A Healthy Lifestyle and Your Immune System

Practicing naturopathic medicine isn’t always easy and rarely simple.  During the 30 years I’ve been in practice, oftentimes I have an intuitive sense of how my patient will progress to better health in part, by observing their self-care and symptom presentation.  Folks who tend to their basics of nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mental and spiritual health usually progress to health more steadily, no matter what their condition. A healthy lifestyle is good for our immune system.

Take for example, Sam, a 57 year-old man with a fulfilling job and loving marriage.  Sam presented with joint pain, body aches, brain fog and a swollen knee beginning the previous summer and diagnosed by his orthopedic doctor when the fluid extracted from his knee showed Lyme disease.  Sam did well with a few weeks on an antibiotic but the reason he came to me is his symptoms kept returning.  My job was then to figure out how to stimulate Sam’s immune system to fight the Lyme disease and at the same time kill the bacteria causing his symptoms.  An analysis of Sam’s lifestyle showed he exercised with great intensity, liked healthy foods, slept not enough hours, had a fantastic home life and felt a sense peace with himself.  Every treatment I suggested he embraced with his full commitment, and at each return visit he reported significant improvement.  I asked him to get more sleep, avoid gluten, exercise less often as he was over-training, and take the suggested antibiotics and supplements.  A few months later, after adjusting the medications a few times and raising his testosterone levels, Sam is 100% back to his high level of health and checks in every few months for a tune up.  Now he takes only plant medicines and a few nutrients to keep healthy.

So Sam already had a high level of self-care when he became ill and although his symptoms were uncomfortable, he was not as sick many others folks who contract Lyme disease.

Self Care and the Immune System

A high level of self-care can protect us from illness and when we do become sick, we recover faster and more completely.  Even though Sam was systemically infected, he retained his energy levels and brain functioning.  Another individual may have become devastated by this same infection and their recovery more prolonged.

Part of the art of taking care of ourselves is to calibrate how we feel on a given day to what we can actually do.  Sometimes taking a walk and stretching is preferable to a heavy workout.  Having a long-term vision and commitment (to ourselves) regarding our self-care helps us stick with our lifestyle that we know is good for us.  Sometimes fear of aging poorly is a motivation for a healthy lifestyle, but a more encouraging and self-supportive attitude will help us to be more consistent when we are distracted by life’s busyness or when not feeling our best.  A healthy lifestyle is good for our immune system.

Written by: Dr. Leon Hecht

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