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Promachos

General health vs vaccines for immune system.

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My wife is pregnant, and comes from a pretty nutty family of conspiratorial people. The Earth is flat, the British Royal Family are reptiles, you know the drill. She’s come a long way as a result of my influence—I’m very skeptical and scientific—but I fear she has some misconceptions about health and vaccines.

She’s thankfully open to the idea of vaccines now, but feels they’re superfluous and a healthy lifestyle is enough.

She has some misconceptions about health in general, she was a big fan of Dr. Sebi (he’s a total fraud) and things like the Acid-Ash Hypothesis, but I managed to defuse that. What I’m having trouble with is finding evidence that shows vaccines can’t be compensated for with things like lifestyle choices, diet, or exercise.

Are there any studies contrasting the immune response of healthy vaccinated people vs healthy unvaccinated people by chance? Or showcasing the impact of various factors on immune response? Or any other studies that can help me build a case that vaccines actually do something that other boosters of the immune system can’t. Any help would be appreciated.

I’m trying Google Scholar, and the online libraries of my Alma Maters, but, I’m not having too much luck. Figured I’d open this up to others potentially way more in the know than me.

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39 minutes ago, Promachos said:

She’s thankfully open to the idea of vaccines now, but feels they’re superfluous and a healthy lifestyle is enough.

Some say Britain was healthiest in the 40's/50's, due to rationing, but people still died of smallpox; imagine a combination of rationing and vaccine's.

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24 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Some say Britain was healthiest in the 40's/50's, due to rationing, but people still died of smallpox; imagine a combination of rationing and vaccine's.

I appreciate the sentiments, but “healthiest” doesn’t necessarily mean they had the level of health my wife believes she, our child to be, and I, will be able to maintain. And imagination is half the problem, my wife imagines all sorts of quirky things about health and well-being. Her sister was a Breathatarian for a short time, to give you some idea of the lunacy she’s being exposed to.

What’s difficult is that my wife has an almost unfalsifiable position given the studies needed to prove her side of things are not feasible—she can’t substantiate her side at all. But I’m left trying to mount a counter argument with similarly imperfect data. How do you single out the immune system from lifestyle, diet, weight, and everything else? It’s tricky.

My understanding is Lymphocytes are trained via exposure to antigens and pathogens, so, neglecting that is detrimental. The fittest and healthiest people in the world wouldn’t last long if they grew up in an overly-sterilised bubble. But how do I demonstrate it!?

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2 minutes ago, Promachos said:

But I’m left trying to mount a counter argument with similarly imperfect data. How do you single out the immune system from lifestyle, diet, weight, and everything else? It’s tricky.

Imperfect data? 

When did the last person to die from smallpox?

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Just now, dimreepr said:

Imperfect data? 

When did the last person to die from smallpox?

I understand you what you’re saying. What I mean is, I’m trying to convince a person who very easily conflates and confuses things. She’ll dismiss that sort of argument as “hygiene improved and that’s that”. I need to try a find explicit studies that show diet and health are a factor that can’t replicate what vaccines do.

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3 minutes ago, Promachos said:

She’ll dismiss that sort of argument as “hygiene improved and that’s that”.

Then good luck...

Perhaps get her to read, The War of the World's

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I don’t need luck, I need better, more scientific evidence to point to; two-way ANOVA tests, that sort of thing.

The potential for confounding variables is a problem, so simply citing the absence of a particular disease in this day and age just won’t cut it—reasonable though it may be. When a person is genuinely plagued by fallacious information they can quite easily fill in the blanks with their own nonsense. I need positive evidence to substantiate my positive claim that vaccines do something for the immune system that lifestyle choices and diet cannot. I have lots of literature and articles that say it, now I just need experimental evidence to corroborate it.

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6 minutes ago, Promachos said:

I don’t need luck, I need better, more scientific evidence to point to; two-way ANOVA tests, that sort of thing.

The potential for confounding variables is a problem, so simply citing the absence of a particular disease in this day and age just won’t cut it—reasonable though it may be. When a person is genuinely plagued by fallacious information they can quite easily fill in the blanks with their own nonsense. I need positive evidence to substantiate my positive claim that vaccines do something for the immune system that lifestyle choices and diet cannot. I have lots of literature and articles that say it, now I just need experimental evidence to corroborate it.

If the absence of a disease after vaccination is not evidence, then the only chance you've got, is luck...

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Dim - While your fortune cookie posts and novel views on questions are often fun, this might be a time where it's better to let a person familiar with the literature and process of vaccine-based immunity respond to the actual question asked in the OP

Fairly sure a reference to "War of the Worlds" is not going to be helpful here, despite being interesting in its own right

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Can you not appreciate that, when trying to convince a cynical person, induction of that caliber isn’t going to work?

The anti-vaccination community circulates a graph showing a sharp dip in measles outbreaks many years before the vaccine came out. Sadly, information like that has made people within that community suspicious of “absence” of a disease being used as evidence, given things like  hygiene and general health have also improved as time has gone on.

I get it. Vaccination rates go up, infection  rates go down, and vice versa. But that angle just won’t penetrate, because people like my wife can blindly assert “most unvaccinated people are unhealthy, if they were healthy being unvaccinated wouldn’t be a problem”. And she can get away with it in her own mind because the studies don’t explicitly control for general health and well-being, they merely compare the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Notice the inherent self-serving bias there: all the other anti-vaxxers lead generally unhealthy lifestyles, she won’t. She’s a vegan, she’ll live forever. 🤪

 

Anyway, believe me, I understand the strength of the correlation between vaccines and infection rates, but the anti-vaxxers are dead to this particular angle. Which is why I’m looking for another approach.

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Sorry for the frustrating responses so far Promachos. There are people here who can help you out. Once they see your post I'm sure they'll respond.

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2 hours ago, Promachos said:

What’s difficult is that my wife has an almost unfalsifiable position given the studies needed to prove her side of things are not feasible—she can’t substantiate her side at all.

Are you sure that better information or reasoning will work? In my experience, this type of behavior signals that her conclusions were reached emotionally rather than reasonably. Confirmation bias almost ensures that a reasoned approach will be met with increasing and eternal skepticism. It could be that only another emotional stance can supplant her current one (the way some anti-vax stances were supplanted by fear of COVID-19). 

You'll get the responses you're looking for today (it looks like you're at the first day anti-spamming security limit of 5 posts), but I can also point out that much of that "general healthy lifestyle" mentality ignores how a modern society needs to look at population density and immunology. It isn't feasible for everyone on the planet to follow the same lifestyles, and we need the opportunities for advancement a dense culture provides, so overcoming this dangerous ignorance about our immune systems is important. Our intelligence sets us apart from other animals, and sometimes the best use of it is to overcome our animal urges and responses.

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3 hours ago, Promachos said:

 

Are there any studies contrasting the immune response of healthy vaccinated people vs healthy unvaccinated people by chance? Or showcasing the impact of various factors on immune response? Or any other studies that can help me build a case that vaccines actually do something that other boosters of the immune system can’t. Any help would be appreciated.

 

Fundamentally being vaccinated only means that a person is exposed to an additional antigen (or set of antigens) compared to an unvaccinated persons. However, since everyone is exposed to many, many antigens every day day simply by eating or breathing, the overall immune system won't look fundamentally different. Likewise, an unvaccinated person can remain healthy, provided they never encounter the pathogen in question. But in return it means that a non-vaccinated person simply won't have antibodies to a disease and are susceptible to infection. There is no mechanism how a healthy lifestyle can prevent that. But the more people are around who are susceptible (e.g. not vaccinated) the less likely it is that you can keep away from folks might infect you. That is precisely what we see with measles and mumps and a few other diseases that were almost eradicated, but are now making a revival among unvaccinated communities.  And no, drinking kelp won't save you. There have been a number of studies on vegans and if you look at some immune markers, either there is no difference to non-vegetarian diets in certain factors (e.g. natural killer cell ctyotoxic activity) or lower (e.g. lower leukocyte and lymphocyte counts) (Haddad et al. Am J Clin Nut 70:3 1999; . This is not necessarily a fundamental problem, but shows no indication of actually increasing the body's ability to deal with infections. They are likely better off than very unheathy folks (e.g. obese folks) but there is not benefit over non-vegetarian folks within healthy BMIs, for example. While it goes on a tangent, I should add that during pregnancies vegans have to monitor themselves more than usual with respect to micronutrient deficiency (see e.g. Sebastiani et al. Nutrients  2019 11:3 557 https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11030557)

However, I think there is  fundamental flaw of that thinking, because a) vaccines are a targeted protection system but perhaps more importantly they are b) a means to maintain population health. You see, it is as at least much about as not infecting someone else and spreading the disease as it is to keep yourself healthy. Focusing exclusively on the health status of the (un)vaccinated is therefore missing at least half the picture. 

From the public health perspective, vaccinations do at least the following:

- curb disease related effects (including mortality, death, loss of quality of life etc.)

- maintain public health and reduce strain on the health care system (loss of work and hospitalization- the latter is one of the reason why COVID-19 mortality spikes in overstrained systems)

- protect susceptible folks (e.g. folks with weak immune systems, undergoing chemo, elderly and kids, etc.)

- reduce the risk of new strains (the more a disease circulates, the more likely it can acquire mutations against which vaccines might not work anymore, potentially happening right now with SARS-CoV-2).

- have the potential to eradicate disease entirely.

In other words, not vaccinating counters above effects. 

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One example that could be cited ( although it has some 'racist' overtones ), happened in Canada about 20 years ago.
In a little town, in Northern Ontario, Walkerton, several people died from contaminated drinking water ( bacterial contamination from cow manure run-off ). The person responsible for the Chlorination of the water was a drunk, who went several days at a time without treating the water, and the government had cut inspectors for the water supply systems.

The joke I always make, is that if it was Mexicans living in Walkerton, no one would have died, or even got diarrhea ( Montezuma's revenge ), simply because in some parts of the world, we are used to having things too aseptic, while in other parts, their bodily systems are more 'robust' and adapted ( through exposure ) to biological and viral contaminants.

My apologies to any Mexicans who might be offended by the above anecdote.

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27 minutes ago, MigL said:

One example that could be cited ( although it has some 'racist' overtones ), happened in Canada about 20 years ago.

It is unfortunately a bad example. If there was really significant runoff from manure there is no way to get used to that level of exposure. In fact, similarly contaminated water sources are a source for lethal infections throughout much of the world, there is only so much the immune system can fight off. 

One can develop a certain amount of resistance to infections, but only by low-level exposure.  Also, I am not sure how that actually relates to being vaccinated. I.e. do you mean that low level exposure to pathogen is similar to vaccination? In principle it is, though obviously it carries more risks as the pathogens are still viable.

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I mean that our bodies are adaptive biological systems; not mechanical systems.
If you have a mechanical system, like a 5 hp engine, and you put a 6 hp load, or stress, on it, you burn up the engine.
If you have an adaptive biological system, and you put a stress ( toxic, viral/biologic, radiation or even physical load ) on it, the system tends to adapt to that stress.
The system ( body ) cleans out toxins.
It produces antibodies to viral infections, and purges biological ones.
Adapts o UV radiation with melanin and a suntan.
Reacts to working out by getting bigger and stronger.

Of course, if the applied stress exceeds a system's capacity to adapt, the system, or body, perishes.
IOW, you don't get stronger by trying to do 2000 lbs bench presses; you die with a crushed chest :lol: .

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That is not fundamentally wrong, but I am a bit confused how that relates to vaccination hesitancy (also, I would counsel against using manure as an attempt to adapt to unsafe drinking water).

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Vaccination is an exposure to the traits of a virus that trigger an immune system response, without the detrimental ( dangerous ) side effects.
The 'flora' from human waste has been used to treat people whose digestive system is compromised because of its loss, but no, I wouldn't recommend manure therapy either.
There are, however, studies that link eating dirt to better immune system, and digestive system health.
Exposure to small amounts of detrimental stresses ( viral, bio, or unclean ) makes the body more resistant to those stresses.
Unless the stress is large enough to kill; vaccines are obviously engineered not to kill.

I remember reading that Mononucleosis ( kissing disease ) is prevalent among freshmen College students, because they go from their parents clean homes, to much less sanitary conditions in the dorms.

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17 hours ago, MigL said:

Unless the stress is large enough to kill; vaccines are obviously engineered not to kill.

I remember reading that Mononucleosis ( kissing disease ) is prevalent among freshmen College students, because they go from their parents clean homes, to much less sanitary conditions in the dorms.

These are very different mechanisms. Mononucleosis is mostly caused by the Epstein Barr virus. There is no immunity per se. You get infected and then you carry it. About 90% of adults carry the virus. However, if you only shed low level of viral particles, so often transmission requires intimate contact. So yeah, college.

However, childhood infections are often subclinical. However, infection amog kids is often associated with poor hygiene, shared utensils etc. That is why folks in cleaner homes might not get infected as children and therefore develop symptoms. But it is not because the body gained or lost resistance or immunity.

Also, fecal transplants are generally screened for potential pathogens, so that is quite a different matter than ingesting manure.

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On 1/12/2021 at 6:14 AM, CharonY said:

Mononucleosis is mostly caused by the Epstein Barr virus.

Oh the memories! 
I got this in college (don’t you guys say anything...!), and was one of the unlucky ones who get very severely ill with it, to the point where hospital attendance was required. And this was despite the fact that I was perfectly healthy, fit, and athletic at the time, and rarely if ever got sick at all. It was nasty and painful, and took a long time (several months) to fully clear. Point being, even very common pathogens shouldn’t be trivialised - even when in perfect health, you can catch a bad dose of something “common”. Common does not imply harmless.

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10 hours ago, Markus Hanke said:

Point being, even very common pathogens shouldn’t be trivialised - even when in perfect health, you can catch a bad dose of something “common”. Common does not imply harmless.

Exactly, it enrages me if folks say something is "just" like flu. Actual influenza is a deadly disease for many folks resulting in thousands of deaths every single year. Moreover, other diseases (including COVID-19) even if not deadly can in increase in morbidity, loss of quality of life and so on.  And on top, even otherwise harmless organisms can cause deadly sepsis when they get into the wrong areas (e.g. wounds) or if exposed to too high dosages (as in the above mentioned run-off). Also one should add that the hygiene hypothesis regarding early childhood exposure is mostly looking at the development of allergies, not resistance against pathogens. Fundamentally, low-level exposure can have a similar function as a vaccine, but as in the case of mononucleosis it is not the case for quite a few pathogens. There are plenty that circumvent or hide from the immune system quite effectively, for example.

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