We’ve had a lot of information about how to react to the current health threat. Important official precautions including social distancing, closing community gathering spaces and increasing hygiene practices. These are all fantastic measures to flatten the curve. The idea of flattening the curve is to make sure the hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with serious cases as the the virus moves through the population. When it comes to reducing serious cases, you can also go above and beyond.
Many of the more serious symptoms of a viral infection, the ones that often lead to hospitalisation, are due to our body’s own immune response. To fight a pathogen like a virus, your immune response causes inflammation. The respiratory difficulty and lung damage seen in people who have contracted this current virus are largely a result of their own inflammatory response in their lung tissues.
Inflammation can be broken into 5 components: pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss (or change) of function. These can all be a necessary, and a helpful part of the healing process, when it is functioning in an optimal manner.
In a perfect world, your body targets a pathogen very precisely with exactly the correct type of inflammation, at the correct level, for the correct amount of time, in the correct location. The pathogen then is dealt with, the inflammation (and the symptoms caused by the inflammation) pass, and you return to health.
For some people, this is exactly how it happens with this virus. Their inflammatory response does its job well, and therefore their symptoms may be so slight that they didn’t even know they had the disease. We’ve already seen many reports of this.
Others people may have such an exaggerated inflammatory response that it cause require protracted intensive care in a hospital bed.
Same virus, but different outcome… How so?
There are many factors involved. One factor determining whether you hardly notice having the virus, or experience a long stay in hospital, is your body’s ability to optimise its inflammation response, without over-activation. The good news is you can take some actions to help with this.
This all comes back to a topic I have been talking about for more than a decade, and why I changed up my life to do what I currently do.
There’s already a large body of evidence showing that stress activates the inflammatory response. Inflammation can be a normal and healthy part of a short term stress response. However, when your body is dealing with a prolonged stress response (what I refer to as Physically Retained Stress), its ability to accurately switch inflammation on and off, to modulate its response in a helpful manner is reduced.
Take the specific example of the life threatening respiratory disorders and lung damage we are seeing. This is due to what is called a ‘cytokine storm’. An over-release of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines.
During short term stress, certain stress hormones can reduce these inflammatory cytokines. But when the body has a retained stress response that is past its use-by date, those same stress hormones can begin to upregulate or increase the cytokines. In the case of our lungs this can occur to the point where it restricts our ability to breath and can lead to damage lungs.
Being proactive isn’t just about this current virus situation, it can also better prepare and protect you from any future health storms that inevitably appear on our horizon.
How can we be proactive?
Basically, improve your baseline of health by reducing your overall stress load.
Ok, but what does that look like?
Just remember that saying, ‘My body is my temple’, and consider yourself, your whole self, as a temple. A temple with 4 pillars.
These 4 pillars can be:
1) The way you Eat and drink. Your Nutrition, and the Chemical environment you live in.
2) The way you Move. Your activity levels and your Physical environment.
3) The way you Think. Your Mental-Emotional environment and mindset.
4) The way you Rest. Your sleep cycles, your ability to switch off, recover and recharge.
In each of these 4 areas ensure sufficiency of the things you need and reduce the things that stress your system.
For example, increase natural whole foods that are rich in micro nutrients but free from artificial additives and over-processing. Maintain necessary activity levels, avoid prolonged desk work. Find a reason to fall in love with every moment and eliminate negativity. Be disciplined with your ‘self talk’ and where you let your attention focus. Get a good night sleep, social media can wait, etc…
The temple has a roof to protect you from the fickle world. The roof can represent the guiding principles by which you live your life. The roof also reflects the meaning you assign to your life, yourself and the world you’re a part of. Attend to this part of your temple on a regular basis. Consider and digest big ideas, timeless ideals and the something beyond the self. Some call it ‘spirituality’, some would say ‘meaning and connection’.
Supporting all of this is your Foundation… A body free from retained stress response. An optimised expression of the self organising human system, adaptable and resilient under any load.
The Temple is just a metaphor, but by reducing your overall stress load your body can better modulate its inflammatory response and better protect you from this and future storms. You’ll also be doing your bit to reduce any potential load on the hospital system.