Defenses are often confused with diseases. Knowing the difference is crucial, because interfering with a defense is often unwise. Pain is a defense against tissue damage; people who lack this defense usually die by age thirty. Fever is a defense that protects against infection. The low iron levels associated with infection are the body's way of keeping iron away from invading bacteria. Nausea and vomiting and diarrhea are useful ways to rid the body of infection and toxins. The nausea that accompanies pregnancy discourages the mother from eating toxic substances that may harm her baby. Even anxiety and sadness can be useful. As for the runny nose that accompanies colds, we don't yet know if it benefits us or viruses, but we certainly need to know in order to decide if nose sprays will help or harm us.
Much of clinical medicine relieves people's discomfort by blocking defenses like fever, pain, nausea and diarrhea. How can this be safe? Just as smoke detectors are designed to give many annoying but inexpensive false alarms so that they are sure to warn about any actual fire, the mechanisms that regulate the body's defenses have evolved to express defenses whenever they are possibly useful, thus causing much unnecessary suffering.
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