The Enigma of Our Immunity
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or any other isolated dwelling that kept you from being amongst the living then you know that the last two years and some change have been quite challenging in one way or another. Regardless of your beliefs you’d be lying to yourself to say that you weren’t affected. Whether it be yourself or someone you are close to. Chances are you have experienced some kind of change in your life. Your health has been affected, be it physical, emotional and/or mental, you’ve had a shift somewhere. Aside from the obvious increase in deaths (illness, overdose, suicides), there was also substantial increases in addictions, self-harm, and physical abuse. Everything that we experience in life is connected. One unexpected tragic event can lead to grief, grief can lead to depression, and depression can lead to some form of self-abuse, whether it be through a substance or self harm. One singular event can trigger a chain reaction of other events. If you’ve read any of the previous statements and can say with all honesty that they’re untrue, then consider yourself blessed my friend.
If the last two years have shown me anything, it’s that we as a collective didn’t put much emphasis on our different states of health. I was surprised by how there wasn’t more of an emphasis put onto improving and maintaining our health. No one seemed to really be addressing the elephant in the room. We’re vulnerable, how can we help ourselves? Of course some of you may say but there was a focus on how to protect ourselves. Yes and no. Given the guidelines we were provided, there didn’t really seem to be any addressing how to boost or maintain our immunity. When it comes to our different health states, i.e. physical, mental, and emotional, immunity is key in all three. If our immunity isn’t strong then guess what happens. Our physical health is affected by way of infections, illnesses, and diseases. If our physical health is poor then oh guess what, our mental health is affected. We can become anxious, stressed and depressed. So if our mental health is low then how can we expect to have any kind of healthy emotions, the answer is we can’t.
If any lesson can be learned from the previous two years, it’s that we need to prepare for whatever unexpected event happens next. If you think there won’t be a next then you are being blissfully ignorant. I understand wanting to stay in that ignorant bliss, but by doing so you are not only doing yourself a disservice but also those you love a disservice. As a holistic nutritionist, I try to impress upon my clients that putting themselves first is not selfish, but that putting yourself last is. Sometimes the lightbulb goes off and other times it’s dismissed. If you are a caregiver in any capacity and you become stricken with illness, then who will take your place? Have you ever given that much thought? If today you were functioning and tomorrow you were incapacitated and you had no one else to step in then what would happen to those around you? It might seem like an exaggeration to drive home this point, but the reality is it isn’t.
What is immunity you might be asking yourself. Immunity is the body’s natural defense system to protect against pathogens that can cause illnesses, infections and diseases. When a pathogen enters our blood stream our immune defense goes to work by attacking the pathogen and creating an antibody to disable it before any serious harm can occur.
I believe that most people don’t really think about their immunity and if they do think about immunity it’s usually regarding someone who is chronically or terminally ill. We tend to think, well I’m not sick so I’m healthy. Not exactly. In each of us, there lies a ticking time bomb of eventuality. The eventuality that I speak of is literally time itself. In time, we all become susceptible to an infection, an illness, and even a disease. No one, even those with a healthy immunity, is immune to sickness. To what degree we are affected by sickness can be determined by our level of immunity. Those with a poor immunity will experience a more severe reaction to sickness, whereas those with a healthier immunity will more than likely be less affected. Yes, there are those who are at a disadvantage of being immunocompromised, and then there are those who are blessed by appearing to be naturally immune against most illnesses. Did you know that there are unicorns out there who will never get infections like the chickenpox, the common cold or even the flu. So why is there such a dynamic? Answer, immunity levels. For those who are immunocompromised they are either born with a congenital illness/disease or they develop a chronic illness/disease as they become older. For those born immunocompromised, the ability to improve their immunity can be very difficult, but for those who become immunocompromised, reversing those effects if recognized soon enough can be improved upon.
The above intro may appear to be an extraneous effort in order to set the scene, and who knows, maybe it is. My intention is cause pause, to make you think and really reflect on your own experiences over the last two years. What did you do? Most of us probably stayed home and became an expert at couch surfing by ordering take out and binging on streaming services. During that time though did you focus on your diet, your exercise, or your mental and emotional health? No? Then over the last two years, did you gain weight, acquire a new illness like diabetes or high blood pressure, or develop a mental illness like anxiety and depression? Did you answer yes to any of the above questions?
Let’s take the above hypothetical scenario and break it down as to how trivial actions could possibly lead to a lowered immunity. We all had a lot of extra time, how did we choose to spend it. Some of us took up learning an instrument, or learning a new baking skill, like making homemade sourdough bread or furthered our education with online schooling. All of which stimulate our cognitive function, improving our mental health and by default improving our emotional health. But, some of us, we chose to indulge in mindless entertainment with endless hours of movies and shows, not really maintaining or improving our cognitive function, or our mental and emotional health. If you find yourself being in the latter of two scenarios then chances are you probably weren’t that active either. Some of us chose to become or stay active, yes, most gyms were closed, but YouTube university was full of free online physical activity courses that were able to be done in the privacy of your own home without the use of any equipment. Some subscription home gym services even offered free courses! In two years, people were learning yoga, stretching, muscle training and many other abilities. Being sedative can take its toll on your health. Muscle and bone health isn’t maintained and your mental and emotional health can decline. So what did you eat? Yes, I am guilty of indulging in some of life’s tasty but oh-so-not-healthy-for-you eats. I love a good cheeseburger and order of fresh hot tasty french fries. We’re human and we’re not without our impulses, splurging occasionally is ok. However, some of us spent two years splurging. With the availability of delivery from anything and everything it was a proverbial culinary cornucopia for the taking. Pizza, overstuffed burritos, doughnuts, whatever, it was all available. You know what else was available? Online grocery ordering with either a curb-side pickup or home delivery option. What’s at the grocery store? Whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins like chicken, and whole grain products, maybe some quinoa or steel oats. Eating a diet that is based on whole foods can either maintain or boost your immunity with their plethora of micronutrients (antioxidants, minerals and vitamins) and macronutrients (protein, complex carbs, healthy fats and fiber).
If your answer to preparing healthy food, learning a new skill set or exercising is you didn’t have the time, I call bull. With the exception of the front line workers, we all had extra time, time we could have used towards improving our health. Again, this article is meant to cause pause. If you came out on the other side of the last two years relatively unscathed, congratulations, but, if you didn’t, and there are scars there, physical, mental and/ or emotional. Please, take into consideration the suggestions put forth. Always have a plan of action, prepare for the uncertainty. No one is beyond the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Putting yourself first is selfless not selfish. By taking care of yourself you’re taking care of others. Be healthy, be happy and be blessed my friends!