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chiro-immune

We’re now well into the winter months, cases of the flu and common cold are starting to pick up, and of course Covid-19 is still hanging around. So naturally, we’re getting lots of questions in clinic around how to strengthen our immunity! This insight will cover the basics of the immune system, how it works, the link between immunity and pain, and what you can do to help strengthen your immune system.

 

The basics of immunity

 

The immune system is basically our bodies defence against viruses, bacteria and all the other nasty stuff that we get exposed to on a daily basis. When it detects a threat in the body, it raises the alarm and send different immune cells to fight the invaders and avoid them spreading. This is called the ‘innate immune system’, and it’s our bodies first line of defence.

 

When the first line fails, that’s when the second line of defence kicks in, this is called the ‘adaptive immune system’. The difference is that the adaptive system learns and remembers different invaders to the body, so it can recognise them and fight them quicker the next time.

 

The link between immunity and pain

 

When the immune system is working to fight a potential threat, we get symptoms like fatigue, muscle aches, and fever. This is a normal response and it’s a sign that our body is doing its job to eliminate the invader. However, this can affect our other bodily systems, like our nervous system. With so much inflammation in the body, it can interrupt and cause confusion in communication between the spinal cord and the brain. Essentially, our bodies become more sensitive to stimuli. Meaning things that normally wouldn’t hurt like light touch can become painful. This is known as allodynia. This explains why we can feel very agitated and sore when we’re sick!

 

Strengthening your immunity

 

So that’s a lot of information… but what can we actually do to help our immune system function at its best? We support public health interventions such as vaccination to help prevent disease and support our immune system. But additionally, there is lots of other ways you can strengthen your immune system and wellbeing as part of a healthy lifestyle!

 

Diet: You are what you eat! Researchers are becoming increasingly interested in the gut microbiome and its impact on immune health (1). Although there may not be specific diets that are best for a healthy gut, use the following tips to guide what foods you should consume:

 

 

In addition to whole foods, specific vitamins can play an important role in immunity. Deficiency in Vitamin A, C and D have been shown to negatively impact immune function. Although most people get enough vitamins from eating a balanced diet, but some populations may benefit from supplementation with these vitamins.

 

Sleep and exercise: It’s well established that proper sleep and exercise are crucial for immune health. For sleep, its best to aim for 7-9 hours a night, but also consider a consistent sleep schedule and routine to enhance this benefit. For specific tips on sleep, check out our insight here (https://www.dmchealth.com.au/lifestyle-spinal-health/). Exercise acts as a regulator of our immune system. Pro- and anti-inflammatory cells are released during and after exercise, which reduces the risk of viral infections (2). Check out another of our insights here to learn more about exercise (https://www.dmchealth.com.au/exercise-and-chiropractic/).

 

Stress management: As you’ve probably realised now, a lot can impact the immune system, and the mind is no exception! There is an intrinsic relationship between the mind and body which we’ve discussed previously (https://www.dmchealth.com.au/how-to-manage-chronic-pain/) Mindfulness techniques have been shown to positively impact immune system responses (3), so it’s important to address stress as part of strengthening our immunity!

 

What about the chiropractic?

Chiropractors can indirectly support your immune system through lifestyle and nutritional advice, as well supporting your body via structured rehabilitation! Our goal is to provide hands on treatment to reduce pain, improve mobility and function, and to facilitate an active lifestyle. Making sure your pain and injuries are managed well is a major part of your overall health and wellbeing!

 

About the Authors

 

David-ChiroDavid McNaughton is a clinician, researcher and lecturer. He is the director and principal chiropractor at DMC Health & Wellness. He has an extensive background in the diagnosis and management of chronic pain. In addition to his clinical studies, David holds a Master’s of Research and PhD in Psychology. He regularly publishes his research in peer reviewed medical and psychology journals. David has taught both undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Chiropractic and Psychology.

 

Isaac-Searant-DMC-Chiro

Isaac Searant completed a Bachelor of Chiropractic Science, Master of Chiropractic and Master of Research at Macquarie University. His research aims to understand the clinical decisions health practitioners make about diagnostic imaging. His clinical interests include spinal pain (neck and back) and sporting injuries. Regardless of the condition, his goal as a chiropractor is to work collaboratively with patients.

 

References

  1. Goldsmith JR, Sartor RB. The role of diet on intestinal microbiota metabolism: downstream impacts on host immune function and health, and therapeutic implications. Journal of gastroenterology. 2014 May;49:785-98.
  2. Da Silveira MP, da Silva Fagundes KK, Bizuti MR, Starck É, Rossi RC, de Resende E Silva DT. Physical exercise as a tool to help the immune system against COVID-19: an integrative review of the current literature. Clinical and experimental medicine. 2021 Feb;21(1):15-28.
  3. Dunn TJ, Dimolareva M. The effect of mindfulness-based interventions on immunity-related biomarkers: a comprehensive meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Clinical psychology review. 2022 Mar 1;92:102124.
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