Our modern medicine and health care are certainly a great invention of our post-industrial society. We all need acute medical care when our lives are in danger. Doctors save lives and we are very grateful to them. Doctors can repair things in our bodies so we can jump again. What doctors cannot do is to look after our health 24/7 and keep us well. It’s up to us. So, the first thing we can do is to learn about a lifestyle which is compatible with the natural, self-healing abilities of our body. In other words, to flow with life and not against it.
In this blog I focus on how to keep your immune system strong. The information is a mix of common sense, ancient wisdom and latest scientific discoveries. I am presenting it in easy-to-digest form to inspire you, inform you and encourage you to become friends with your immune system and harvest the benefits of healthy choices in your life.
There are three well-known and well-accepted things to keep your immune system strong and you can read about them from specialists and healthy living community all over the Internet. Then there are three not so widespread truths about the immune system that only a smaller part of the population is aware of and use it. Finally, there is one ground-breaking scientific discovery about the immune system that is known but it’ll take probably another fifty years before the main-stream public accepts it.
Let’s start with the three wide accepted ways that support our immune system. You can find information about it easily everywhere. The only thing that keeps changing is the claims of scientists. They seem to be changing the story about things like coffee, milk, coconut oil, butter, margarine, cholesterol and so on. From my experience, if it is just a fad it’ll be exposed and pass quite quickly. If it is true, science will slowly catch up with it!
1. Healthy, Balanced Diet
Unfortunately, most of us find it hard to keep our diet varied and healthy all of the time. It’s so much easier to grab a sandwich, a pack of crisps and sugary drink to get some energy. Sadly, our shops are full of junk food as well as foods that aren’t as healthy as they try to pretend.
So we need to work quite hard to keep our diet healthy and balanced. No wonder, that we have discovered food supplements that are helping us to compensate for what is missing in our “daily bread”!
So, we have enough great information about healthy eating habits. Still, most of us find it hard to put it in practice on regular basis. Most of us don’t live with a loving mum or house-wife who puts a plate of a highly nutritious meal on the table every day! The only way to compensate for it is to boost our diet with food supplements tailored to our needs.
2. Supporting Your Body’s Detox Processes
We pay a big price for all the comforts of civilized society. The amount of toxic substances in our food and environment is unbelievable. Therefore, in order to stay healthy, we have to help our bodies to get rid of all the dangerous toxins. I have already written two blogs on this subject matter. One was about oxidative stress and another about gentle detoxing methods.
Of course, when our body cannot cope well with the number of toxins that flow through it, our immune system is weakened. In this point of overwhelm we will be feeling all sorts of symptoms: from pain to fatigue, mood swings, mild depression etc. But we can prevent this to happen by many different methods of body detox.
3. Practising A Balanced Lifestyle
In theory, it’s easy. You have to get enough physical exercise, get out in the fresh air, sleep enough, spend time with your friends and family, get a hobby and of course, get a job you love! This is all good for your immune system because balanced lifestyle means consciously avoiding all extremes that stress your body and mind.
But you and I know, that this isn’t easy to achieve in real life. A balanced lifestyle is a long-term goal and an intention that we need to choose with full awareness and practice it daily. It doesn’t matter how much time we spend on getting tips on blogs like this, practising balanced lifestyle requires a lot of inner strength and it also requires personal responsibility.
What are the consequences of unbalanced lifestyle? You can look around you and see it for what it is. Lack of sleep is the easiest example, lack of exercise and time spent in the fresh air is another. The health problems caused by unbalanced lifestyle are usually expressed as chronic pain, burnout and susceptibility to infection which is another name for a weak immune system.
4. Engaging In Natural Energy Boosting Activities
Natural energy-boosting activities are available to all of us. Sports, hiking, long walks.
However, there are only a few types of activities that boost your energy without burning it at the same time. This means that when you engage in such activity, your body and mind gain energy, your immune system gets stronger and your overall well-being improves.
What are these activities?
- Singing (in choir, solo, solo in your shower)
- Yoga (including relaxation, meditation and breathing techniques)
- Tai Chi and Qigong
Both singing and laughter involve diaphragm that stimulates the lymphatic system. This is what science says about it:
Biophysical studies have shown that belly laughter accomplishes the diaphragmatic breathing necessary (diaphragm fluttering up and down at a very quick rate) to create a strong negative pressure within the thoracic duct (the largest lymphatic vessel in the body). Under negative pressure, the lymphatic fluid seeks an area of lesser pressure, thus shooting the lymph up and out through lymphatic vessels, increasing the speed and flow up to 10-15 times its normal rate of flow.
The increased flow of lymphatic fluid means more lymph is passing through lymph nodes, which itself means that more lymphocytes (t and b-cell lymphocytes, plus NK cells – the natural killer cells) are produced. Increased number of lymphocytes circulating in the blood means better immunity toward ALL diseases, especially cancer.”
You can also find scientific studies that support the claims that yoga, tai-chi and qigong help increase the quantities of monocyte and lymphocytes – the two white blood cell types that make up the majority of the lymphatic immune system.
5. Minimising Social Stress
There is a strong link between stress and immune system, something that even “hard” science can prove today. Our source of stress isn’t fighting or running away from animal predators, our biggest source of stress is the social environment we live in. There is lots of social pressure created at work, at school, at home and nowadays even in the virtual world of social media. We all have our individual strategies on how to avoid pain but when it comes to coping with social stress we find it very difficult. The truth is hard and simple. If we want to protect our immune system, then we need to learn to draw a line and tell others the word NO, when we feel tired, drained and stressed out.
6. Finding Your Own Biorhythm
We aren’t robots that are supposed to perform at the same level every single day. We are complex living organisms consisting of body and mind and interacting with an environment. What you can do easily today you might not be able to do tomorrow because of the many factors that affect your natural biorhythm. Also, every individual is more or less sensitive to different environmental pollutants such are noise, dust, chemicals or even weather and seasonal changes.
If we are tuned into our biorhythms we can adjust our actions appropriately. In other words, we can learn when it’s the best time to do certain things. If we don’t we will just struggle against our own system and it will have an impact on our immune system at the end. The simplest examples are individuals who have to work night shifts. Research shows that when you disrupt your sleep patterns it weakens your immune system significantly. If you have to do so, you need to compensate for it by other lifestyle choices that will strengthen your immune system.
7. Changing Your Thoughts and Emotions
The field of science dedicated to the process of how the body communicates with the mind is called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). As the word indicates – there is a link between our brain/mind and our immune system. In other words, thoughts and emotions can either heal us or make us sick. The PNI scientific field is growing quickly and defying the old paradigm of separating body and mind. Though the common sense people found out by their own experience that when they feel good about themselves they seldom even catch a cold, the science is just starting to investigate the close connection between the way we think and feel and our immune system. If you are interested in this topic you can find the books of Candace Pert, PhD. She is great at explaining the scientific basis of how our immune system gets weakened or strengthened with the way we think and feel about ourselves and the world!