Now that we are in the middle of winter, having a strong immune system is vital to avoiding the various cold and flu bugs that inevitably make their way into our kids’ schools and our workplaces. Being sick is no fun and the world doesn’t stop when you’re in bed nursing a fever. Do yourself, your family, and your co-workers a huge favor and put up your superhero defenses to combat the spread of illness now and throughout the year. Let’s take a look at 3 habits you can make a part of your life today!
Spending Time in Nature
We recently ran across a compelling study that highlighted how spending time in nature can strengthen your immune system. A group of Japanese adults spent 3 days in nature, specifically in the forest, and were found to have an increased number of white blood cells following the 3 days vs. the group that stayed in the city. The effect lasted for more than 30 days!
Evidence from 140 studies was analyzed in July 2018 and the results from people in 20 different countries showed that spending time in nature:
…reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration. People living closer to nature also had reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate and stress. In fact, one of the really interesting things we found is that exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people’s levels of salivary cortisol – a physiological marker of stress.
Chronic elevation of cortisol levels has been shown to have a detrimental effect to our immune systems.
Here in the Ottawa area we are so fortunate to be surrounded by lots of trails and greenspace. For some ideas about hiking in the area, check out this previous blog. Try to carve out some time on the weekends to enjoy being in nature.
Getting Adequate Sleep
Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night is another way we keep our immune systems in top shape. A study done with twins in 2017 demonstrated a significant decrease in the effectiveness of the immune system in the group of twins who slept less. You’ve probably already experienced this in your own lives already. Let this serve as a reminder and take some steps to ensure you are getting the right amount of sleep. This usually involves examining which of the usual suspects are hindering you – caffeine, alcohol, eating a heavy meal late at night, inconsistent sleep schedule, not having a calming routine just before bedtime, exposure to screens, etc.
Many people unfamiliar with chiropractic care don’t make the connection between getting adjusted regularly and strengthening their immune system. Here at Ascension Chiropractic, patients are educated about how the chiropractic adjustment (in addition to addressing physical pain and symptoms) removes barriers (subluxations) that may be preventing communication between the nervous system and the rest of the body. With improved communication and proper functioning of the nervous system, it naturally follows that the organs responsible for our immunity, such as the lymph nodes, thymus gland, spleen, and tonsils, etc. can function at their best. (For the visual learners out there, check out this Spinal Nerve Function Cheatsheet!)
Chiropractic may also help those who are already immune compromised. A group of patients who were HIV positive were adjusted over a 6-month period and showed a 48% increase in CD4 cells, an important part of the immune system. (Selano JL, Hightower BC, Pfleger B, Feeley-Collins K, Grostic JD. “The Effects of Specific Upper Cervical Adjustments on the CD4 Counts of HIV Positive Patients.” The Chiro Research Journal; 3(1); 1994.)
And finally, remember the point above about chronic elevated levels of cortisol from stress being detrimental to our immune systems? The conclusion of this study shows very promising outcomes for chiropractic adjustments (called spinal manipulation in the study) as a viable treatment for HPA axis dysfunctions. The HPA axis is attributed with the body’s response to stress, ending with the release of cortisol.
So put on those superhero tights and cape and have the healthiest winter ever!
Yours in health,
Dr. Derek Haughton & Marisol Haughton