By Kathi Wotal, L.Ac, MSOM, Diplomate of OM
If you’re reading this, you’re probably more concerned than ever about keeping your immune system strong. Not only are we in the middle of a pandemic, but we’re about to go into cold and flu “season” adding even more stress to the already existing issues with staying healthy during the pandemic. So, what can you do besides take vitamins, apple cider vinegar, and elderberry or Echinacea products?
The key is understanding what goes into a healthy immune system. There are two factors to consider:
1) things we’re exposed to, and
2) things we do to ourselves.
Things we’re exposed to have a big impact on our immune health. Exposure to viruses or bacteria (duh), overuse of antibiotics which kill healthy bacteria in our gut (intestines) just as readily as it kills the bacteria causing infection, and chemicals and heavy metals found in our food and environment are all things you should be aware of. Clearly, exposure to viruses and bacterial infection can tax our immune system as it fights them off to keep us healthy. But what about chemicals and heavy metals?
Chemicals and heavy metals can be found in our food and drinks and the air we breathe. Chemicals that our food is exposed to during the growing season or during manufacturing of food can be extremely detrimental over long term exposure. And although heavy metals are naturally occurring (heavy metals just means they have a relatively high density compared to water), exposure to excessive amounts of them can cause serious problems. Chemicals and heavy metals can affect your thyroid function, disrupt your immune health and create inflammation, which may in turn cause autoimmune disorders, allergies or other inflammatory based issues.
So, the less chemicals and heavy metals in the food and water you take in, the better off you are. Going organic can be very important to your immune health.
Things we do to ourselves is the 2nd part of our immune health. This includes emotional balance, nutrition and habits/lifestyle choices. Emotional balance can be tricky right now. There’s a LOT of stress out there right now, and if you tend to be prone to depression or anxiety you may really be struggling with what’s going on this year. Any intense emotion when experienced over a long period of time can cause a change in your immune health, but let’s focus on stress, because it’s something everyone is experiencing right now. Your body naturally produces cortisol, which is an anti-inflammatory hormone. But with prolonged increased levels of stress, the dysfunction in cortisol levels can actually cause inflammation, which can alter the ability of the cortisol to regulate inflammation and your body’s immune response.
The lesson here? Find ways to better manage your stress and you will help your immune system! Let me know if you need help. Acupuncture is very effective at helping your body better manage stress levels.
Bad habits and lifestyle can really affect your immune health as well, and you probably already know all of this. Drug abuse or excessive alcohol consumption (and I know many people are drinking more than usual since the start of the pandemic), insomnia, and excessive work, can all have a big impact. If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol addiction please reach out for help. Excessive work can’t be helped some times, but if it’s a chronic issue please consider ways you may be able to reduce your work load where you can. It’s for your health. Insomnia is a huge problem in our modern society, and this can cause chronic health problems, including weight gain, along with adversely affecting your immune health. If you’re really struggling with insomnia, there are lots of things you might be able to do, some are the obvious things you’ve been told all along. But acupuncture can also help, so let me know if this is something you’d like to focus on.
The elephant in the room is nutrition. This is huge and it’s a problem for the majority of us. Everything you eat affects your body for better or worse because it can either create a great place for healthy bacteria to grow and strengthen our immune system, or create a great place for the bacteria that causes inflammation and health problems to grow and weaken our immune system. You know what you shouldn’t be eating and drinking: junk food, soda pop, processed food, refined sugar, modern wheat, and poor quality foods that lack minerals and trace elements. These things all contribute to a weaker immune system and potentially chronic health issues.
Your immune health has always been extremely important, but this year it’s even more important. If you want to keep yourself and your family healthy, think through what you’re being exposed to, and what you’re exposing yourself to by your own actions, and take the necessary steps to keep your system strong. You may still get sick, but you’ll most likely recover much more easily when your immune system is strong and healthy.
If you feel you need extra help or guidance, that’s what I’m here for.
Acupuncture has been shown to help keep your immune system strong, reduce stress, support digestive health, and promote good sleep. And it’s also great at helping people recover from colds, flu and respiratory infection.
Learn more about strengthening your immune system through diet, lifestyle and acupuncture. Connect with our patient coordinator today to schedule a consultation!
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Stay safe and healthy out there!