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Over the next 5 days I will expand each of the topics I covered yesterday to give more detail about each. I want you to feel empowered by better understanding the “Why and How” of each of the elements that can build your immunity and resilience.
“Tell me why rest will boost my immunity” I hear you say.
The Immune system is far more complex that has been understood in the recent past. The primary antagonist to the immune system is the adrenal system.
Adrenaline is a master hormone – it is a survival response, so it has the power to override other systems so that the body can live through the immediate threat. The body is fundamentally logical. The immediate response is to survive. This is a fundamental truth and is regularly seen in news items when we see people survive against the odds.
I remember a woman Mary who lived in shop doorways in Surry Hills in the 90s and lived on a combination of cheap wine and food from skip bins and left overs from restaurants. Despite this lifestyle she was a regular site on the streets for over 10yrs and will be known by many who lived and visited the area. The take away was the imperative of the body to survive. I’m not suggesting that she enjoyed excellent health, but what is quite instructive is that she survived an environment that may kill the rest of us, so how DID her body allocate those immune resources to ensure that she woke up every day? Despite all this She had an abundance of energy to offer her opinion about a range of topics to any passers by. A contradiction evident in her story.
Back to YOU, the basics of the immune system is its connection to the nervous system. If the stress response or adrenaline shuts down the immune system over time, then the relaxation system or parasympathetic side of the nervous system is the stimulator or supporter of the immune system.
To achieve good sleep you need to get the parasympathetic or relaxation response active. If you can follow my crumb trail you may begin to see that the power of sleep or rest is that it puts your nervous system into a state that will push resources or energy into the immune system.
You know that we digest well when were are relaxed, and you probably now know that over 50% of the immune system lives in the gut lining. You can see how although very complex, the body systems that are diverse but require the same environment to function well.
The reason that over half of the immune system is in the gut is that the gut wall is the barrier between the outside and the inside of the body! I found that very difficult to swallow when I was studying anatomy, however, when you think about it, until food has gone through the gut wall it is actually just inside a long tube that has an opening to the outside at each end, so while it might be dark inside your mouth, it isn’t in your body truely till it is absorbed through the gut wall.
Soooo, back on track, I hope that I have laid out some understanding of how the nervous system shuffles energy to where it is needed for survival. When we relax into sleep, rest or meditation, then we boost the immune system. That is obviously a survival reflex, however, it will take second to the fight or flight response.
Where is the take away message.. if the topic yesterday was how to not get sick this winter, the in-depth explanation above is to ensure that we keep the immune system “on guard” by getting sufficient sleep so that we are not running tired on adrenaline to make ends meet.
PS meditation is well researched to boost immunity and in studies those who meditate get better 3 to 4 x faster than those who do not. Powerful stuff!