Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, you are aware of the unique happenings that are currently occurring throughout human society. Talk of a certain virus has caused an unprecedented human reaction and response in countries across the globe. This has left many feeling scared, hopeless, confused, and uncertain of the future.
Concerns for the health of family and loved ones is certainly warranted, as it always is. Currently, many folks seem to have a feeling of hopelessness. However, many are unaware of the incredible power they already potentially possess to help protect themselves: optimization of their immune system.
By understanding the powerful ability of your body’s immune system to protect itself from illness through proper support, the feelings of hopelessness and fear will be replaced with feelings of empowerment, confidence, and strength in one’s health and ability to maintain it.
Conventionally, we are trained from an early age to avoid germs, viruses, and other microbes at all costs to prevent sickness and infection. While microbes we are exposed to certainly influence our bodies, the idea that avoiding germs is the only way to prevent the occurrence of sickness is simply not true.
EVERY human has complex protective mechanisms built into their body to prevent microbes from having deleterious effects on the body. Unfortunately, most humans are likely not functioning with these protective mechanisms operating at 100% due to a combination of environmental stressors over the course of life. These stressors include chemical, emotional, and physical stress on the body. Chronic chemical, emotional, and physical stress leads to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation leads to dysfunctional cells. Dysfunctional cells lead to chronic degenerative disease and an impaired immune system (amongst many other bodily dysfunctions).
A state of immune deficiency makes the occurrence of illness more likely.
Being immunocompromised is NOT black and white. Every human being on the planet has a different level of how well their bodies/immune systems are functioning at any given point in time. In each person, there is a lifetime of complex chemical, emotional/mental, and physical factors that contribute to their current state of health (or lack thereof) and immune system competency.
Immune system integrity is highly variable among every individual person. Many people who look “healthy” on the surface, may in fact be quite sick and have significant bodily dysfunction. These supposedly “healthy” people will be functioning with less than optimal immune system health, and thus, will be more vulnerable to sickness and disease.
A microbe simply cannot do as much harm to a person with a truly healthy, optimized immune system. These are biological/physiological FACTS.
So, the next question everyone should be asking is this: how does a person truly optimize the health of their body and immune system?
That’s a simple question, with a very complex answer. To truly answer that, it would take days of lecturing on salutogenic models of health, which is simply the study of all the factors (chemical, emotional, physical) that makes the human body healthy and optimizes the ability to adapt to and block the threat of all microbial foreign invaders and environmental carcinogens.
In general, the more proactive we can be in regard to our health, the less reactive we will potentially have to be if a health problem arises. Having a low time preference is critical to making good health choices. Having a low time preference means you are willing to forgo unhealthy lifestyle choices now, for the betterment of yourself and body in the future.
In other words, your future self will love you for taking care of your body in the present.
Deferring immediate gratification of unhealthy lifestyle choices now (like eating inflammatory, processed, hyper-stimulating foods, forgoing exercise/movement to be sedentary, avoiding mindfulness/prayer, etc.), is an investment in the health and happiness of your future.
Health can take time to achieve and maintain, especially for those who are functioning at a major deficit due to a lifetime of chemical, emotional, and physical stressors that have impaired the normal and optimal functional abilities of their body.
To restore optimal health, it takes a commitment to a combination of lifestyle habits that support the body’s ability to maintain health and protect itself from illness.
The very first line of immune protection for every human being is the microbiome.
The microbiome is a diverse microbial ecosystem. This ecosystem contains trillions of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses in, on, and around our body. Our skin, eyes, lungs, and gut are lathered in these microbes and most of them serve an extremely important purpose for our body. They are the first line of our immune system defense.
Our gut microbes produce approximately 90% of the “feel good” hormone serotonin, as well as many other brain chemicals. Roughly 70% of our immune system cells are found in our gut. Source
Unfortunately, for most humans, many things in our daily lifestyle and environment pervert and destroy our microbiome. Carcinogenic chemicals in our food, water, air, cosmetic products, cleaning agents, clothes and other environmental culprits destroy and alter the integrity of our microbiome. Source 1, Source 2, Source 3
Triclosan, an anti-microbial agent found in abundance in many household products, has been shown to cause impairment and altering of the microbiome, leading to gut inflammation. Source 1, Source 2 ,Source 3
Chronic physical stress (inactivity, sitting at a desk, poor lifting form, etc.) and mental stress (anxiety, depression, hyperactivity of the brain) lead to breakdown of our microbiome and health (over the course of life). Source 1, Source 2
As you can see, protecting your microbiome is vital to good health and a strong immune system.
We are literally covered in microbes (which is generally a good thing), so avoiding them completely is a futile effort. This is not to say that being sanitary and keeping clean is not important (it certainly is), but there is another way to prevent sickness and disease in the body.
There is no silver bullet when it comes to protecting your microbiome and ultimately your immune system. It requires a combination of good, habitual lifestyle choices over the course of life to support your body emotionally, nutritionally, and physically.
Instead of attempting to treat sickness and disease once symptoms manifest (reactionary approach), a better option would be to restore our body’s ability to stay healthy and function optimally so that sickness cannot develop (proactive approach). Microbes that produce sickness are typically opportunistic invaders of an already sick environment (like flies swarming on a dead animal carcass, the flies didn’t create the dead animal, they are there in response to it). Thus, if we can maintain a healthy environment in our body, we can minimize the occurrence and likelihood of illness and disease. In other words, we must be more proactive as a society when it comes to supporting our body’s ability to be healthy. Truth is, the majority of humanity is doing a poor job of living a salutogenic lifestyle of health. We are destroying the integrity and optimal health of our bodies over time due to a lifetime of poor lifestyle choices that cause chronic physical, mental/emotional, and chemical stress. These stressors lead to multiple nutritional deficiencies and metabolic toxicities, which in turn leads to chronic degenerative disease. Thus, collectively, humanity is extremely vulnerable to body dysfunction and illness/disease.
Here’s the good news: we all have the potential for a truly optimized immune system and healthy body. It is not always easy to commit to a lifestyle of good health choices, but it is incredibly empowering and rewarding. It takes a continual commitment to learning, trying, and adapting. It’s a constant journey throughout life.
Now, what are some things we need to focus on to better our health?
First, to restore and maintain health, we need to know what health is.
Almost no one knows what the definition of health really is. Therefore, that which they believe about health cannot be true.Dr. Ian Grassam
Most would say, “Health is when I feel good and look good.”
The problems with this thinking:
- Some of the deadliest diseases have little to no symptoms while they develop (heart disease, cancer, neuro-degenerative conditions, immune-deficiency syndromes)
- Development of disease can take YEARS before symptoms become apparent
- Symptoms often are masked or relieved with drugs
According to the World Health Organization, the definition of health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Thus, the real definition of health is when the body is FUNCTIONING and HEALING NORMALLY and not the absence of symptoms or disease.
Symptoms and disease are secondary to a body that is not healthy and functioning normally.
So what can we do to ensure our body is in a state of health and functioning optimally, regardless of if we are experiencing symptoms?
There are three components of health we need to address: emotional (reducing stress and having a healthy mindset), chemical (proper nutrition, avoiding chemical and environmental toxicity), and physical (exercise/movement and proper structural alignment).
Here are the top 4 ways to keep the body healthy to minimize short-term illness and avoid long-term degenerative diseases and immune-deficiency.
1. Consume Unprocessed Nutrient-Dense Food Daily
The food you put into your body has a PROFOUND impact on your body’s ability to stay healthy and function normally. Our cells REQUIRE a vast spectrum of nutrients to function optimally. Without these nutrients, dysfunction and sickness will develop over time. This doesn’t mean that your diet must be perfect, but try to include as much unprocessed, whole food as possible. With the use of a few high-quality nutritional supplements, your body will get everything it needs to function optimally and minimize sickness.
You can’t build a durable home/vehicle/structure without high-quality materials, and you can’t build a durable/healthy body without high-quality nutrition.
For a general guideline on what foods are nutrient-dense, click here.
Often times people believe they are eating healthy, but the reality is they are not. I would be more than happy to assist in assuring that you are.
2. Have Dedicated Exercise/Movement Time During the Day
Another thing our bodies REQUIRE to function optimally is movement. Movement helps facilitate nutrient exchange in cells, blood flow, lymphatic flow, healthy brain function, and many other physiological functions that keep the immune system strong.
Exercise does not have to be long and monotonous (think hours spent on a treadmill). Short, high-intensity interval training or circuit training can be done in just a few minutes, and is fantastic for your body.
There are many fantastic fitness facilities in the area, each offering a unique approach to make exercising fun, not a chore.
3. Protect Your Spine and Body Structure
The first thing that comes to mind when talking about the spine is back and neck pain. While back and neck pain are a common secondary condition associated with spinal problems, they are a warning sign of a much more significant underlying condition known as a Structural Shift of the spine. A common Structural Shift is a condition called Anterior Head Syndrome.
The spine is intimately interrelated and integrated with the nervous system as it protects the spinal cord and allows for the clear passage of the nerve roots.
What does your nervous system do?
- It controls EVERY process in the body.
- It is what turns the food you eat into energy and healthy tissue.
- It’s what allows a cut on your arm or other tissue damage to heal without you having to think about it.
- Most importantly, it controls immune system function and ultimately it is what allows you to destroy harmful invaders and maintain health.
Those are some pretty neat powers we all possess.
When your spine shifts out of normal structural alignment due to accidents, trauma, and everyday activities, the nervous system is obstructed, and normal body function and healing is impaired. When normal alignment of the spine is restored, your nervous system will function optimally, as will the healing and function of your body. Thus, a healthy spine will allow you to minimize the occurrence of secondary conditions associated with a weak immune system, such as the flu and frequent colds. Click this link to see some neat research showing how structural adjustments of the spine help optimize immune function.
Similar to performing routine maintenance on your home or vehicle, getting your spine checked regularly by a structural chiropractor will protect your nervous system and spine from long-term damage and degeneration.
4. Reduce Your Stress Levels
Short-term stress is necessary and can be beneficial as it allows us to react appropriately to a potentially adverse situation. However, most people are suffering from chronic or long-term stress. Constant deadlines, work, kids, bills, and a myriad of other stressors trigger anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues. Combine this with the fact that most people are not doing the three things listed above, and you have a recipe for emotional disaster.
Some simple things that can be done to conquer stress are to plan out your days, weeks, and months in advance. This will allow you to organize your tasks so that you are fully prepared to get them done and minimize any potential conflicts. Being prepared and knowing exactly how your days will unfold can do wonders for lowering anxiety.
Also, by becoming more organized with your everyday activities, you will be able to free up time to do things that help you relax. These could be any of your favorite hobbies or perhaps getting a stress-relieving massage from one of the many fantastic massage therapists in the area.
Life is not always perfect, and that’s OK!
When it comes to health, there is no silver bullet. You are REQUIRED to do the above things in order to give your body the best chance at achieving and maintaining health. When you have health, sickness will be minimized. You might survive without regularly doing these things, but you will not thrive.
There are many outstanding resources to assist you. Hopefully I can be one of them for you. If you have any questions, please contact me. I am happy to help.
– Dr. Arns