According to the cover story of the AARP Bulletin, the COVID-19 global pandemic delivered one important lesson that we should all acknowledge. Our immune systems are in trouble.
The medical term for this is ‘dysregulated’, or to keep it simple, our immune systems are not working as they should, i.e. intelligently. Far too often, they are unable to distinguish between a harmless and harmful invader, leaving us at risk. And there is much concrete evidence of the dilemma.
WARNING SIGNS OF A TROUBLED IMMUNE SYSTEM
Autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system attacks itself, are rising 4 to 7% every year. Three of the most common are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes, however, there are over 80 autoimmune disorders identified.
Food allergies now afflict one in ten adults. Our immune systems are over taxed to a large extent due to a changing environment. We are exposed daily to thousands of chemicals that were not in our environment 50 years ago. In some cases, chemicals are immune activators meaning they cause inflammation and others are immune suppressors – making us more susceptible to disease!
Chronic inflammation. Of those hospitalized for COVID-19, 34 % had diabetes, 42% were obese, and 57% had high blood pressure. Chronic inflammation is a common factor in all these conditions and many more. Our immune defenses are working overtime, 24/7.
Aging certainly plays a significant role in the dysregulation of our immune system. According to the CDC, 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are among adults over 65. The good news for seniors, however, is that only 10% of the decline in immune function is due to aging alone. In fact, there are many older people who have stronger immune systems that some younger people.
WHAT TO DO? – A Healthy Lifestyle Rocks
Taking these many factors into account, one obvious conclusion is that the answers comes down to lifestyle. Health professionals recommend:
- Eat unprocessed foods as much as possible to reduce the toxic chemical load and give your immune system a break. Michael Pollan, the highly respected author of In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto suggests we simplify our diets by eating real food. If we must eat processed foods, read the label. Look for those with 4 – 5 ingredients vs. 30. Gravitate to fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains that aren’t prepackaged with preservatives, hydrogenated fats, added sugars, artificial flavors and colors.
- Reduce your level of stress. Seventy to 90% of conditions treated by primary care physicians are linked to stress. It is a powerful suppressant of our immune system. So, the importance of daily movement can’t be overemphasized. Yoga, tai chi, and walking are a few simple forms of highly effective exercise that require no equipment or travel. Ideally, make exercise fun. You’ll be more inclined to do it if it puts a smile on your face.
- Finally, let’s talk about the importance of meditation and rest. It is nature’s medicine. The body needs to rest to repair itself. A good night’s sleep not only heals us from the stressful influence of the day, it recharges our body for the day ahead. As a supplement to the rest of sleep add meditation. Scientific research published in the most prestigious journals validate the tremendous benefits of a daily meditation practice.
I have seen the influence of deep healing rest not only in my own life, but in the lives of friends and those that I’ve taught to meditate over the last 40+ years. Meditation is an antidote for stress. During the practice of Effortless Meditation, the mind becomes calm and the body rests more deeply than in sleep. Our muscles relax, breathing softens, and stress and anxiety melt away. And many find they begin to sleep better than ever, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
HEALTH AND DIS-EASE STARTS AT HOME
It is widely understood that the negative impact of chronic stress accumulates over time. This is one significant reason that the highly stressed U.S. population has been hit so hard by COVID19. Fortunately we are not victims, we have the power within us to be far healthier by making some of the lifestyle choices mentioned here. Self-care begins at home and it’s simple.
Be well, and feel free to contact us if you need assistance or have questions.
Greg Schweitzer, MBA. DAy
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