The immune system is one of our most important allies in our journey toward health and wellness. It defends us from bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. It cleans up damage from injury and helps us heal. When it completes these tasks it goes back into a relative resting state. If we are constantly geared up for battle, or continuously having damage to our bodies, we develop chronic inflammation. Then our immune system can become over-responsive, making us feel awful! There are five general reasons that you may stay inflamed.
1. Stress – we are either in flight-or-flight mode OR rest-and-repair mode. Fight-or-flight causes a release of several hormones that contribute to inflammation. It’s important to use stress for short periods of time, when it’s helpful such as a real emergency, or an event when we need extra energy to carry us through. Once we no longer need to be “superwoman”, it’s important to dial things down so that our bodies can repair.
2. Toxins – we are always exposed to environmental toxins. Some of us are more sensitive to them than others. It’s helpful to be aware of exposure to flame retardants, chemicals in cleaning and personal products, plastics, and pesticides. We need to limit these as much as we can. We also need to monitor and reduce toxic social encounters, and toxic thoughts or self-talk.
3. Allergies – battling allergic responses will keep our immune system active much of the time. Consider testing for environmental allergies and minimizing exposure or having treatment to desensitize the immune system to specific triggers.
4. Infection – if you are struggling with herpes virus, yeast, lyme disease, shingles or other infections, your immune system may need some support. In general, building a robust, healthy body will make for an unfriendly environment for infection to thrive.
5. Inadequate nutrients or harmful foods – aim for real food and avoid convenience foods that are pre-made and pre-packaged. Avoid foods heated in plastics. Be mindful of the colors on your plate and try to include all of the rainbow colors (as long as they aren’t candy). Limit sugar to the forms that are found in nature, mostly fruits.
Lifestyle changes can go a long way to reducing the inflammation that drives autoimmune responses and the debilitating symptoms that go with them.