How to improve the immune system with chiropractic?
Over the past few months, COVID-19 has infected thousands of people around the world, triggering an immune system reaction. The response to the virus has been mixed, with some people being severely affected and even losing their lives, while many others have had few or no symptoms.
What makes the difference?
The answer is your immune system, an amazing natural protective mechanism in your body that is designed to defend you against millions of bacteria, microbes, viruses, toxins and parasites that invade your body. Its function is to attack them in an organised way and try to eliminate them completely so that they are no longer a threat to our health.
In this context, one of the objectives of chiropractic care is to help the immune system to function optimally, improving the communication of its organs with the nervous system so that our body’s response to external or internal aggressors is as effective as possible.
"Chiropractic care supports the communication between our nervous system and our immune system, keeping them balanced and healthy".
How do we keep our immune system strong?
There has been a lot of talk lately about all the things we need to do to protect ourselves and others. Washing our hands, sneezing or coughing into our elbow and keeping a safe distance between us is very important, but so is knowing how our body can naturally defend itself.
The health of our immune system is closely linked to the proper functioning of our nervous system. These two systems work together to detect changes inside and outside our body in order to launch an effective immune response to invading pathogens and tissue injury.
One of our body’s main defences are neuroimmune cellular units, structures composed of nerve cells and immune cells, which communicate with each other through chemical messages. When they sense the presence of an external invader in the body, such as a virus or bacteria, they release chemicals that initiate a response from the immune system and send messages to tell the brain what is happening.
For this reason, it is very important that there is very good communication between the brain and the rest of the body, mainly through the nerves and the spinal cord, housed inside the spinal column.
For this communication pathway to function optimally, the spinal column must be aligned and flexible. Tension and blockages that prevent the spine from moving properly affect the way our brain interprets information about what is happening inside and outside our body, diminishing its natural ability to defend us.
A subluxation (more commonly known as “impingement”) occurs when one or more vertebrae lose their alignment and mobility and cause interference with the spinal cord or adjacent spinal nerves, disrupting the flow of information between the nervous system and the rest of the body’s systems, leading to a decrease in our body’s natural ability to adapt and react to the environment.
When a chiropractor corrects these subluxations, it helps the brain to be more accurate, to see better what is happening inside and outside the body in order to provide a quick and effective immune response.
Chiropractic care promotes communication between our nervous system and our immune system, keeping them balanced and healthy.
Stress can cause illness
The fast pace that characterises today’s societies influences our daily lives very negatively, making us live in a state of chronic stress and chaos, constantly busy, with multiple obligations and under great pressure 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Brief episodes of stress are not a problem, as our body is prepared to deal with it. The real problem comes when living under chronic stress or a constant state of “emergency”, something we humans are not designed for. Stress destabilises our brain and body, weakens the immune system and contributes to aggravating diseases. For that reason, 9 out of 10 medical visits are for lifestyle and stress-related disorders.
How does stress affect our bodies?
The autonomic nervous system controls the actions that are automatic, the ones we do without thinking, such as breathing or our heartbeat, and even controls our immune organs, such as the spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes.
The autonomic system is made up of the sympathetic nervous system (the ‘accelerator’) and the parasympathetic nervous system (the ‘brake’).
- The sympathetic is activated when we perceive stress or danger, real or imagined, preparing the body for situations that require alertness or strength or those that arouse fear, anger, excitement or embarrassment.
- The parasympathetic is activated when we are calm and quiet and is related to functions of health and well-being, such as digestion, body recovery and rest.
The sympathetic system is a primitive mechanism, very useful millions of years ago when we had to worry about running away from predators that wanted to eat us for dinner.
In these situations of extreme stress like this, the body devotes 100% of its resources to saving our lives and keeping us safe from the threat in front of us. The sympathetic nervous system triggers the release of stress hormones, mainly adrenaline and cortisol, which stimulate the heart muscles to increase the heart rate, dilate the bronchi of the lungs (increasing oxygen retention), the blood vessels supplying the heart and skeletal muscles, increasing the blood supply.
When our body enters this state, the activity of other bodily functions that are essential to our health are temporarily suppressed: reproductive function, rest, sexual desire (no one thinks of napping or having sex when being chased by a tiger), proper digestion and, of course, our immune system. Stress inhibits these essential health functions as a way of mobilising and prioritising energy to keep us alive.
As mentioned above, brief moments of stress are not a problem, as our body is prepared to deal with it, but unfortunately in the 21st century, we live in a state of chronic stress and suffer from its consequences: reduced libido, anxiety, acceleration, irritability and exhaustion, among others.
We no longer have to worry about predators trying to eat us, but the tigers have been replaced by deadlines, unbearable bosses, stress, constant pressure, work without rest (and without moving enough), relationship problems, money problems, etc.
The chronic stress of modern life makes us live without pause in emergency mode and that is what is making us sick.
How does chiropractic benefit our immune system?
Frequent chiropractic care has been shown to help balance our nervous system and activate the neuro-endocrine-immune system. This means that by restoring the alignment and mobility of our spine, the brain functions in a more balanced way and decreases the accumulated tension in the body, helping us to get out of the chronic stress loop (emergency system, "accelerator") and return to a healthy and stable state (the "brake"), bringing the body back to normal.
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