As we enter the autumn, we would do well to safeguard our immunity.
It is astonishing that virtually nothing is said in the media about our first line of defence, our awesome immune system. Why is this? Surely it cannot be ignorance or is there a deeper agenda? Whatever the answer, we must personally take responsibility to strengthen our defences.
In this article I wish to emphasise the role of emotions on immunity. The fact is, emotional resilience has a profound effect on our immune system. How is this? Surprisingly the answer lies in our saliva. Saliva contains an immunoglobulin — a protein acting as an antibody against infections — Secretory IgA (S-IgA ) is the predominant antibody of the mucosal immune system — right at the forefront — in our saliva! Saliva is much more than a lubricant to our food and a carrier of digestive enzymes it is central to our first line of defence against pathogens1. We call it mucosal immunity.
There is convincing evidence that psychological stress increases susceptibility to infection and infectious diseases and S-IgA concentrations are key. So let’s dig a little deeper to find the relationship between our emotions and immunity.
The release of S-IgA is under strong neuroendocrine control. Simply stated, how we think and react directly effects our nervous system which in turn causes changes in our hormonal system. Everything is connected.
Short term stress initially increases S-IgA to boost our defences and this we would expect. However, prolonged stress does the opposite and lowers S-IgA which opens us up to infection.
During this pivotal year, emotional stress has been at an all-time high even comparable with siege and war. We are beset by chaos, threats, irrational fear, deprivation, and depersonalising masks. This translates into debilitating emotions: notably anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, sadness, loneliness, despair and depression. Unless unchecked, these emotions lower immunity.
Research at the Institute of HeartMath shows that just five minutes of anger whether engaged in or ruminated over, depresses S-IgA for up to 6 hours. Whilst anger is one of the worst emotions to depress immunity, it is good to note its bedfellows — slow simmering anger — frustration, injustice, loneliness, despair and the like. But also, and not generally recognised, is the emotion of sympathy. Sympathy is when we get caught in the web of another persons life. Compassion strengthens immunity as it raises S-IgA but sympathy depresses immunity as it lowers S-IgA. The emotion of sympathy drags us into over-care when we lose control and become controlled. Many will remember the funeral of Princess Diane when millions were swept up in irrational sympathy for a person they never knew. Countless people wept openly but suffered the aftermath of lowered immunity with sore throats and colds and worse.
Overcare is an emotional hallmark of this time and it can keep S-IgA down, down, down. Care is compassion in action but overcare is when compassion loses the ‘com’ prefix and passion goes wild and drains us. A friend recently told me how she became caught up in a search for the truth about the virus. As she said: ‘it became a possible 24 hour media embroilment’. Overcare made her ill.
Understanding the relationship between emotions and immunity is the start but we need to employ techniques to make sure we keep our hearts and minds untroubled. A daily walk works wonders, so does meeting with friends and loved ones to talk and share. Wind down early in the day and make sure you get refreshing sleep. Do not over eat, especially as the autumn comes in.
Many herbal supplements have a calming influence such as Valerian, Rhodiola, Siberian Ginseng, Green Oatstraw, and Lemon Balm. When the heart is troubled or even ‘broken’ through grief, nothing beats Hawthorn for it brings ‘peace to the heart’.
Avoid the media, keep ‘news’ to a minimum, mix with people who build you up and avoid those who drain you or they will only add to the burden.
Remember, we will get through this, but in the meantime give thanks for your wonder-working saliva. Hold your head up high and keep calm!
1. Studies have shown that S-IgA concentrations predict susceptibility to respiratory, oral, and aural infections (Lee et al., 2010; Nakamura et al., 2006; Tiollier et al., 2005). Hence, total S-IgA is considered an immunologically meaningful measure of mucosal host resistance (Macpherson et al., 2008).