Archive for the ‘immune system’ Tag

Mind Over Immune System   Leave a comment

I just got over a minor cold, again. I had a cold before Christmas, was fine for the holidays, and then got another cold on New Year’s Eve. Ordinarily I’ve got a really good immune system and only get a couple of colds during an entire winter. I can’t think of any time when I’ve gotten two colds within a 4 week period. The thing with both of these colds is that they were both psychosomatic and utterly preventable. I’m a big believer that most of our illnesses are psychosomatic, either directly or indirectly. In this case, they were both directly psychosomatic, caused by a psychologically depressed immune system.

The first cold has a bit of back story: When we moved into our new house we knew that the kitchen faucet had a leak, but before we could find/fix the leak it stopped. We weren’t paying attention, so in mid-December when I realized that the leak had restarted it had already pretty well soaked the cabinet under the sink, and needed to be addressed pronto. Using our (limited) plumbing knowledge we found the source of the leak, made the appropriate obvious attempt to fix it (replacing the supply line), and made it worse instead. The next day I thought of something else to try, which didn’t work and exhausted all of our knowledge and ideas. Since we were days from our holiday party, and soon to leave for a long vacation, trying to find and schedule a plumber on a short time frame seem like a sketchy idea. That evening I spent about an hour and half feeling like a complete failure as a responsible homeowner. By the time I went to bed, I had a cold despite the fact that when I had gotten home from work I had felt perfectly healthy. Isn’t immediate feedback great! 😦

This latest cold is more of a mystery. On New Year’s Eve day I felt healthy, active, and glad to be home. It was a really good day up to the point in the afternoon when I decided to go for a walk. As soon as I stepped out of the house my mind started on a very negative thought spiral. It came out of nowhere, but for some reason I was not able to shake it. After the 2-mile self-pity party and a cry in the shower, we went out to celebrate the holiday. By the time we got to our friend’s house I had the sniffles, and before midnight I knew I had a full blown head cold.

The mind can also prevent colds, not just cause them. But the stories about how I caught these colds make much better stories than the ones where I catch myself in time and manage to avert impending illness by changing my mindset and using all my immune-boosting tricks.

Now that I’m reminding myself, nearly all of my colds are psychosomatic. Personally, I suspect that is true of most people. Did you know that scientists do studies in which they plant live cold viruses in people’s noses, and many of them never get sick? That’s a good thing since most of us are probably exposed to hundreds of potentially harmful viruses and bacteria each day. It seems to me like it is not so much the exposure, but the power of the immune system that determines whether or not someone gets sick. The same immune system that is affected by diet, exercise, sleep, stress, psychological state, and environmental factors. In grad school my colds were like calender-work. During/after every major exam or project, I got a major cold with fever. Needless to say, I was a little bit stressed in grad school and my immune system couldn’t handle any increases in that stress level.

Let this serve a warning to all: avoid high psychological stress situations and negative thinking spirals during cold season.


Posted January 8, 2011 by mayakey in health, psychology

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First Cold of the Year Averted   Leave a comment

This past Monday I got those first hints of a cold coming on. I hate the whole “treat the symptoms” thing, so I immediately went on the offensive to strengthen my immune system and flush out an invaders. It was a three pronged attack: echinacea and peppermint teas, Neti pot, and a couple days of (marginal) rest. I say marginal because while I didn’t go running, I did dig two 4-foot diameter holes for our new trees, and I may have gotten an extra hour of sleep in the three days.

One thing that cannot be reiterated enough regarding echinacea tea: IT IS NOT A TONIC HERB. I hear about people who take echinacea every day for the entire flu season and then wonder why they get sick. If you take echinacea as a tonic you are actually hurting your immune system in the long run. Echinacea essentially revs up the immune system, so it is effective when taken at the first hint of illness, but taken over a long period of time it will eventually “wear out” the immune system and lead to a crash in your body’s ability to protect itself. So never take echinacea as a preventive measure, that’s what vitamin packed foods and moderate exercise are for.

Previously, I didn’t bother with the Neti pot until the end of a cold in an attempt to help it go away faster. Only recently did I come to understand the preventive nature of the Neti pot in helping to rinse away any viruses in the sinuses to sort of reduce the load on the immune system. Apparently some people do that every day. That seems a little excessive to me, and maybe unhealthy actually. If a healthy immune system is partially developed from successfully fighting off the multitude of invaders that we are exposed to on a daily basis, than wouldn’t using a Neti pot every single day be a crutch? Akin to my father’s admonition not to wear an ankle brace on an uninjured ankle because then the muscle gets weak and is more prone to injury. Using it as a preventive measure at the first sign of a cold does make sense to me, though, and at least in this case it worked. In one day I went from congested to clear, and now I actually feel better than I had in about a week.

Posted November 19, 2010 by mayakey in health

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