Mind Your Immunity

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

There is a remarkable connection that exists between psychology and immune function — in health and illness. Harmony between the two is suggested to denote optimal health and well-being. Likewise, a ‘sickening’ imbalance between them is said to be the cause of a host of diseases, including tuberculosis and AIDS.

While a fall in immune function is often associated with psychological and emotional outcomes, it isn’t a ‘given’ result that it should duly upset physical health. In other words, a plunge in immunological function isn’t always a fool proof sign that illness is about to strike — though it most often is.

It’s quite easy to suggest that a virus may be the lone cause of a certain illness. Likewise, it is equally clear-cut to think of changes in immune function being the source of disease. The real fact is — diseases have several causes, not just one, or two. Picture this. No two individuals experience identical changes in their immune function when affected by the same illness. What also tips the scale in favour of an emerging illness, in one individual, may not disclose any ‘ill-effects’ in the other.

What does this signify? That illnesses tend to have a far greater impact on the health and well-being ‘weighing scale’ of the elderly, children, and the unwell. Not so much in healthy, youthful individuals. The colossal COVID-19 pandemic was an unmistakable case in point.

One obvious implication is — a change within our immune system influences our psychological state and our behaviour too. In simple terms, being just ill alters our psychological state and behaviour. It can also lead to common problems, such as colds and allergies — while severe affections are characteristically represented by a constant feeling of bad health, loss of appetite, depression, and gross lethargy.

It’s undoubtedly our inner feelings that assist us to put up with highs and lows of life. What this means is — we should listen to nature’s warning signals at all times, no matter the status of our health, or illness. It also means that we should consciously reject making sudden leaps of faith. Even in the face of our accepted canvas — the picture that connects our mind, immunity, and health.

Our immunological parameters are grossly affected by psychological factors and vice versa. To highlight one example. A reduction in natural ‘killer’ cell function is related to adverse consequences in the disease process — including viral infections such as H1N1, autoimmune diseases [AIDS], and some forms of cancer. Consistent low levels of natural ‘killer’ cell activity, for instance, are suggested to intensify infections. Similarly, a reduction in white blood cell [WBC] response — our soldiers of immunity —  can cause heightened illness.

The changes are not by-products of illness. They are, in actuality, stimulated, or specific biological mechanisms — they act upon our central nervous system [CNS] to bring malaise, fatigue, loss of sleep, and reduced hunger. Such alterations happen by way of a natural blueprint. They aren’t a result of mishaps. Is it, therefore, not a quirk of nature that such causes — psychological and behavioural changes —  trigger our body’s own healing mechanisms to keeping us out of harm’s way and also assisting us in the process of recovery?

There’s a ‘demon’ in our psyche, yes. It all depends on how you deal with it — in health and illness. The good, old saying, “It’s all in the mind,” exemplifies the expression best. Or, as John Milton, articulated in purple verse, “The mind is its own place, and in itself/Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.” This is quite like going back to the beginning of time — but, it isn’t an overrated maxim. It’s, in effect, a qualified paradigm, an oft-used expression filled with meaning as refined as the computer chip.

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.

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