The Immune System
Most people have only the vaguest idea of what is involved in keeping their bodies free of illness and other harmful elements. One of the most important parts of our defense is the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system branches throughout the body in much the same manner as the circulatory system, carrying a clear liquid called lymph. Lymph is important because it washes away toxins, pathogens, and fat globules that might otherwise cause harm.
Lymph also contains large amounts of what might be called ‘hunter/seeker’ cells, lymphocytes, that search through the body looking for viruses and bacteria. It’s easy to see that the stronger the immune system is, the better able the body is able to prevent illness or deal with it more effectively.
Lymphocytes are commonly called white blood cells and there are basically 3 different types: NK (natural killer cells), T cells, and B cells.
It’s no secret that we are all living in a very stressful world right now. The pressures of work, school, family responsibilities, and unwanted emergencies all add up to a big load of stress on nearly everyone. If you sometimes picture yourself as an overwound alarm clock, waiting to go off at the slightest touch, you are stressed out.
When people are stressed, the body releases cortisol. This hormone is helpful at situations where the life might be in jeopardy, such as being able to get out of a back window quickly when home invaders are breaking down the front door.
Cortisol helps us to run faster and react more quickly than we ordinarily would. Cortisol raises our blood pressure and heart beat to help us deal with the situation.
However, cortisol is supposed to be a short term solution to a particular situation, it is not supposed to be released constantly, such as what happens when people are stressed from modern living. Continual exposure to cortisol causes the killer cells that should be protecting us to be produced in ever decreasing numbers, leaving us open to illness. In fact, the initial reaction to stress destroys the lymphocytes immediately.
Under ordinary circumstances they will rebuild quickly, but a stressed body will rebuild them much more slowly.
Stress has many negative impacts on the body and mind in addition to the harm it does to the immune system. It can lead to high blood pressure and heart problems, interfere with sleeping, and cause depression and headaches, among other ills.
No one should have to live with a compromised immune system and the other ‘stress baggage’, and massage could well be the answer to the problem.
How Massage Can Help
Those who massage is just some ‘touchy-feely’ approach to health couldn’t be more wrong. It has actually been proven through testing that massage definitely ramps up the immune system, making it stronger and more able to keep the body healthy.
Those suffering from chronic pain will also have a compromised lymph system – pain is stressful and causes more cortisol to be released to try to deal with the condition.
Part of the reason why the immune system starts to falter is, as detailed above, stress. This is one of the ways that massage can help to stimulate the lymph system to produce more lymphocytes and other helper cells.
Anyone who has received a massage will notice that they are much more relaxed and comfortable afterwards than they were before the massage, due to a reduction of the amount of stress they may have been feeling.
As people relax under the capable hands of a massage therapist, the levels of cortisol in their system will drop. Lowering the amount of cortisol in the blood will allow the production of lymphocytes to increase, bolstering the immune system and making the body more likely to resist illness.
Massage is even good for those who are already ill, as the flood of white blood cells will strengthen the body’s attack on whatever is causing the illness.
Maintaining good health in a stressful world can be difficult, especially if the immune system has already been damaged. However, regular massage can help to stimulate the lymph system and make the body more likely to fight off toxic invaders, as well as helping with relaxation.