Today, we’re exploring meditation and acupuncture as two of our favourite natural immune boosters.
On a side note we should mention that as part of our series exploring general wellbeing, we created a super-detailed guide that you might find interesting. It inspired us to then look more deeply into a few particular areas, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here.
What do you do to care for your wellbeing? We would love to hear from you with your tried and tested suggestions!
This is the term we give for any technique used by an individual to achieve a mentally clear and calm state. Some people will achieve this by sitting quietly, or focusing their attention exclusively on a particular object, or through breathing skills. Some may find it through yoga, walking, painting or other tranquil activity. Others might achieve it through a combination of these.
Buddhists believe that meditation is a means of transforming the mind - learning to understand our unique cognitive patterns and behaviours, and ways in which to cultivate a higher, more positive state of being.
The practice is closely linked to assisting our general wellbeing. However, as is the case for so many things that go on in our brains, science doesn’t quite know how meditation can have the positive impact it does, it has only shown that it does!
How does it link to our immune system?
Stress is bad, really bad.
When we’re stressed or anxious or experiencing negative thoughts, our brain sends chemical messages around our body. These can have a terrible impact on our wellbeing. Meditation works to calm and centre the mind, and even give us better footing to deal with challenging, unpleasant emotions.
This can specifically benefit our gut, which is where over 80% of our immune system resides, and which takes a direct hit when the body is under stress. The calming effects of meditation help lower stress levels which, in turn, lowers the dangerous chemicals and hormones that stress produces.
We’ve all heard of white cells, one of the key players in supporting our immunity. We might not have all heard of CD-4 cells, though. As it turns out, CD-4s are not characters from a Star Wars film, but are actually found in our bodies. They’re located on the surface of immune cells such as T cells (white blood cells). Studies suggest that mindfulness meditation can increase the number of CD-4s.
Meditation can also trigger activity in some key areas of our brain - the prefrontal cortex, right anterior insula, and right hippocampus. Each of these is believed to be a part of our defence system’s mission control centre, so to speak.
Powerful meditation can be a form of self-hypnosis, which is considered a relaxation technique that has a positive influence on Lymphocytes, the white blood cells specifically responsible for developing antibodies.
Based on ancient Chinese medicine, acupuncture inserts incredibly fine, sterilised, single-use needles into specific points of the body (another side note - did you know in ancient times they used stone knives for this?). For thousands of years the practice has worked on the belief that our energy flows through the body along meridians, or channels. This energy is Qi (pronounced “chee”).
Chinese medicine believes that a specific energy, Wei Qi, is the energetic defense system that does all the work protecting us.
Sessions can last from twenty minutes to up to an hour across a series of appointments.
What can it treat?
Although it may serve as a preventative, it could also treat a number of ailments and illnesses. For instance:
- Chronic pain
- Nausea resulting from chemotherapy treatment
- Dental pain
- Menstrual pain
How does it link to our immune system?
It’s believed that, in terms of maintaining our health and wellbeing, acupuncture provides myriad benefits. These include:
- Regulating the immune function
- Increasing white blood cell counts
- Stimulating and balancing the defence system
- Releasing energy blockages around the body
- Improving blood flow
- Encouraging healing and strengthening of organs and system functions
Whereas some Western medicine has a tendency to treat by suppressing the system (think allergies), acupuncture addresses the underlying causes of the problem. It does this by stimulating the autonomic nervous system, therefore prompting it to respond. So it does not zero in on any one pathogen but, instead is a non-specific physical stimulation working to return the body to its efficient, productive ‘business as usual’ status.
Growing research suggests that acupuncture boosts anti-cancer and anti-stress defence functions and elicits anti-inflammation effects. In terms of the latter, recent research indicates that it reduces pro-inflammatory markers, specifically reducing a cytokine (immune system cell secretion) called IL-1beta.
The inference is therefore that it might even prevent diseases at a later point.
Similar to acupuncture, this approach relies on fingers asserting gentle pressure so as to fire up the nervous system. It addresses your qi using the same meridians as acupuncture, basically using fingertip massage instead of fine needles.
This article steps you through some acupressure you can try yourself.
As is the case with many body-mind activities, these natural immune boosters do not produce instant results. The magic comes with persistence, regularity and commitment. So give them a go and see what it can do for your health and wellbeing.
Corinna, and the Edible Health Team.
The information we have provided herewith, and all linked materials, are not intended nor should they be construed as medical advice. Moreover, the information herewith should not be used as a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Please refer to our Terms and Conditions and consult your General Practitioner for advice specific for you.