking the onset of diabetes--sometimes within only a month's time--with receipt of the mumps vaccination. New Zealand researchers observed a 60% increase in the cases of juvenile diabetes following a hepatitis-B vaccination program.

Despite the mounting evidence linking vaccines with diabetes, the U.S. government refuses to research the connection, says Dr. Coulter. "The fact that the federal medical establishment--which would be the major source of funds for such an epidemiologic investigation--is itself highly committed to the childhood vaccination program, goes far to explain the absence of any official interest in this connection."

Washington, DC 20016. Available by e-mail: hlcoulter@msn.com
Do Vaccines Delay Children's Development
According to the U.S. Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families, 7.5 million American children are considered developmentally delayed, compared to 4.8 million in 1991. Of these 7.5 million, an estimated 30% are autistic, which is not surprising as autism has been linked with the MMR vaccine.

Children with developmental delays (based on a survey of 696 children, aged 1-12) are 27% more likely to have had at least three ear infections and 50% more likely to have been on continuing rounds of antibiotics (20 cycles or more), according to the Developmental Delay Registry in March 1995. Most important for this discussion, the study also found that developmentally delayed children were four times more likely than normal children to have had a negative reaction to a vaccination.