Going to school for so many years, I’ve studied a lot. And since I’ve been in practice now for over 20 years, I continue to study and keep up with advancements in science research in general and specifically in quantum physics (because I find classical Newtonian physics to be limited in being able to explain how life really works).
I’ve been really enjoying writing these articles of late about the connection between the immune system and the nervous system and the impact that we can have on our level of immunity. I’ve been researching each article to make sure that what I’m saying correlates to the latest scientific research. So during my latest time of studying research papers I was surprised to find out that a fight/flight reaction (the stress reaction) initially actually increases immune function. I thought it was the other way around. Now as with most things about the body, nothing is cut and dry (unless you’re talking about human dissection:), which I’ve taken at the University level and in Chiropractic school (and then most cadavers are not dry, they are a bit moist, but I digress:)).
It is true that the stress reaction (fight or flight) in the body will initially increase immune function. Immune cells such as white blood cells go out in big numbers throughout the body to get ready for an injury or attack (from the fight or flight). So when you exercise you’re also increasing your immune system activity. Based on the current research, it’s chronic stress that seems to make our white blood cells less effective because of overuse. Under chronic stress, the body has less chance to replenish numbers of immune cell soldiers and so there’s less of an immune presence in the body over time. This makes us more susceptible to infection whether it be bacterial or viral. Also, under chronic stress, the hormone cortisol, will tend to move more immune cells to the tissues that are more “on the front lines” (more likely to have invaders) such as the digestive system and the lungs. Could it be that this primes the body to develop autoimmune diseases such as IBS and Crohn’s and asthma in these tissues?
It is also true that people who are chronically stressed out tend to get sick more often and have lower white blood cell counts. It’s also true that patients under chronic stress are more prone to autoimmunity and hypersensitivity reactions like rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
But I’m not chronically stressed out
You probably are:). Chronic stress takes many forms. It can be medication that is helping your body with a condition but at the same time it’s putting more stress on your liver and kidneys. In this article (https://neurosciencenews.com/covid-19-ace-inhibitors-15972/), it suggests that some common medication for high blood pressure may increase the risk of developing Covid-19.
Chronic stress can also be ongoing emotional tension from a relationship with a significant other or your children. A lack of movement from working at a desk for hours is a source of chronic stress. A lack of security in your own life or in the lives of those that you love is a source of chronic stress. And the most overlooked source of chronic stress is having unrealistic expectations and pushing yourself to fulfilling them.
The Vagus Connection
Research is showing more and more the importance of the vagus nerve in health. The vagus nerve runs from the brain throughout the body to the various organs. It stimulates the digestive tract and provides the brain with feedback from all the organs. Without it the brain would not know that your heart needs to slow down or speed up for example. It turns out that chronic stress also can play havoc with the vagus nerve which can lead to all kinds of malfunctioning in the body from hormones to heart rate.
A Healthy Immune Response
The vagus nerve is also closely tied in to maintaining a healthy immune response whether it be your body fighting off a virus or your body fighting off cancer.
There are many ways to make sure that the vagus nerves in your body are working at the best level possible. Having Neuro-Structural chiropractic care is one way. When we measure your nervous system function in the examination, we’re basically testing the health of your vagus nerves. And the care that we provide is very closely associated with making sure that vagus nerve is not blocked in any way, physically or neurologically.
The exercises that we’ve shared with you in the past few weeks such as “Let Your Body Be Your Guide”, and “How to Connect to Your Body” assist you in stimulating the vagus nerves and promoting an inner environment that’s free from Chronic Stress.
Meditation, yoga, tai chi, chi gong, gardening, are just a few more ways to assist you in creating that harmonious inner environment. Not only will you be more peaceful; you will also have a healthier body and healthier immune system that can take on the challenges that we are facing these days.