Think of the Immune system as Mission Control, organizing the delivery and removal of everything healing needs. This might be an airborne bacteria trying to settle in our respiratory system, a skin bacteria trying to infect us through a wound, a microscopic tear in a blood vessel caused by high pressure pounding on it, or fatigued eye muscles that have stared too long at all the screens. No matter the issue, the Immune system is there to put us back together.
This is the system that notices injury and damage, and notifies all the relevant repair contributors. It’s in charge of sending crews to sites all over the body, internally and on the surface, to do their thing, including clotting blood, fighting invading pathogens, and signaling for more fluid to wash away debris and deliver more new structures. (This, btw, is inflammation. That’s an integral part of the healing process)
The Immune system uses the resources you give it to create the members of these crews and their supplies- white blood cells, clotting factor chemicals, debris removing cells, the rebuilding bits like protein and collagen and fats, all the physical and chemical components it takes to heal something.
This system also uses the rest you give your body to get work done. There’s a reason that road crews try to do major repairs on weekends and overnight- with less demands on the road, it’s quicker all around to get it done. Giving yourself enough rest means your body can catch up on its healing work.
So all these work crews are alerted, organized, and dispatched by the Immune system (and they travel through the Lymph system; we’ll get to that in a minute.) Can you guess what this process of healing is called in our popular culture?
Right?! We hear that word and immediately look for a turmeric supplement to cool us down! But here’s the thing:
Inflammation is JUST THE PROCESS. It HAS to happen, or nothing will ever heal! The fear we have been trained to feel is because of 2 steps:
Now, I’m not at all saying that our inflammation is fine and we should learn to love it. The fact is that we are much more predisposed to having excess inflammation because, like I said just now in #s 1 and 2, we’re experiencing more injury and less stop orders than humankind ever has.
In terms of "exercising" your immune system, it's this inflammation process that needs attention. An under-active process that never gets challenged, or an over-active one that never gets a break, aren't healthy. We're looking for a reflexive system, one that adapts both to turning on and off as needed. Since so much of the imbalancing comes from our environment, let's help out as much as we can!
How do we help? There’s some obvious, and not so obvious answers, but I have to warn you many of these answers are NOT the fun ones.
Exercise Your Immune System Tip #1
For one thing, the biggest supplement to help the “stop work orders” are omega 3s. Now, don’t get freaked out by the technicalities here. Basically, what happens is that when a cell tears open from an injury, both omega 3s and 6s leak out. The 6s sound the alarm- these are pro-inflammation markers, that signal the Immune system to respond and start work. The 3s are the job foremen who see when the work is done and send everybody home.
Here’s the issue: We as a society tend to be low Omega 3s in them because of 2 simultaneous issues
The balance is like a homemade salad dressing- you want a nice balance between good olive oil and the balsamic vinegar, but not only did you not know you only have a tiny bit of vinegar left in the bottle, you also dropped the oil and swamped your greens. One or the other would have ruined the salad, but both happened and it’s a mess.
This balance matters because we HAVE to eat them. Omega 3s and 6s are essential, meaning we cannot make them ourselves. I don’t give nutritional advice, but it is worth looking into a good quality omega supplement at your local health food store. Shop small, shop local! If you don’t have a local store, my local store, Holly Hill Health Foods, has a good selection and helpful staff if you can overcome your fear of the phone and call them! They’re online, look em up- Holly Hill Vitamins.com
Exercise Your Immune System Tip #2
Here’s another biggie for supporting your Immune system, and I apologize in advance. Sugar depresses the immune system. It’s dose dependent, so the more you have the longer the immune system is shut down. You know what this means.
I’m sorry. I commiserate.
Let’s have a moment of silence for our desserts.
Exercise Your Immune System Tip #3
Ok, here’s my third and biggest factor that influences the Immune response.
(But let me just say that these 3 are by no means the ONLY factors here- they’re the ones that I see most often, that my clients have the most ability to influence and that have the biggest impact on a healthy inflammation aka immune response.)
My third factor to consider is: Stress. It’s such a tiny little word, with such big and far-ranging implications! Stress is a big deal, because like sugar it also shuts down the immune system.
Essentially, our brain doesn’t distinguish between a phone ding, a cough, a huge to-do list, and a saber toothed squirrel. All are equally deserving of shifting to fight or flight mode, because why not? If your brain took a few seconds to decide, and it was wrong, that was the end of you. So we evolved to err on the side of fight or flight activation, which makes sense.
What doesn’t make sense is the sheer amount to stressful inputs we experience almost every minute of our lives now. Stress, and the fight or flight response compared to the rest and digest functions of our bodies, are topics for another day.
Let me say that, in terms of the Immune system and the inflammation response, actively, deliberately, and consistently reducing the stress in your life will BOTH
There’s more discussion of stress coming soon- so for now, suffice to say that these three factors (omegas, sugar, and stress) are all external influences you can work to improve, that will support how well your internal Immune system functions.
Obviously this is not a comprehensive examination of the immune system. It doesn’t address myriad factors that affect, for example, immune compromised or autoimmune issues, and is only looking at our Immune systems in terms of injury and healing. This is a public blog post, people! Personalized, individualized, specific discussions belong in personalized, individual, private settings. Book a chat with me here.
In the meantime, move on from Injury and Healing Parts 1 and 2 to Part 3: Lymph, coming soon.
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
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This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.