Human beings are spoiled. We take it for granted, but if our bodies’ natural defense mechanisms suddenly stopped working, we’d be toast. The common cold would evolve into a deadly fight for life, and nose bleeds would never end. If you sprained your ankle, you’d have a hard time walking for the rest of your life.
So how does the body work to heal itself? Also, what can you do to keep these miraculous processes working in the best manner possible?
Immune Defense System
We’ve all learned about how the human body produces antibodies against incoming pathogens, right? Well in case you forgot, it works like this. When your body is exposed to invaders like viruses or bacteria, your immune system springs into action. First, it attaches antibodies to the invaders. These antibodies then signal special white blood cells to absorb and destroy the infectious agents.
Your immunity even has a “memory”. This means that if your body encounters the same infection later, the immune system’s reaction is faster.
How To Boost Your Immune System
As with nearly all health related issues, good nutrition and exercise are critical for proper immune system function. For example, exercise boosts your immune function since it:
- Increases lung and airway airflow. This may help flush out infectious agents.
- Changes how antibodies and white blood cells work. Circulation is speeded up so your defenses may react quicker. Exercise may also enhance immune function at the cellular level.
- Boosts body temperature during exercise which may help kill viruses and bacteria.
- Limits the release of stress hormones, like cortisol. Stress hormones may increase your susceptibility to infection.
A lot of debate surrounds which foods or nutritional supplements boost immune function. This area is a hot topic of research, and much of it centers around the concept that antioxidants help your immune response. Also, if you are deficient in certain nutrients, you could be prone to infection. These foods, and their nutritional components, might help fight off disease.
- Blueberries, pecans, artichokes and kidney beans – all high in antioxidants.
- Mushrooms – high in selenium, riboflavin and niacin.
- Oysters – contain lots of flu-fighting zinc.
- Watermelon – rich in glutathione.
- Spinach – gives you plenty of folate, fiber and vitamin C.
What About Probiotics?
Probiotics are ingested living organisms that may help improve your body function. While this may sound strange, there’s a good chance you’ve eaten yogurt with probiotics. Plus, the human digestive tract has up to a thousand species of bacteria and millions of cells living inside it. This collection of organisms is called the “gut flora”, and it helps with digestion, vitamin absorption and immune function. Lactobacillus is the most common commercially available probiotic, usually ingested in supplemented yogurt. Some researchers believe that probiotics can:
- Help treat inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome
- Prevent allergies and colds
- Help certain skin conditions, like eczema
Other Ways To Boost Immune Function
Other methods to have optimal immune function are:
- Get adequate sleep – most doctors recommend 7-9 hours per night
- Don’t smoke
- Drink one or less alcohol containing drinks per day
- Practice good hygiene (hand washing, teeth brushing, etc.)
How Your Body Heals Wounds
Nobody likes getting a cut or a skinned knee. Still, even fewer marvel at how our bodies cure these injuries. How does it happen? The process unfolds in stages, and each stage can be supported by specific nutritional elements.
Stage 1: Blood clotting – Special cells called platelets and Vitamin K (types 1 and 2) are the most important factors in this process. Vitamin K1 comes from green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach). Vitamin K2 comes from meats, cheeses and eggs.
Stage 2: Immune system protection – Whenever your skin gets compromised, infection can get inside. This means antibodies and white blood cells will come to the wound to offer protection. A bit of normal inflammation may occur, and the skin gets red and puffy. We already went over how to keep the immune system healthy.
Stage 3: Tissue restoration & growth – Broken blood vessels and skin are repaired. Collagen is deposited by red blood cells to begin to fill the wound. Granulation tissue appears as the wound begins to close. The elements required for collagen production and their sources are:
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, bell peppers and strawberries.
- Proline: Egg whites, wheat germ, dairy products, cabbage, asparagus and mushrooms.
- Glycine: Pork skin, chicken skin and gelatin.
- Copper: Organ meats, sesame seeds, cocoa powder, cashews and lentils.
Stage 4: Scab and scar formation – The protein fibrin and aggregated platelets eventually form over the cut to produce a scab. Platelets require Vitamin E to function well. Almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes and avocados are good sources of Vitamin E.
How Your Body Heals Sprains
So you’re running along happily and boom. Your ankle turns over, and you see stars. Ankle sprains happen when the tendons and ligaments that stabilize your ankle are stretched too far. In some cases, the ligaments may even tear. As soon as this happens, your body immediately gets to work.
The first thing that occurs is an inflammatory response. The injury begins a cascade of events that brings all kinds of cells to the injury. New blood vessels are formed to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the area, and red blood cells pump out collagen in a way similar to wound healing. At first, the substance is unorganized, but the large quantity serves to stabilize the injured joint. Later, higher quality collagen is laid down, and the sprained ligament begins to regain its near-original architecture and function.
Some research shows that anti-inflammatory painkillers (called NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, might actually delay the healing process. The theory is that inflammation is a normal process of healing and the NSAIDs slow this process down (more on this later).
How Your Body Heals Broken Bones
Now let’s say you’re running along and get tackled. You hear a “crack”, and this time the pain is really bad. Yep, it’s a bone fracture. Again, even before they load you onto the stretcher, your amazing body is healing itself. Think about it. Broken bones can eventually fuse themselves back together by themselves. It’s really amazing! Let’s take a look at this process in detail.
Stage 1: Clot formation – When a bone breaks, there’s bleeding. This allows for clot formation around the break. Special white blood cells, called phagocytes, also move in and digest bone fragments or any bacteria that may have gotten inside. This stage begins after the bone breaks and last about 2 hours.
Stage 2: Soft callus formation – Other cells, called chondroblasts, begin to lay down collagen all around the break site. Like we saw in sprains, this helps stabilize the broken bone. This stage lasts about 1-3 weeks.
Stage 3: Hard callus formation – Next, cells called osteoblasts, begin laying down new bone. This stage begins at week 2 and ends at week 6-12 post-break.
Stage 4: Bone remodeling – Over the next several years, bone is absorbed and replaced. Even though the original shape can never return, the bump where the break occurred does get smaller.
Speed Up Bone Fracture Healing
Again, like sprains, it might not be a good idea to take NSAIDs for pain relief. The anti-inflammatory properties may actually slow healing. Acetaminophen is the best alternative, but it may not give adequate pain control. In this case, you and your doctor have to decide if the pain is great enough to accept slower healing. In some cases, narcotic pain relievers are used, but these come with a risk of addiction.
Some studies have shown that Vitamin C may help reduce pain associated with bone fractures. Perhaps, if you take Vitamin C combined with acetaminophen, you can minimize the use of NSAIDs.
Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and Vitamin C are all important in the bone fracture healing process. It might pay to take a vitamin supplement containing these elements during the healing process. However, in most cases, you can get what you require through diet alone.
Amazing Muscle Machine
We’ve only scratched the surface about how your body heals in response to injury, but let’s look at one more example. During a strenuous workout your muscle fibers are broken down. This is partly why you get sore the next day. This also indicates a bit of inflammation and healing of the muscle fibers. This process of breakdown and healing, when repeated, leads to increased muscle mass. So as your body recovers, it also gets stronger. Incredible, isn’t it?
One of the best ways to assist the post workout recovery is to have sufficient hydration and nutrition before you exercise. Some recommend a light meal, rich in protein two hours before working out. Also, post-workout your body is busy replenishing your muscles. Optimal fuel may be more protein along with carbohydrates. Some use whey protein followed up by a high carbohydrate sports drink rich in minerals and trace elements.
The next time you fight off a cold or recover from an injury, stop and think about how wonderfully your body functions. Be thankful for the gift of life and health. Be patient, take good care of your recovery, and get back into the action.
If you want to discover the nature’s secret remedies for healing and fat burning, then check out the Best Foods That Rapidly Slim & Heal In 7 Days.
Exercise and immunity
How to boost your immune system
How wounds heal
Collagen – What Is It and What Is It Good For?
How do tendons and ligaments heal? – http://www.peraspenberg.com/texts/how-do-tendons-and-ligaments-heal/
How do bones heal?
8 Ways To Maximize Your Post-Workout Recovery