Understanding the basics of the immune system is necessary to appreciate how these external factors alter immune function. Our first line of defense includes non-specific mechanisms such as fever, stomach acid, skin and mucous membranes of the respiratory and digestive tracts, and chemical mediators that cause inflammation. And as we dig deeper we discover that underlying all these factors are white blood cells (leukocytes) such as natural killer cells, mast cells, eosinophils, basophils, neutrophils, macrophages and dendrite cells that function to identify and engulf (phagocytise) pathogens that have gotten past our first line of defense.
Underlying this are other substances that are also part of the non-specific response. This is a cascade of protein activation resulting in various immune responses such as opsonisation, in which a pathogen is marked for ingestion and destruction by a phagocyte; chemotaxis, in which macrophages and neutrophils are recruited and called to a site of injury or inflammation; and destruction of susceptible cell membranes or foreign cells.
Our acquired immune response is more complex and allows for the formation of an immunological memory. T-lymphocytes are part of the acquired response. T-cells bind to antigens and release various chemical mediators known as cytokines. They activate other white blood cells, induce inflammation, destroy weakened and susceptible cells and regulate the immune response.
Every second of your life you are under attack. Bacteria, viruses, fungi spores, parasites and more living stuff wants to enter your body and use its resources for itself. The immune system is a powerful army of cells that fights like a T-Rex on speed and sacrifices itself for your survival. Without it you would die in no time. This sounds simple but the reality is complex. watch video
If we are under attack all the time the solution is not to kill the bugs but to have a healthy immune system that will discern which bugs are harmful and which are beneficial and deal with the harmful ones and keep the battle going until the harmful bacteria, virus, parasites or fungi have reached safe levels within us.
We can all understand this – what is a little more challenging to understand is when we are eating a good diet, getting plenty of rest and maybe even exercising why we keep getting sick.
Now many people have weakened immune systems, not because they are under attack by the bugs all the time, but because their bodies are so overwhelmed or even stressed that the cells “feel” like they are being attacked, feel tired, overwhelmed, sad or depressed. Our feelings, even our choice of words will affect our immune systems – far more than we give credit. I am often amused to hear people talk about their flu, cold, infections and talk as if it were a curse, something to “fight”, to “beat” and as if they are dying, and on top of that they seem to be sick for so long, and often take weeks to get over whatever ails them.
Many years ago I decided to do a little experiment when I “came down with the flu”! I decided to take a look from a totally different angle than how I previously looked. I used to think my world had come to an end, that it was the worst thing that could happen and “how dare this happen to me”, how inconvenient. So instead of reaching for the medications (which incidentally really only serve to push the bugs underground, so they cause more insidious diseases later in life), I chose instead to get excited. Yup! My immune system was working – I had a fever, I felt tired, I just wanted to rest. Yea! Fancy that – I had an immune response going, my body was doing what it was made to do, now if that is not something to get excited about what is? You know – by taking panadol, paracetamol or other substances to lower my temperature, I would just be confusing my immune system and on top of that I would be stopping my natural immune response to killing the virus. Heat is what is required to kill virus. (Of course we need to take care with the very young or elderly that their temperatures do not get too high) I often wonder what has happened to the good old fashioned “sponge bath” for bringing down temperatures!
So the first step was to get excited that I actually had a working immune system. Then it was to get more excited that my body was giving me a message...a message that I it had chosen this method, virus to get rid of something within, or that I needed to rest. In our extra busy lives how often do we take time out, just to relax, to rest, to smell the roses? I knew that if I did not honour the body, rest, take in good amounts of fluids and light healthy food and allow the body to sort out the battlefield then it would take days, or even weeks to get over what was ailing me.
You know, I hardly ever fall sick & when I do it will only be for 24-48 hours most of the time. A big part I contribute to this is the “getting excited” aspect. Also asking, "what is in this for me to learn"? Pause for a moment in your reading, and feel bad...I mean start telling yourself how awful things are, how inconvenient your situation is, and how sick you feel, how miserable, tired and sore. Now how do you feel – awful I bet! Not a good feeling. Let’s change that. Now put a smile on your face, think of your favourite person, pet or thing to do. Now feel that smile reaching every cell, and getting wider. Now think how wonderful your body is, how it has kept breathing all these years, your wonderful legs have carried you all sorts of places & have allowed you to do all sorts of activities (please excuse me if you are wheelchair bound – no offence meant), think of your wonderful heart, kept faithfully beating & the blood circulating all this time...... What are you noticing now? You have just had a little taste of how our thoughts can change how we feel, and how our body responds to how we feel.
Our cells have many challenges with our diets and environment let alone with us causing them to feel bad, useless, sad or threatened. Think of your children, your friends if you do not have children – how would you get them to step up and take charge, to do the tasks they have to do, to pitch in & help out when the going gets tough? If you were to flog them, berate them, put them down would you get their motivated cooperation and response, would you get any response except a half-hearted effort or no effort at all? I think it may be the latter two. If you were to get excited at the challenge ahead, encourage and inspire them then you would get a totally different response and one that is conducive to harmony and health. So try this next time a "lergy" gets you, even if it is an infection, get the cells involved in the healing process by cheering them on & feeling excited that you have this wonderful system in your body that is designed to assist you in staying healthy and well. You may feel nuts, but I figure I would rather feel nuts than have a weakened and unmotivated immune system. Be your immune systems biggest cheerleader.
Many other people today are sick because they perceive all, or much of what is going on in their lives and around them as a threat. They feel judged, criticised, they are on constant alert for the next person who will say or do something that will hurt or upset them, they are seeing things from a distorted perspective. This constant state of alertness (which is what stress really is) keeps the body in flight fright and it is this state that weakens the immune system for these people. Flight/fright shuts down the digestive system, so we are not getting the nutrients, strength and nourishment from our food, and also shuts down the immune system, because when we have to fight or flee we need all resources and energy for that, and we have nothing to put into digestion or fighting that which may invade from within. This shut down immune system is unable to see any internal invasions of pathogens, let alone have the resources to do anything about it if they could.
If we can learn our thoughts affect our cells health and ability to keep us healthy, and learn another way to respond to what in happening in and around our lives, we have a better chance of having a body that has enough resources and is focused on the internal happenings so it can launch a response,rather than having all our resources focused on "what might happen" (because sure as eggs are eggs, it will happen if we have all our focus on "what might happen") Some people are unfortunate enough to have doubly weakened immune systems because of stress and limited internal resources to rally for battle. The techniques we use in BodyTalk and Accunect both have effective balancings for strengthening the immune system, reducing the effects of stress on the body and bringing the body out of flight/fright.