If a farmer gives his soil enough care, building up a strong bacterial and fungal network within it, the health and resilience of their crops will only increase. The same is true of our body and immune system.
With the current viral pandemic going on, I think our medical community has done a fantastic job on being clear on the many things we can do to prevent the rapid spread of infection. Wash hands, cough into your elbow, social distancing, etc. All of this covers the outside-in portion of communicable diseases such as viruses and bacteria.
However, what has been left out is the notion that in order for an infection to spread, it needs room to grow. A country who is ravaged by poverty, inequality and hunger is fertile soil for violence and corruption. The same is true for our body’s health and disease causing bacteria/viruses. By choosing to improve our individual health, we also increase the resilience of the communities we live in, as being strong together allows our most vulnerable better access to the healthcare they need it, while we build immunity.
In this article I provide you with 4 things you can do to strengthen your immune system and build your health, from the inside-out.
From the osteopathic perspective, nothing could be more relevant. With the current measures in place, the gym, pool and many sports are unavailable. At home workouts, yoga, and walking provide superb alternatives. Your immune system is primarily located within your lymphatic system. This is the lowest pressure circulatory system in our body. Our arteries, and veins (although to a lesser extent), all contain their own muscles and are located under and through muscles, all of which help to pull this fluid back to the liver, spleen and lungs for cleaning out. The less we move, the slower our lymphatic fluids move through the body. Similar to stagnate ponds of water in comparison to flowing rivers, there is a lot more fermentation that occurs in fluids that don’t move. This lays the ground for pathogens to get a foothold and start an infection. The war within comes down to “move it or lose it”.
I learnt from an Ayurvedic teacher, that the more dead your food is, the more dead you will feel; and the more alive a food is, the more you will feel alive when you eat it.
Unfortunately in a world where sugar-laden hyper-processed foods are cheap and everywhere, this can be difficult. Avoid foods with a long list of ingredients, high in simple sugars, as well as pesticides as much as possible, as these have all been shown to negatively affect the function of our immune system.
A second important concept regarding eating is to avoid news and social media while you’re eating. The more stressed we are, the more blood is pulled away from our digestive organs. If our body can’t pull from the blood all the things it needs to properly digest food, we’re not able to pull in all those nutrients from the food we eat. This leads to a poorer supply of nutrients for our body to do all the things it needs to be healthy. So focus on enjoying eating!
Averaging 4 hours of sleep a night for 6 days and then receiving a flu shot has been shown to decrease the immune system response by 50% compared to those getting 7.5- 8hours of sleep per night.
Hard time sleeping? Tricks such as lowering the bedroom temperature, not sleeping/exercising too close to bed, eliminating your caffeine and alcohol intake in the late afternoon and evening, and having a consistent bedtime schedule can all help you gain control of your sleep and help you fight off disease. I recommend checking out podcasts with Matthew Walker or reading his book, “Why we sleep”.
Negative emotions have been shown to dampen immune function, whereas good emotions improve it. We can’t control the thoughts and emotions that pop into our head but we can control what we choose to think and feel about them. Focus on replacing any worry, sadness or fear with appreciation, happiness and excitement. Do or say something to lift up someone else and you will find yourself uplifted as well. We are what we repeatedly do and think. Be intentional about creating positive feelings in yourself and those around you so that you and your body can benefit fully from a low stress, high happiness environment!
Also, when have you ever felt uplifted after reading or listening to the news? Probably a lot less than you’ve found something to complain about from it. Turn off the negative feeds and you’ll be surprised how your negative thoughts and emotions fall away too. Consider it a mental diet.
That wraps up the 4 biggest things you can do to help improve your health inside out. Keep things simple and remember that lifestyle changes are just as hard for us now as they were when we were kids. Saying “I don’t like_____” or “I can’t do____” now doesn’t mean you won’t like or can’t do something later. These small changes now can have large impacts on you, your health and that of the people around you.
All the best in your health,