As news escalates surrounding the new coronavirus, COVID-19, online searches for ways to bolster the immune system have surged. Are there foods to boost my immune system? Will vitamins help? If my immune system is deficient, how do I fix it? Am I too late?
While eating healthy, exercising, and taking supplements for deficiencies, such as Vitamin D, can all help strengthen your immune system, there is one important factor no one is talking about.
Let’s take a look back to 1975, the year Robert Ader and Nicholas Cohen, at the University of Rochester, demonstrated the classic conditioning of immune function, and they subsequently coined the term psychoneuroimmunology. Today, this field of study is growing rapidly as we better understand the relationship between your central nervous system and immune system. While some of the research has raised more questions than answers, researchers now know that both physical and emotional stress have a very real effect on your immune system.
More recently, in his groundbreaking book, The Biology of Belief, renowned microbiologist Dr. Bruce Lipton states that stress is responsible for up to 90% of illness, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Considering that stress sets off the body’s natural defense by releasing stress hormones that shut down non-essential systems, including the immune system, to conserve the body’s energy, Dr. Lipton’s assertion makes sense. In fact, stress hormones are so effective at compromising the immune system that physicians will give them to organ transplant recipients to keep their immune systems from rejecting the implant.
A more recent study, published May 6, 2018, may bring some much-needed clarity to the COVID-19 crisis. The study clearly demonstrates just how much our state of mind affects our immune systems. An article titled Advertising that Makes Your Allergy Meds Work Better by Matt Wood reported that people who took a common allergy medication responded better after watching a movie interspersed with commercials for that specific drug instead of ads for one of its competitors. In other words, when participants saw commercials designed to boost their belief in the product, their immune systems responded better, making the drug more effective.
What does this mean to you in relation to COVID-19? How you perceive your world and how you manage stress on a daily basis may have a direct impact on your immune system.
Psychoimmunology is the study of the connections between the mind and the immune system. The basic concept is that the mind and body are inseparable. It follows that stress affects the body’s ability to resist disease. When you are happy and in the flow, it’s only natural that your powerful immune system will work more efficiently.
This is where your daily use of relaxation techniques such as braintapping can help you keep stress to a minimum so your immune function can be at its best. Let’s explore why this is so.
Did you know that you have two different immune systems? You have an innate immune system, the one you were born with. Mom, Dad and generations before them helped you get a leg up on what you might face in the world after birth. Your second system is called the adaptive immune system, and this is the one you can best control.
We have survived in this world alongside viruses for centuries because both our central nervous systems (CNS) and immune systems are adaptive. The only thing that keeps these systems from adapting is negative emotional states which, not surprisingly, is tied to your breathing. Think about it, what do fear, frustration, anxiety, sadness, and worry all have in common? Lack of flow caused by lack of breath. The next time you start feeling any of these emotions, stop and breathe deeply for a bit, maybe even close your eyes and just be your breath. Before long, that negative state will vanish. This is why in every BrainTap session I regularly remind you to breathe in deeply and out completely.
To keep your immune system functioning at its peak, you’ll not only need to ensure you’re washing your hands and avoiding contact with your face, but you’ll also need to stay stress free so that your adaptive immune system can do its job. This is true now and for the rest of your life.
While listening to any BrainTap session, imagine a certain type of white blood cell that eats to protect. These cells are called macrophages. Their job is to find anything that shouldn’t be in your system and devour it. Think of it like Pac-man traveling through your system and gobbling up invaders.
You also have basophils and eosinophils which are important for host defense against parasites, and neutrophils, the most numerous innate immune cells, leading the charge, patrolling for problems by circulating in your bloodstream.
And if that weren’t enough, you also have interleukins, which come in over 30 varieties. I like to call these cells special forces because they provide context-specific instructions with activating or inhibitory responses. All you need to do is relax and allow this miraculous system to do what it was designed to do. Protect you.
This all happens automatically, but studies are now showing if you de-stress and visualize these immune cells chasing down and eating up invaders, your immune system responds and positive results are realized. I use these techniques in BrainTap’s Coping with Cancer series. One of my favorite visualizations is imagining white sheep eating up the grass in a field and imagining the grass represents the viruses or damaged cells in the body. This pleasant visualization is then associated on a psychological level and our mind and body respond in a positive natural way.
Here is the bottom-line truth: When your body senses foreign substances (called antigens), the immune system produces antibodies that work to recognize the antigens and get rid of them. The antibodies then stay in your body. That way, if your immune system encounters that antigen again, the antibodies are ready to take action. When you eat well, stay active and positive, and relax regularly, you’ll be giving your body its best chance to thrive, even during crises like what we’re experiencing now with COVID-19.
Get access to our BrainTap Retreat until April 30th to help you cope during heightened times of stress.
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