By Ben S. Fogel
Right now, this is a time in our lives we have never seen the likes of. We have never had to self-isolate and had this much fear as a society of what will happen next to us physically, psychologically, socially, or economically.
We honestly have so many unknowns out there, and with the addition of the media’s 24-hour news cycle on the Coronavirus, we should be pretty fearful, right? I don’t necessarily agree that we should. I am going to explain why fear could make you even more susceptible to lower immune function, therefore placing you at a potentially even higher risk for getting sick.
To explain this, we will cover two of the bodies main systems that keep us running strong – the Immune System and the Endocrine System (specifically the adrenal glands).
The immune system you can think of as a host defense system comprising many biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease. I know we have been hearing that many people that have been infected with this disease have already been “immunocompromised”, which basically means they already had an underlying immune system issue – which much of the time is a controllable health condition such as:
– High Blood Pressure
– Sleep Apnea
Now, the last one on the list I want to talk about a little bit. As a Leukemia cancer survivor, I know this was not a “controllable health condition” that I had. I had no control over being diagnosed with a rare blood cancer. What I did have total control over was how I could respond to my condition and do everything in my power to strengthen my immune system while diagnosed and now in remission. An example of a “controllable” cancer would be lung cancer if you were a smoker for 30 years, then got lung cancer – we all know these types of cancers can be preventable.
Think of your immune system as being built for internal protection of the body. All of the things that protect your immunity, and that we have control of include, but are not limited to:
– The food we eat
– The exercise we get
– The sleep we get
– The stress our bodies are under
This last one is where it can get a little tricky, especially in times like these. This is where that second system can help, but can also hamper our ability to fight of infection and disease. This is the endocrine system, and more specifically the role of the adrenal glands. Think of the adrenal glands as our “fight or flight” system. We understand the importance of having this system in the body for when we actually sense an emergency and either need to fight or flee the situation (think of our ancestors running from the Sabretooth Tiger!).
But just think of this example for a moment. Let’s say you have a bacterial infection and your immune system is working overtime to fight the infection. But, at the same time, you are literally being chased by a Tiger! Yep, not the best timing here. What percent of your energy would you use to now fight the infection, and what percent of your energy would you use to run away from that darn Tiger?! I hope your answer is that at least 99% of your energy would go towards running from the Tiger.
This is a good thing, and this is what has kept our ancestors alive. But here is the part we should also consider. High levels of cortisol and stress hormones running through the body more than necessary (being afraid about this pandemic all of the time) is shutting down our immune system that is supposed to be maintaining the body’s protection.
Think now of what percent of “fight or flight” mode you are in right now? Were you the first one in line at the grocery store to get more toilet paper that you may not even need right now? Are you watching hours and hours a day of the news that may be stoking this fire of fear?
Check out the video where I go into even more detail of how to respond to these bouts of fear, and how to control the controllable in your life, and how to protect your immune system for the long haul.
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