Your body’s immune system is supposed to keep a record of every microbe it has ever defeated with its memory cells. This means it can recognize and destroy the microbe quickly if it re-enters the body (1). You shouldn’t ever know that it came-a-knocking again. What happens if a new virus or new strain of an old virus, like COVID19, enters your system, and you have no memory cells for it?
Well, that depends on quite a few factors—some of those factors you have no control over, like age and pre-existing conditions.
….but GREAT NEWS
There are simple proactive steps that you can do to toughen-up your immune system and raise your overall health status (just in case).
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” —Ben Franklin
Your immune system consists of
- white blood cells
- complement system
- lymphatic system
- bone marrow
Sometimes the fluids in your lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, and interstitial fluid (lymph between cells) get congested due to inflammation or injury. This allows toxins and cellular waste to accumulate in your body(2). This is what we call an acidic environment (lots of free-radicals). It can weaken your body’s ability to distribute killer cells and move dangerous bacteria and viruses to safer, more flushable areas.
Bottom line (pardon the pun)……you have to have a clean, high functioning Lymphatic System to recover from nasty invaders. So how do we get these fluids moving?
4 Steps to Improve the lymphatic flow
- Joint movement
- Dry Brushing the skin
- Far Infrared Sauna
Joint movement may seem like a no-brainer, but you’ve got to be intentional about it. Exercising moderately for approximately 150 minutes per week helps your immune cells regenerate regularly. Prolonged intense exercise, however, can suppress your immune system(3). I always encourage my massage clients to do a little three-minute lymph-workout as soon as they get out of the shower (warmed fluid moves better).
Move each joint section for 5 seconds in all directions, starting with…
- fingers (5 sec)⤑wrists (5 sec)⤑elbows (5 sec)⤑shoulders (big circles 5 sec)⤑elbows (5 sec)⤑wrists (5 sec)⤑fingers (5 sec)
- toes⤑ankles⤑knees⤑hips (big circles)⤑knees⤑ankles⤑toes
- neck (chin to chest and back up), neck (ear to shoulder on one side and back up – then do other side). Do not rotate the neck in circles.
Massage doesn’t have to be elaborate to work on your lymph; it just has to be done in the correct direction. Flushing lymph with your hands from the extremities to the heart is always best unless your massage therapist is performing specialized lymphatic work like MediCupping™. In this case, lymph would be directed towards the closest lymph node, and the lymph nodes gently milked out.
A lot of your lymph channels lie just under the skin, so a very light massage can also be useful to stimulate the flow of superficial lymph. Swedish Massage & Lymphatic massage are standard examples of this type of light massage. Most massage therapists can perform Swedish, and it tends to be the least expensive way to address lymph. Lymphatic massage tends to be very pricey and difficult to find.
MassageFIX®’s New York Style Signature Massage is designed to address the Circulatory System, Lymphatic System, and all three layers of fascia. We put a heavy focus on range-of-motion at the joints to move deep fluids and use specialized techniques that work the soft tissue layers in the proper sequence for optimal lymphatic flow. This type of massage comes from James Mannell’s Theory, called Uncorking-the-Bottle.
Dry brushing the skin is a do-it-yourself treatment that can help you to move superficial lymph by brushing the skin. This is usually done upon rising (before a shower) using a natural, soft-bristled brush on dry skin. Amazon has a great selection of brushes for sale. For a great instructional video, check out this YouTube video.
Far Infrared Saunas are an incredible new technology, and MassageFIX has an awesome 2-seater for you and your family to use. Scientific studies, looking at saunas in Finland and how they can raise your white blood cells to fight germs.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also include this fantastic checklist of 14 other great things that expert sources say may improve your immune system and protect your health.
- Eat fermented foods – gives you significant amounts of good bacteria that help immune cells differentiate between healthy cells and harmful invader organisms.
- Eat more fruits and veggies – may reduce the duration of the common cold(4).
- Eat more fiber – may keep harmful pathogens from entering your body via your digestive tract(5).
- Reduce sugar intake – to reduce inflammation(6)
- Eat healthy fats like olive oil and omega-3s to reduce inflammation(7).
- Decrease inflammatory foods(8) – to avoid swelling and congestion of lymph and other bodily fluids.
- Increase anti-inflammatory foods(9)
- Drink plenty of water – complications of dehydration can increase your susceptibility to illness(10).
- Proper sleep(11) – at least 7 hours per night reduces illnesses
- Limit screen time because of “blue light” circadian rhythm disruption, which may reduce immune function.
- Have your Vitamin D levels checked – Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity and increased susceptibility to infection(12). Your body makes Vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun(13).
- Avoid excessive alcohol – people who drink in excess are more susceptible to respiratory illness and pneumonia and recover from infection and wounds more slowly(14).
- Some supplements may fight viral infections. However, none have been proven to be effective against COVID-19. But hey, if you like these items in your diet……all the better right?
- Prioritize relaxation – Long-term stress promotes inflammation, as well as imbalances in immune cell function(15)
There is a lot that you and your massage therapist can do to promote a more robust immune system. Please pass this information on to your friends and loved ones and then touch base with us and let us know what successes you’re having during this interesting and challenging time. #teamkentucky
Melissa Strautman, LMT, CKTP
Disclaimer: No supplement, diet, or lifestyle modification — aside from social distancing and practicing proper hygiene — can protect you from developing COVID-19. The strategies outlined in this post may boost your immune health, but they don’t protect specifically against COVID-19.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21527855 & https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/10/well/live/can-i-boost-my-immune-system.html