Words Dr Arien van der Merwe
Every second of every day, your body is physically reacting, shapeshifting, adjusting, harmonising, in response to the thoughts and subsequent feelings and emotions, running through your mind.
Therefore, your mind and body are closely linked, ideally in perfect homeostasis and balance, to ensure optimal wellbeing within the soul-mind-body unit and quantum field, with a positive effect not only for ourselves, but everyone and everything around us. Researchers have published countless papers on the powerful link between mind and immune system, with an entire field of study, called psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI). Science has proven beyond a shadow of doubt the impact mind has on our health and wellbeing – both short-term and over time. Research also confirms the powerful negative impact stress has on immune system function. Our mind and mental-emotional states incorporating our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes, therefore, impact the state of our immune system health. The nervous, endocrine and immune systems share a biochemically coded language of frequencies, which ensures effective, ideally harmonious, communication between mind and body through informational substances or messenger molecules such as hormones and neurotransmitters.
Long term stressful thoughts and emotions can activate basic survival responses seated in the ancient reptilian and limbic parts of our brains, eliciting survival mode, sounding the red alert stress cascade, preparing for the classical fight or flight response. Ultimately, chronic stress impacts our immune system health, damages our brain and heart, actually our physical, emotional and mental health. The good news is that we all can learn to utilise our mind-body connection effectively, to ease into calm centredness, calming our nervous system and strengthening our immune system. When stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight against foreign invaders, disease processes and our own internal balance, is reduced. We become more susceptible to infections. The stress hormone cortisol can suppress the efficacy of the immune system (e.g. lowering the number of white blood cells that fight virus infections). The brain and heart are the body’s two central command centres, or more accurately, from a quantum field perspective, the preferred receivers and transmitters of frequencies from outside and inside us. The heart actually creates its own powerful taurus field that supersedes the brain on all levels, communicates with all cells and extends from us to all around us. The immune system is not in one place inside the body, but forms an intricate web-like matrix throughout our bodies and energy fields. Immune cells move through the blood, blood-brain barrier, into the brain and all our tissues deep into the micro-molecular level, enabling all to respond effectively to internal and external conditions. Fear in all its disguises, shapes and sizes – worry, anxiety, vague uneasiness or a feeling of dread or doom, can be unconscious fears. These stressful feelings compromise our immune systems, leading to chronic inflammation, the root cause of all our chronic health challenges, for instance heart or cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal challenges such as irritable bowel syndrome, accelerated ageing, including memory loss and, of course, susceptibility to infections of all kinds.
Enter: Nervus Vagus (10th cranial nerve) running from head to whole body – the only cranial nerve to do so! The vagus nerve is the main component of the parasympathetic (calming) nervous system. It is the major constituent of the neural inflammatory reflex mechanism—controls innate immune responses and inflammation. It is a modulator of the brain–gut intestinal immune homeostasis. In fact, more than 90 per cent of serotonin (known as the feel-good neurotransmitter) is made in the gut by our gut bacteria. That is why gut health is essential for proper relaxation and immune function. Eliciting our parasympathetic relaxation response is therefore the best management option for immune (and general) health and wellbeing. This can be done through Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) and vagus nerve exercises: JUST BREATHE! For instance, slow, deep belly breathing.*
Immune support is essential for optimal health
Key element: An integrative approach for mind and body, to ensure the harmonious orchestra of homeostasis (internal balance) for optimal health and wellbeing.
Support the optimal functioning of your immune system
Our immune system protects us remarkably well against pathogens (disease-causing organisms) such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. We are more prone to colds and flu in winter at the best of times and now even more so. Daily relaxation, meditation and **mind training are essential ways to calm down and allow our immune systems to take a few breathing breaks as well.
By supporting your immune- and respiratory systems, ensuring homeostasis of wellness, in a holistic, mind-body approach, you will be able to prevent colds, flu and allergies. After all, your body’s natural state is to be healthy!
1. Increase your intake of the antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin A, B-complex, mixed carotenes, vitamin E and selenium. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, drink a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice every day and take an antioxidant food supplement combination throughout winter. I drink a hot toddy of lemon juice, turmeric and raw honey (in warm water), every morning to support my immune system.
2. Control your stress levels with daily relaxation techniques, do regular moderate exercise (strenuous exercise exhausts your immune system) and listen to your body by taking a break when you’re feeling under the weather. Sleep is an excellent healer!
3. Herbs like Echinacea, garlic, chickweed, liquorice root and golden seal are excellent immune system supporters. Ginseng improves general immunity against infections and, as an adaptogen, also supports the body during stressful times. Regular use of ginseng seems to prevent colds and flu. There are three different herbs commonly called ginseng: Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), and Siberian ‘ginseng’ (Eleutherococcus senticosus).
Ginger, Turmeric and Cinnamon Recipe from my book Health and Happiness:
Use a pinch each of ginger, turmeric and cinnamon (in warm water) regularly to support your immune system and alleviate cold symptoms. Add some raw honey to taste.
Ginger: Anti-viral – treats symptoms of colds and flu, reduces inflammation, aids in digestion, improves blood flow, prevents nausea and strengthens the immune system.
Turmeric: Anti-fungal, anti-viral, natural pain killer, blood sugar control, anti-inflammatory and immune booster.
Cinnamon: Anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, eases flu symptoms, blood sugar control.
4. Turn off the air conditioners and heaters to allow the air to humidify – rather stay warm with layers of clothing. Dry air and smoke irritate your mucous membranes and this may lead to catarrh (runny nose, phlegm becoming yellow or green).
These tips provide you with a number of ways to prevent and treat upper respiratory infections very effectively. Of course, when your symptoms become worse and worse, you should consult a medical doctor, knowledgeable about holistic remedies.
Dr Arien van der Merwe is a medical doctor, author and holistic health counsellor. She developed and presents continued professional development training through VideoLearn and Synergetica CPD Courses on Mental Health in Challenging Uncertain Times; Heart Health; Inflammation both Friend and Foe and Neuroplasticity. These online CPD Courses explore ways to support both ourselves, our nearest and dearest, as well as our clients/patients.
Dr Arien is the author of Stress Solutions, the ‘Relax & Unwind’ relaxation CD as well as the books Health & Happiness, Managing Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome and Herbal Remedies. Dr Arien teaches group and individual meditation and relaxation classes, as well as health coaching online (Whatsapp video consultations) and at her rooms in Pretoria and Hermanus. More info: www.DrArien.co.za
*It all starts with awareness. Every time you become aware of fear (e.g. panic or anxiety, or physical symptoms like fast, shallow breathing, hand clenching, heart palpitations, etc.), STOP and do rotation of consciousness (Yoga term) muscle relaxation practice, then five to eight cycles of belly breathing, where you breathe in deeply, pushing out your belly out as you breathe in, like a baby would do, hold for a few counts and then breathe out firmly and longer than the inbreath, holding the outbreath until you have to breathe in, repeating the full cycle until you feel the fear subside. IT WILL SUBSIDE IF YOU USE THIS TECHNIQUE FOR LONG ENOUGH.
You can also change the emotions and body sensing, by visualising a calm place you’ve been before, recall joyful memories, to help you switch to a different brainwave pattern of calm relaxation (alpha brain rhythm) and away from the stress brainwave pattern of high beta waves.
The more you do this, the more you rewire your own brain into new networks of effective functioning (neuroplasticity – more on this in the next issue) from within your higher mind or higher soul-self. This practice teaches us to manage our emotions to change from fear to Love
Mind Training is very useful for challenging times, when we feel overwhelmed by stresses and strains.
Whenever we catch ourselves going into fear mode (e.g. worry, fear, panic, anxiety attacks), we’re defaulting to our lower, instinctual, survival brain (also called the subconscious mind operating from the limbic system inside the brain).
Our challenge is to deliberately choose to focus on our higher mind (also called superconscious mind). All human beings can decide on which mind to focus. It takes some practice, patience and perseverance