In part 1, we talked about what it takes to have a healthy injury and healing system that’s functioning at peak performance- you need rest and resources to make sure that you actually can do the healing and repair.
Rest and resources are elements to this process that are dependent on your choices. Yes, I totally understand that more naps or organic food are NOT always things you’ve got at your disposal! What I mean is that they are external influences, and the only way to improve the quantity or quality of them are through your own actions.
This is compared to the internal elements we’re talking about here in part 2- your "mission control" Immune system- and in part 3- your "waste management" Lymph system. These in-house functions can also be influenced, but unlike your external factors they can’t be controlled.
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.
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?
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:
- Diets tend to be REALLY high in pro-inflammation components (start work orders) and REALLY low in their opposite, the stop work orders- so our work crews often don’t get the STOP message and just keep going
- We are simply exposed to more things that damage us than ever before, so we need more healing. Things like chemicals, stress-related high blood pressure, the byproducts of sedentary lifestyles like poor circulation, and even much longer lives put a bigger demand on our healing system.
- Our Inflammation and “curing” it has become a multi-billion dollar industry within BOTH the standard Western medicine model and the more alternative supplement industry- so we’ve become trained to recoil at the mere its mention.
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
Here’s the issue: We as a society tend to be low Omega 3s in them because of 2 simultaneous issues
- We’re not eating good sources of 3s as much
- and at the same time, we are eating more omega 6
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
I’m sorry. I commiserate.
Let’s have a moment of silence for our desserts.
Exercise Your Immune System Tip #3
(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.)
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
- Reduce the physical demand stress places on these systems, and
- Increase the potential for the work crews to do their work quickly and well
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.