Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Immunity is your friend

Here's an article published by Harvard Health Publications about boosting immunity. There is a lot of good information here. As with much of modern medicine, they have not taken into account the important role of spirit, mind and emotion in human health. None of the advice here is bad, but it is one-sided.

For instance:

The idea of boosting your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so has proved elusive for several reasons. The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. There is still much that researchers don’t know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response. For now, there are no scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function.

True that there is no scientific evidence that lifestyle affects immunity, but what do you think? What does common sense tell you? The tunnel vision of science drives me crazy sometimes.

In the Reyaverse, building immunity involves taking care of body, mind and spirit. Ignoring any facet of our humanity weakens us and throws us off balance. To build immunity, practice what I call aggressive self care of every part of yourself, as much as is possible, that is. When you blow it in some way, forgive yourself and start again. By aggressive self care, I mean:

EAT WELL, as often as possible. It isn't always possible. Eat real food - no junk food.

GET ENOUGH SLEEP. Sleep is everything. How much sleep you need depends on you. Some are fine after just a few hours, but some of us need 9 hours a night. I'm one of the latter. If you fall asleep on the subway, at your desk at work, or in front of the TV, you are sleep deprived. You need sleep!

If you don't sleep well, try learning to relax while awake. There are so many ways in which you can learn relaxation of the mind, body, and/or spirit. Find something that appeals. Practice. As you learn to relax while awake, it will gradually become easier to fall asleep at night. There's no perfect cure - people have suffered from insomnia everywhere on earth throughout all of history. But we should at least try because sleep deprivation is bad for everything, really everything - including immunity.

BREATHE AND DRINK WATER. Take some deep breaths here and there, relax your jaw. A deep breath helps flush the large lymph glands in your trunk. The lymph system is central to strong immunity. A deep breath feels really good, too.

If you drink soda, especially diet soda, stop right now. That stuff is terrible for you. Drink water. We are mostly water. It's a no brainer. Water replenishes, helps everything work more smoothly. That improves immunity.

TAKE A WALK OUTDOORS EVERY DAY. The only exception to this would be if you live in a terribly polluted city, like Shanghai. There it's best to stay indoors. But for most of us, connecting with the weather, time of day and season is orienting, grounding, and provides crucial information to the immune system about how to stay well. For instance, during winter, a brisk walk out in the cold air alerts the immune system to be on the lookout for the kinds of viruses and bacteria that are typical of winter ailments. A walk is grounding, orienting and also very fun most of the time. We were made to spend lots of time outdoors. Living in hermetically sealed cubes is really bad for us, though I'm grateful for reliable shelter, believe me.

MOVE AROUND. We were not meant to sit in a cubicle for so many hours a day. Stand up, walk around. Go hang out with the smokers outside the office who regularly take breaks from work and stand in fresh air. I'm not saying you should start smoking, only that you befriend the smokers. It will be good for you. If you hang out with the smokers at work, and take a walk every day, you're well on your way to better immunity.

STEADY YOUR ATTENTION. Practice being focused and present. There are many different ways to learn this evolutionary skill. Find something that appeals, learn a protocol for steadying your attention. Then practice.

STAND UP STRAIGHT. It helps everything, including immunity. Standing up straight allows your internal organs enough space to function optimally. Slumping smooshes them together or they get pushed into the wrong places in your gut. It's a little gross to think about. Just - stand up straight.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH. Many diseases are linked to problems in teeth and gums. Floss and brush, go see the dentist.

SPEND TIME WITH PEOPLE YOU LOVE. I'm pretty sure even the most sophisticated scientists will never be able to prove that health is improved through healthy relationships, but it is. It surely is.

TAKE EVERYTHING LESS SERIOUSLY AND LESS PERSONALLY. We expend a lot of energy worrying, taking offense, blaming, etc. It's part of human nature, but if you can back slowly away from the sturm und drang, your immune system will become stronger.

HAVE FUN. Not too much fun, you know what I mean.

GO AHEAD AND BE SICK. An important part of building immunity involves allowing your body to fight colds and the flu without obstruction by medicine. Minor ailments can function as a boot camp for the immune system. If you allow your fever to rise (no higher than 101 F. for adults, please), if you can force yourself to get in bed and drink lots of water, sweat, shiver, sneeze, if you can bear to let the cold take its course without attempting to squash or ignore the symptoms, your immune system will learn, become more organized, build anti-bodies. This is a good thing.

Yes, you will have a headache. Your joints will ache and you'll have to blow your nose a thousand times. Stock up on kleenex. Let your immune system do its job. For this to work, when you get sick, you will have to cancel all appointments, you will have to call in sick. Give yourself space and time to fight it out. Afterwards your immune system will be smarter, sharper and stronger.

It's a hard thing for modern folks to do, but there are many reasons why a strong immune system is important. Here's an article published in the New York Times today about cancer drugs that utilize the immune system to treat cancer. How wonderful that we're turning away from chemotherapy and radiation as suitable treatments. I know we have to do whatever we can, whatever it takes, but standard cancer treatment is brutal.

Of course no matter what we do, there's never a guarantee that we can fight off everything that comes at us. Getting sick is a part of being human; it is a part of our interaction with the complicated world in which we live and breathe. But there are some things over which we have control. I say: practice aggressive self care. It can't hurt and will improve quality of life no matter what. Believe me.

May you be well. Shalom.


ellen abbott said...

and stop using anti-bacterial stuff. and walk in the dirt and grass barefoot.

Reya Mellicker said...

Here here!

Kerry said...

Hurray for everything you just said.

It was only in the last 15 years that I learned to stand up straight, but I swear it helps. :)

Somewhere I read that growing up with at least 2 dogs & a cat does wonders for the immune system. If everybody followed that strategy, the animal shelters would be empty.