Our immune systems are our protectors. Our saviours. They keep us safe, working tirelessly without recognition, but are criticised when a bug or virus slips through the cracks. It is said that you don’t appreciate something until it is gone. Oh, how that is true for many of us regarding our health! We remember how we took for granted feeling fantastic when we are stuck in bed, sick and tired. We wish we had that health and vitality back once more.
So, let’s talk more about our immune system and how we can keep it functioning at optimum levels, thus avoiding too much time feeling sick.
It would alarm most people to know how many bacteria, viruses, pathogens, fungi and other nasties are in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we consume and in the environment around us. Your immune system stands as the barrier between that toxic environment and your internal health.
When your immune system is working well, you would not even notice any toxicity in the outside world. When it is not working so well, you go on high-alert to every sneezing adult, every coughing child, all pollen in the air, etc.
Why is it that sometimes our immune systems run fine, while other times they appear weak, exposing us to all sorts of illness we usually avoid? Why is it that some people always seem to be healthy and well, and others always seem to be sick?
With those questions in mind, here are 5 facts about the immune system that will help you keep yours strong:
1. Much of your Immune System is made from Protein.
Immunoglobulins, antigens, antibodies, t-cell receptors – are all made from protein. Protein is a complex and misunderstood molecule, which is worthy of it’s own article, but for the purposes of understanding the immune system, one must realise that protein is a form of fuel that the body can use as energy. Your body will use this protein ‘fuel’ when it lacks quantity of or access to the two other fuel types it looks for – these are carbohydrates and fats.
Why is this important? Because in conditions where the body is in a caloric deficit (i.e. you aren’t giving it enough fuel or nourishment), it will begin to break down anything it can to give it the fuel it needs. Imagine if your car had the intelligence to break down the fuel tank and the engine bay when it run out of fuel, just to keep itself going. This is like how your body breaks itself down to provide YOU with fuel.
The body follows a pattern whereby it will break down what it deems to be ‘expendable’ and will give it the fuel it needs to function. This is a survival mechanism inherent to all of us, and is supposed to keep us safe. Two types of tissue burn a massive amount of energy each day that are made from protein – these tissues are the immune system and muscle tissue. This is why when we are underfuelled, we tend to lose our muscle mass and get sick. Our body breaks down these tissues to keep us alive.
Bottom line – Remember two very important things. Eat enough protein. And if you’re trying to lose weight, drop your carbs, and maybe some fats, but don’t drop protein. Your body needs it to keep these important tissues intact.
2. Your Immune System Remembers your past illnesses.
Scientists are very clever. They use the term ‘Memory Cells’ to describe cells that are created that not only remember a virus or illness, but actually remember how best to defeat it. This is the basis of vaccination and immunology. The logic is that if your body fights something once, it gives you a partial immunity to contracting that virus or pathogen again, because your body can immediately identify the problem and beat it.
Know that your body is an adaptation machine. Know that you have defenses inside you that will defeat viruses you’ve had before. This confidence eliminates fear and stress, which is very important and described below.
3. Your Immune System hates Toxicity and loves Nourishment.
To understand this, lets first define Toxicity and Nourishment.
Toxicity is caused by Toxins. A toxin is anything that the body has no use for, struggles to break down and struggles to remove. In short, a toxin is poison. It can be in the form of pesticides, pollution, chlorine, bacteria, viruses, nuclear radiation, microwaves and many, many more. Your body doesn’t have the processing capacity for these things, so it will use the immune system together with the liver to remove these substances from your body as quickly as possible.
The question is, is your body removing toxins faster or slower than the rate that they are coming in? It is YOUR job to ensure you give your body a chance to remove toxins you put in before you put in more. Otherwise, you accumulate toxicity, which manifests disease, illness, fatigue, decreased cognitive function and a suffering immune system.
Nourishment is provided by nutrients. A nutrient is anything that your body can use constructively; to build, repair, or energise tissues used for your survival. In contrast to toxins, it is in your best interest to provide your body with as many nutrients as you can (within reason).
The same question as before is relevant, but this time we want the opposite outcome. Is your body being fed more nutrients than it needs to function optimally? Or less? If it is less, then your body has to make compromises on cellular repair and cellular function. This can be done with few adverse effects for a short period of time. But what about over many years? What about over the course of decades?
Is it any wonder we contract so many diseases and illnesses when we treat our bodies in this way? Too much toxicity and not enough nourishment will equal a compromised immune system and indeed, compromised health.
4. The Immune System and Stress Response do not function at the same time.
What has stress got to do with the immune system? At face value, they would appear unrelated. But have you ever noticed how many kids get sick before exams? Or how many adults get sick when under a huge amount of pressure at work? Maybe you know someone with a latent virus like coldsores. They only flare up when the person is highly stressed or sick. This is because the immune system turns its attention to different priorities during these times, which means the coldsore virus is allowed to go unchecked for a period of time.
When we think about it, it is clear that there is a relationship between the immune system and stress. They tend to rule each other out. But what is the mechanism that this works by?
When we stress, hormones and neurotransmitters like cortisol and norepinephrine instruct the body to go into a fight or flight response. This is otherwise known as the sympathetic nervous system. The thing to understand about this physical response is that your body sends blood away from the digestive system and toward the arms and legs – so you can run or fight. It sends blood from the forebrain (where conscious, rational behaviour comes from) to the hindbrain (where reflex, animalistic behaviour comes from). It also suppresses the immune system because your immune system burns so much energy that your body temporarily turns it down to give you the energy to run or fight.
Now, this response served us very well and helped us survive as a species when we lived in the wild and had to run from bears, snakes or angry tribe members. However these days, our stresses come from different stimuli – such as relationships, work and money. In these situations, what we actually need is our health and clear, rational thinking – but we get neither with the stress response our bodies go through.
And unlike fighting bears or lions, the situation is not over in a matter of minutes. Our stresses last weeks, months, and sometimes even years.
Can you imagine how suppressed your immune system is when your body and mind have been stressed for so long? Is it any wonder we get sick? Sickness forces our body to actually lay back, relax, and heal.
5. Love stimulates cellular Growth. Fear stimulates cellular Survival. They cannot occur at the same time.
Any biologist will tell you – if you place a cell in a petri dish, the cell will move toward nutrients and away from toxicity. A biologist will also tell you that a cell cannot move toward and away from something at the same time.
Seeing as your body is made up of anywhere between 60 and 600 trillion cells, it is really quite important where these cells are ‘moving.’ What is also important is that there is no emotion that creates more cellular repair and prosperity than the emotion of Love. It doesn’t just FEEL GOOD folks. It literally heals your body. Have you ever been on ‘Cloud Nine’ while in love? Did you bounce out of bed? Did you laugh for no apparent reason? Did you walk with a skip in your step? How good did you feel at that time?
Conversely, what about when you’ve been afraid? How was your posture then? Were your shoulders slumped? Did you want to stay in bed? Did you have a knot in your tummy? Did you feel sick? How bad did you feel at that time?
Love encourages your cells to grow. To heal. To repair. To prosper.
Fear encourages your cells to protect. To conserve. To withdraw. To survive.
As such, your body is always somewhere on a spectrum between Love and Fear. Which, biologically, means you are always somewhere on a spectrum between Growth and Survival. Many studies have been done showing that children who were nourished but lacked love in their home environment were smaller and more timid than children that were showered with love. We also see it with animals that were taken away from their mothers too young. Nature shows us that love encourages growth and fear stunts growth and places the organism into survival mode.
So what does all this mean? Here are some tips based on the points above.
- Eat more protein
- If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t sacrifice your protein to do so
- Have confidence in your body’s resistence to illnesses you’ve experienced before
- Detoxify yourself. Thoroughly
- Avoid toxicity from this moment forward in the most practical ways you can
- Provide comprehensive nourishment through whole foods. In addition, supplement with high quality supplements
- Recognise your stressors and remove them
- If you can’t remove your stressors, change your attitude towards them
- Practice a stress release practice every day, such as exercise, martial arts, mindfulness, meditation, prayer etc.
- Fall in love. With YOU. Or, if you find that difficult, with LIFE. Love is a more powerful healing agent than any drug. It’s also totally free.
About the Author: Dale Ingram is the Business Development Manager of Revival and General Manager of Papilio System. Please feel free to download our ebook 12 Industry Secrets of Anti-Ageing, valued at $37 (totally FREE).