Immunity – the great defender

The immune system is our body’s defence system, protecting us from external threats like harmful bacteria, viruses and toxins –as well as internal hazards such as rogue cells and free radicals.

According to the tenets of Chinese Medicine, the human immune system has three primary centres: the thymus (where immune cells are produced), the adrenals and the spine.1 By supporting your immune system with small daily measures, your health is naturally improved and you are less vulnerable to disease.

In the words of Dr Stephen Chang, “If minor health problems do not develop, major health problems do not develop.”

Chronic stress is probably the primary cause of immune deficiency in the modern world.2 Chronic stress and chronic disease go hand in hand because there’s an inarguable link between stress levels and immunity; stress releases powerful hormones that suppress our immune defences. Scientists are increasingly learning about the power of the mind to fight off illness.3 They are finding growing evidence to suggest that our immunity is strongly influenced by thoughts and emotions–bringing a whole new meaning to mind over matter.

When we repress our rage and fear, our potent stress hormones quickly break down into toxic bi-products that poison the system, suppress immunity and impede other vital functions. Under chronic stress, the body never has a chance to excrete these toxins thoroughly and restore proper balance. What often begins as stress leads to immune system disorders and presents as illness.4

Dr Cass Igram in Eat Right or Die Young states that the “…role played by stress in the causation of cancer is so great that it would not be an exaggeration to say that 80% or more of cancer cases have their immediate origin in some form of mental pressure or strain.’’

We already know that a positive mental attitude is great for your physical health. But there are other well-documented ways to protect ourselves and stay healthy. Sugar, hydrogenated fats, cows’milk, heavy metals, antibiotics, recreational drugs, air pollution, deficient light, shallow breathing and physical stagnation can all deplete our immune system. Not easily avoided, but less costly than falling ill – health is easier to maintain than it is to acquire!

Chinese Medicine wholeheartedly subscribes to the approach that prevention is better than cure. Historically, modern Western Medicine has very much been about curing the disease itself whilst overlooking how the patient contributed to creating it. But there is growing scientific belief that treating a person’s emotional state along with their physical problems makes a noticeable difference to the efficacy of treatment.5 This heralds a move towards the cornerstone of Chinese thought – that the mind and body are one.

Eating the right foods is a good start. As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, immunity-boosting foods include cruciferous vegetables, garlic, raw fish, seaweeds, raw almonds, bee pollenand, of course, vitaminC. (More traditional Chinese ingredients that are considered to boost immunity include ginseng, garlic, ginger, ganoderma (a bitter mushroom) andastralagus. In terms of supplements, selenium, zinc, omega 3, digestive enzymes and probioticswill all help boost immunity.

Making good food choices is great – but what really makes an astonishing and immediate difference to your immunity is daily practice of our One-Minute rituals.
Based in the Chinese techniques of Qi Gong and Tui Na, these exercises work to maximize the efficiency of your breathing, drain your lymph, activate your thymus gland and improve the circulation of blood and Qi around your body.

It’s liberating to take control of your daily health. Engaging the mind is as important as engaging a third party to deal with your sickness. Hippocrates himself said that“the natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well.”

Over the past 5000 years in China, Taoist practice has accumulated a vast reservoir of evidence linking the powers of body and mind, neurology and immunology and has developed specific techniques for activating that link. Our emotional state really can have a direct impact on the state of our health. So practise our one-minute de-stress rituals daily to feel better and help safeguard your immune system whilst you are doing it.

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