With cold and flu season running rampant, many patients are curious as to why their immune systems are "lessened," "weak," "cannot get over," or "slow to respond to supplements or medications." Which brings up an important discussion on what the immune system is, its function, and how our lifestyle impacts our overall health. The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that are constantly on "high alert" acting to defend and protect the body from "foreign" invaders, i.e. viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. The immune system begins to develop during pregnancy; although, the mother's immune system protects the baby until delivery. Upon entering the world, a baby is exposed to a variety of normal bacteria, as well as more harmful bacteria and viruses. However, there is no need to fear as our bodies are covered inside and out in normal bacteria, our microbiome, that will help protect the body along side the developing immune system. Throughout life we will encounter a variety of invaders through day-to-day interactions with others and our environment, as well as vaccines. Each time our immune system discovers an invader in our body they will mount an attack to 1) recognize the invader as "not self," 2) destroy the invader, and 3) remember the invader for any future attacks. This is how the immune system learns and develops overtime. However, there are many factors that will influence how well or poorly your body responds to invaders.
10 Steps to Grade Your Immunity:
1) How often do you get sick? How quick do you typically recover?
2) Do you suffer from sleep disturbances (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or insomnia)?
3) Do you struggle with gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances (reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea or constipation)?
4) Do you have allergies?
5) Do you have any autoimmune diseases (Type 1 Diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Lupus, etc.)?
6) How well do you recover after exercise?
7) Do you have a history of cancer?
8) Do you have a neurodevelopment disorder (ADD/ADHD, Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders)?
9) Have you struggled with infertility?
10) Do you have anxiety or depression?
How would you grade your immune system? Whether you gave yourself an "A," "C," or "F" it is important to have a baseline to start making positive changes for you immune health and total wellbeing. All 10 components are primarily influenced by your nervous system and stress levels, as well as your microbiome. Most of us are under high levels of stress that cause our bodies to be in a "flight or fight" sympathetic dominant state the majority of the time, as opposed to a "rest and digest" parasympathetic state. Continuous high stress levels will cause there to be a decrease in immune function, which impact how often we are ill and how quickly we recover from an illness. Therefore, it is important to have a healthy nervous system balance. Our micorbiome consists of the bacteria that inhabit our gut, skin, and vagina. A variety of factors; including, our birth, genetics, diet and environment create our unique microbiome. These bacteria keep their habitats healthy and fight off invaders along side the immune system. Our immune system, nervous system, and microbiome are all interconnected. A good way to take care of all 3 systems and promote health are making simple lifestyle changes.
5 Lifestyle Changes to Promote Immune, Nervous System and Microbial Health:
1) Take a probiotic (50 billion c.f.u./day)
2) Get 8 hrs of uninterrupted sleep/night
3) Consume a minimum of 5 servings of vegetables (green, leafy fibrous vegetables, i.e. kale, spinach, arugula chard) and fruits (high in vitamin C, i.e. pineapple, kiwis, mangos, and citrus fruits) in a 2:1 ratio daily
4) Exercise a minimum 30-45 minutes 5 days/week
5) Regular chiropractic adjustments will promote nervous system health (balance between "rest and digest" and "flight or fight"), as well as boost your immune system