What is on call 24/7, monitors 11 different systems and protects our current internal homeostasis while also calling our attention to even greater opportunities for well-being? Is it our doctors? Nope. How about our homeopaths, rolfers, accupuncturists or therapists? Nope. This amazing resource is already within us, always has been and always will be, and often exists without much of a thought until snot, vomit or some other body fluid erupts as a sign of an illness on its way out. It is our one and only, awesome and amazing Immune System!
What makes the Immune System so awesome?
For one, science continues to learn more about the vast reaches of this system. Even when we human beings think we have come to understand, test and verify through data driven means all that we can, our amazing bodies and the awesome immune system continue to surprise us and stimulate questions about our biological, mechanical, emotional and energetic designs. Personally, I like the fact that there are some things that still baffle us and call us to continue to open our minds. Even amidst what is thought to be already knowable, the reasonings of the immune system challenge us to broaden our horizons in regard to health. It reminds us about our smallness in the universe and our interconnectedness. It reminds us to be stewards of and cherish the well-being both inside of us and in the world around us.
In short, the most primary goal of the Immune System is to recognize “self” from “non-self”. Sounds pretty darn philosophical doesn’t it? Biologically it is critical. Psychologically it is vital for our development. At birth, a child’s whole awareness is that all that surrounds him and he are one. Baby and mom are perceived as one; baby and environment are perceived as one. That is why it is so important to create a healthful, loving, low-stress environment for those primary months as baby’s immune system begins the job of differentiation. As the immune system differentiates, so does psychological development. Baby begins to understand self from non-self and so the immune system begins to imprint and know what is beneficial to its well-being and what is not. While those first snotty noses, pesky coughs and occasional fevers can be nerve wracking for parents who hate seeing their little one uncomfortable, they are evidence of the immune system learning and growing. The immune system exercises its powers for dispelling pathogens and remembers, if you will, these foreign entities so that it can mount defenses quickly and effortlessly should it encounter them again. This “remembering” is what is known as acquired immunity.
So, what goes down when the awesome immune system is at work?
In the most lay terms possible: the wisdom of the body produces various white blood cells known as lymphocytes, our immune sentinel cells and pathogen destroyer cells, in our bone marrow. These sentinel cells patrol the body by way of the lymph and blood vessels. If a foreign entity is found, the infection-fighting pathogen-destroyer cells go to work. There are various cells that fall into this category each with its special way of eliminating the pathogens or diseased cells. B cells produce specific antibodies that kill off cells that have become infected by foreign material. T cells release chemicals that trigger an immune response, like that snotty nose, while phagocytes literally “eat up” the dead or diseased cells. Talk about some serious team work. All this patrolling, infection fighting and immune response creation takes some energy.
When we dedicate time to nourishing and building our immune systems, our systems naturally care for us every day and respond efficiently when invaders encroach upon our well being.
We don’t operate in a vacuum and neither does the amazing immune system. I’d be willing to bet that any person functions better and much more happily with a good night’s sleep, exercise, balanced meals and time spent doing things that nourish and recharge their heart and soul. Our immune system is no different. Ever end up with a cold after a stressful week at work? Or find yourself feeling sluggish after eating poorly and hurriedly? Those are no accidents. Our immune systems require optimal nourishment to function properly so that they can continue to identify self from non-self.
5 Ways to nourish the immune system:
- Eat as organic as possible – If we literally become what we eat, hence the vitamins and minerals from our foods, who wants to teach the immune system that self is nutrient deficient and slathered in herbicides and pesticides?
- Avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms) - While the FDA might say that the jury is still out on the toxicity and long term effects of GMO foods, why subject oneself to being a corporate test subject? Our DNA has depended on nature for millenia. The recent introduction of manufactured and highly processed “food products” are filling us up but not making for the healthiest full.
- If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands - Depressed self equals depressed immunity. Our emotions are linked to our biochemistry. As Souza wisely put it, dance as if no one is watching you, sing as if no one is listening, love as if you have never been hurt before. Be creative in all the glorious ways that light your fire!
- Exercise – Healthy, life-affirming exercise helps get our energy moving and grooving and our blood oxygenated so that it can carry those hard working lymphocytes all throughout our bodies.
- Breathe deeply and lower any stress - Negative reactions to stress act to suppress our immunity in the same way that heavy emotions do. Ever noticed how you feel when you find yourself breathing shallowly due to a stressful situation? Nourish your body with a deep breath, imagine the oxygen flowing through you, reinvigorating your cells. See your lungs expand and your energy with them. Feel any tension running off your back, your shoulders, down and out your finger tips and toes. Feel it slough off to be recycled as energy that calls your attention to your own vitality and well-being.
Our immune system ultimately helps us develop and evolve into, ideally, the healthiest versions of ourselves that we can be. Many biologically and emotionally healthy individuals equal an emotionally and biologically healthy populace.
It’s a constant journey and I’m working on it too. It is vital to teach our children to nourish and cherish their immune system for life long well-being. Cheers to all of us, to ours and our families’ health and well being!