I wanted to give a big picture view to help you wrap your minds around what is happening in our bodies as we prepare for the coronavirus and what we can do to shorten the impact of all of this on our lives. Because this is meant to be an overview, there are some generalizations in here that upon close examination have more complexity and other factors that influence them. These other factors are still present and an important part of the discussion, I just want to add voice to a part that doesn’t get the attention it deserves! *I am not a doctor, and this is not meant to replace medical advice. Lots of people talking about immune strengthening and immune boosting. What does that mean? Blanket increasing if immune functions. Sounds great right? Well it might be a little more complicated than that.
Not many people talking about Immunomodulation or immunoregulation. What’s the difference? The human immune system is incredible but for various reasons we will get into later, a blanket immune response is NOT a good thing in this case. It is more important to upregulate certain parts of the immune system while down regulating the parts that are not helpful for fighting coronavirus. Let me tell you a little more about these two parts of the immune system
The pathways- 1.Addresses pathogens (systemically) 2.Prepares your body for acute injuries These pathways act as a trade off to some degree meaning if you stimulate one, the other one is less active. Pathway 1 tells you to rest and while it clears our pathogens and builds immunity. It enables you to have a quick and efficient immune response at the moment of infection so you can recover faster and avoid complications that come after prolonged sickness.
Well why is this important? And what decides which pathway is turned on? Your stress state!
If you’re in a high stress state (fight/flight) that is an indication that your body is more concerned about the here and now and the potential for injury (evolutionarily speaking-getting eaten by the tiger) than taking care of infections. This turns on what might be referred to as the inflammatory side of your immune system or pathway 2. When pathway 2 is more active, not only is pathway 1 less able to do its job, but in the case of corona virus it makes the body more vulnerable to over-reaction of the second pathway of the immune system-the inflammatory system, causing complications that lead to increased difficulties with breathing and potentially death. This is why everyone is telling you to CALM DOWN. It’s why meditation, yin yoga, breathing techniques, energy medicine etc. are all being recommended by professionals. There is also good research on war veterans that indicates that the anticipation of waiting for combat is more stressful to the system than actually experiencing it. So sitting on your couch, hoarding dried goods and TP, binge watching Battle Star Galactica waiting to get sick or be told you can leave the house is NOT helping.
Wait what? I thought you just told me to relax, I’m literally sitting around lounging-How could I be doing it wrong?
Well you see, there’s this interesting sequence your body expects and when it doesn’t get is due pay off (meaning the sequence doesn’t go as planned) it doesn’t stop stressing just because you aren’t moving. In fact you not moving, is most likely the reason it can’t shut off the stress production and kick you back over to the calm kill viruses state (i.e. pathway 1, the good pathway for this virus). Let me explain: Long ago, the majority of instances we were in a stressed state were related to acute threats to your life- ones we would have to fight against, flee from, or BRIEFLY freeze to protect and pause to decide if we are going to use fight or flight to survive. This works great against lions, tigers, and bears, attacking rival tribes, fires- etc. However, due to modern lifestyle (yes I’m going there), two things are happening:
1) We are no longer presented with stressors that are truly immediately life threatening-yet! We are reacting as if they are (there are logical reasons for this we aren’t going to get into at this time- but suffice to say our mega processors are actually not designed to take in as much information as we feed it in the daily) 2) Because they are not life threatening they do not require action or movement to address them (at least no more movement than the flexing and extending of your fingers and or mouth in most cases). As in we don’t have to run, jump, crouch, punch, climb, hang, swim, twist, grab, or hold onto someone for dear life, to get away from these “threats”. When we perform these actions the stress hormones that have been delivered to the muscle ends and joints to get them ready for action get dumped and recycled back into the body sending a feed back signal. If we are successful in our fight or flight, and there is no more perceived threat-this feedback signal from the dumping of chemicals through movement TURNS OFF OUR STRESS RESPONSE.
So let’s back up, and return to current reality, and talk about what happens when you get stressed because you might get sick and you sit on your couch not moving and “relaxing”. You are not relaxing, you are in freeze, you’re sitting in protection waiting to decide what action to take (fight or flight). Basically you’re stewing in a soup of stress chemicals that are stuck in your body and you continue to generate more because there is no movement to release them from your body back to your brain to tell it-hey danger is over, let’s go back to our regularly scheduled immune maintenance. Cool, great, sounds like all you need to do is move more yeah? Yes!!!
Take a walk, hike or bike ride. If you’re already in good shape run and do HIIT workouts, especially in short bursts to dump stress hormones. (Be aware that depending on stress resilience this can backfire, take care to do only as much as feels rejuvenating)
Do yin yoga or Pilates to release cortisol out of the muscle ends, joints, and ligaments.
Do breathing exercises to activate your vagus nerve (my fav. is nose and belly inhale-5 seconds, hold-3 seconds, mouth exhale-8 seconds, hold 3 seconds).
AND you need to undo the habits that have already upregulated your stress response, and depending on how much they have upregulated it (how much chronic stress you have experienced)- you may need more specific and subtle tools.
You see there is a sort of ghost in the machine that navigates your actions when your in a stressful life threatening situation- that is there is a blueprint of movement in our brains that responds faster than we can think to address immediate threats of danger with the perfectly appropriate evolutionary response (given it has matured correctly in the brain). These movements are called reflexes and they are the various protective and survival strategies we all default to in times is stress and yes you’re using one even when you’re sitting on the couch. This movement blueprint also acts as a sneaky back door or direct line to down regulate your system. It releases cortisol from key areas that help your HPA stress axis return to a regulated state. That isn’t all these movements do however- they not only regulate the nervous system and help decrease stress but also upregulate the correct action of the immune system as well. Movements to open the chest and work with certain muscles that stimulate interferon production which is an aspect of your immune system that specifically fights viruses. Movements that open up breathing and increase the lung capacity while unlocking the muscles in the chest and diaphragm to stimulate the vagus nerve. Movements that stimulate melatonin production which has proven particularly helpful in protecting the system against coronavirus and supporting the lungs. Movements that speed up the response of the immune system and help it regulate what pathways to activate and to what degree at various stages of infection.
These movements are gentle and paired with breathing to activate the higher levels of your brain and calm the stress in the nervous system, there-by returning your body to a state where it can actively fight the virus quickly and efficiently. They can be done standing, or modified for sitting. For those that are sick, they are not meant to be a substitute for medical attention but if you are able to do them, they will help shorten recovery time and build your immunity to coronavirus.
This specific sequence of research backed movements that have been shown to active your immune system can be found here:https://masgutovamethod.com/mnri-to-boost-your-immunity The name for these movements and this process is Neurosensorymotor Reflex Integration. My mentor Dr. Svetlana Masgutova is a genius scientists that has put together decades of research from primarily Russian scientists to come up with a modality that has profound impact on the human body.
If you’re curious to learn these and more movements for your immune system and to participate in regular practice you can come join the immunity herd on Tuesday’s and Thursdays: (link)
*I am not a formal instructor for this method, although I am certified to use it in my practice as a Core Specialist. My intention is not to instruct people on the method but to guide people through gentle movements from the comfort of their homes to help them build strong immunoregulation so that they are resilient when they are exposed to this virus. If you want more information on reflexes and how they affect the body visit here:https://masgutovamethod.com/