Massage and the Immune System

Immune 101

Your immune system is a complex network of systems that work together to keep the body healthy. You have white blood cells that fight infection and cleanse the body. The lymph system acts as a network for clearing and filtering debris after the white blood cells have done their job. The microbiome in your gut helps to produce good bacteria that fight infection and promote health and well-being (both physical and mental). Your skin acts as a barrier that keeps out foreign particles and maintains proper temperature/fluids/etc. Your endocrine system regulates body temperature to raise temperature as needed to fight infection. All of these systems working together help to keep you healthy. You, in turn, support them by drinking adequate fluids, eating healthy foods and getting plenty of exercise. But did you know that massage therapy can be part of your self-care for keeping your immune system healthy, as well?

Massage for Immune Health

How can massage help? For starters, massage can help reduce the effects stress has on the body. If your system is constantly undergoing an elevated stress response, it gets run down. This decrease in your immune system can leave you vulnerable to sickness. Research has shown that massage can increase the number of white blood cells in the body, as well. These killer cells that are produced by the body help to target infectious agents that enter the body. Massage can also help to regulate fluid and hormone levels in the body. In these ways, massage can help support a healthy immune system. But massage therapy should be used as  preventative maintenance in this case. It is not a good idea to get a massage when you are sick. If you feel like you are coming down with something or are actively sick, it is best to stay home and get plenty of rest and fluids.

Self-care for Immune Health

Besides getting regular massage, nutrition and hydration are key to a healthy immune system. Many of us are chronically dehydrated. This lack of fluids makes it more difficult for the body to filter and flush out germs. Eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals (especially Vitamins C and D and Zinc) can help a great deal during cold and flu season. You can also supplement, but getting these necessary nutrients from food sources is ideal. Some supplements are made from synthetic sources and are less digestible for the body. You can also do a daily routine of exercise to help boost the immune system. Moderate walking and light yoga (especially inversions like downward facing dog and standing forward fold) can help boost the lymph system and encourage proper filtering of the fluids within the body.

Sources:

Massage Therapy May Boost Immune Functioning

https://www.amtamassage.org/research/Massage-Therapy-Research-Roundup/Research-Roundup0.html

Cells and Organs of the Immune System

https://www.boundless.com/microbiology/textbooks/boundless-microbiology-textbook/immunology-11/overview-of-immunity-135/cells-and-organs-of-the-immune-system-694-3503/

Answers About Immunity

http://www.berkeleywellness.com/self-care/preventive-care/article/answers-about-immunity

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