I recently came across an article, “Boosting the immune system–sorting science from myth,”
that explains, from a scientific perspective, why claims of supplements and foods that “boost the immune system response” are not reliable. Simply put, the blog post author, Skeptical Raptor, explains that the immune system is a complex multifaceted system that basically works in an “on/off” fashion. The immune system includes physical barriers (skin, inflammation, mucus, tears, saliva), biochemical agents and cells (especially white blood cells and all the goodies they bring to the immune system party like macrophages). The blog post explains in-depth the mechanics of the immune system and then Skeptical Raptor points out that one of the only effective ways to “boost” our immune systems is through getting vaccinated for various diseases. And he states that if we were to be able to boost our immune system or make it more powerful, we would likely cause more serious problems such as an immune system that attacks healthy types (known as an autoimmune response) or allergies.
What he writes makes sense from what I know about the immune system. We do know that some things like stress can make it more difficult for our immune systems to work properly. And I will go out on a limb and say that there is evidence that allowing ourselves to rest and relax also allows our bodies to protect us from disease and illness more effectively. (I admit, that seems like a no brainer, but the U.S. culture does such a fine job of rewarding those that are productive and rewarding output more than being contemplative, relaxing and resting, that our need for rest and relaxation cannot be emphasized enough!) Massage therapy has some research behind it as a tool to help people relax/better handle stress.
I personally find that if I feel run down, doing less (as in taking on less responsibilities and commitments) and allowing myself to take a nap, engage in some relaxing activities and especially getting enough sleep each night, helps me resist illness or get over an illness better than most other interventions. Rest is not magic. It does not come in a pill (nor a cup of java!) Rest allows our bodies to engage in some parasympathetic nervous system activity. Rest is not “being lazy.,” It is not “unproductive.” Rest is a valuable tool for people to use to maintain health and well-being!
Note: I am not a doctor and none of my information should be construed as medical advice. Discuss any decisions about the use of vaccines with a licensed health care professional.
Read the entire article here and tell me what you think in the comments below!