A message from your immune system
I’m your immune system.
I’m having trouble protecting your health and thought I’d write to let you know before something happens. You see, I’ve been managing up until now . . .
Can you help?
We need to work together on this. I’ve been protecting you from viruses, bacteria, and other potentially dangerous foreign bodies, but I don’t think you’re holding up your side of the bargain. Oh, thanks for taking vitamins C, D, and calcium supplements. But the real problem is your lifestyle that exhausts me and leaves me little strength to go to combat.
Let’s have a look at what hurts me and, ultimately, your health.
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. A surprising fact is that over-exercising can be just as bad as not exercising at all. They both promote inflammation in the body. Aside from the damage, you can cause to joints and ligaments, too much physical activity can disturb the delicate hormonal balance and lead to depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Now, do you understand why you catch colds and even flu more quickly – because over-exercising puts a strain on me? So, do you think you could cut down on going to the gym five times a week after work?
Psychologically, too, you seem to need to have total control over your body and life.
2. Trend dieting
In the past 2 years, you’ve tried the Ketogenic Diet, the Whole30 Diet, and many others that can threaten long-term health. First of all, as you could tell, constant dieting of any kind usually produces the opposite effect – weight gain that contributes to obesity.
According to the Mayo Clinic, trend diets eliminate one or more food groups essential for good health. This means your body isn’t getting vital nutrients that feed the immune system and organs. For example, extreme fasting, much in fashion, where you eat a few hours a day or not at all, not only robs the body of vitamins and minerals but can have a psychological effect leading to depression or worse. Prolonged trend dieting can lead to severe conditions of the heart and kidneys. No scientific studies prove the effectiveness of any of these diets.
3. Substance abuse
We know that substance abuse weakens the immune system. Here, I’ll briefly mention the ravages of the two most common substances that are abused in our society: alcohol and tobacco.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), heavy alcohol consumption makes it harder for the immune system to fight off diseases such as heart and liver disease. But moderate drinking doesn’t have this effect.
The harmful use of alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for population health worldwide. World Health Organisation
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is very clear about what is light to moderate drinking and what is heavy drinking. Women don’t have the same tolerance as men. For example, for women, moderate drinking defined as 1 drink of 5 ounces per day, but for me, this level is two drinks. That’s because women’s system doesn’t metabolize alcohol as men’s system does. Continued heavy drinking can lead to an alcohol use disorder where a person’s everyday life is affected by a daily drunken state.
So, could you cut down on your binge drinking at the weekends? And maybe, go one or two days alcohol-free during the week?
And now let’s talk about your smoking: According to The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking causes an imbalance in the immune system that opens the door to pulmonary and autoimmune diseases, and cancer of the mouth and esophagus, just to name a few. And have you noticed – smokers go to the doctor and hospital more often than non-smokers?
Can you at least cut down on your smoking and see a professional who can propose options that will help?
4. Unchecked stress, grief, and loneliness
At times, you seem overwhelmed by your lifestyle and depleted of energy. That’s also putting a strain on my system and makes it harder to protect you. Here’s what this state can lead to:
Stress can be good or bad. It’s impossible to eliminate stress from our lives, and that wouldn’t be a good idea. The good side of stress is that it can act as a motivator. But for many today, stress impacts our lives and health. According to the Cleveland Clinic, chronic stress causes inflammation, lowers the number of white blood cells that fight infection, and exhausts the immune system over time. This condition opens the door to the development of chronic diseases from arthritis to heart disease to diabetes 2.
A study conducted at the University of Chicago on Grief and loneliness concluded that, if left unchecked, can lead to depression, inflammation, and even premature death.
So, if you find it hard to lift yourself out of this state of loneliness, talk about it with people around you, and if that doesn’t help - seek medical help before it affects your health.
5. Skimping on sleep
You’ve been trading sleep for more time at the gym, but this makes me tired and less able to do all that I need to do to keep you healthy. Let’s check what experts say about sleep:
Sleep is a complicated issue. We’re busy now and don’t want to waste too much time sleeping. Plus, we have different needs. That said, The Sleep Foundation states that the average person should get between 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night. Few of us get that. So, what happens if we don’t sleep between 7 – 8 hours a night?
Chronic sleep loss restricts the number of cytokines produced while sleeping. These cytokines fight inflammation. This means increased risk of inflammation, reduced ability for the immune system to do its job, which leads to an increased risk of chronic diseases.
You can reduce this risk but taking naps or doing mindful exercises during the day, for example.
6. Sitting is the new smoking
Last but not least in this list is sitting. You know that you sit for too many hours in front of that computer at work. Over the years, that has affected me – your dear immune system. Here’s how:
The Mayo Clinic analyzed thirteen studies of people sitting for more than 8 hours a day with no physical activity. The results found that these participants had the same risks of dying as those who had obesity or smokers. The situation is different for those who sit 8 hours a day but do a physical activity for 60 – 75 minutes a day – these counter the effects of sitting.
The takeaway here is that if you sit for a prolonged period every day, factor in some exercise to keep your immune system healthy.
Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to go to the gym or run to get the benefits of exercise. The exercise we do naturally during the day counts too. It’s called Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). A study done on the centenarians living in the Blue Zones showed that these people never exercised. What they did do was integrate movement in their days such as gardening, going up stairs, lifting, walking, and biking to work. This was sufficient to keep them healthy until their late years. So, walking to work, taking the stairs, carrying bags, and being outdoors can amount to enough daily physical activity.
And so, my message to you – as your immune system – is:
Now, can we please work together?
Check out my website for other natural health articles: www.wordsforhealth.net
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not medical advice. If you are suffering from a health issue you should consult your health care provider before undertaking any form of treatment.