10 Oct October – Happy Thanksgiving!
Wendy Reichental and Giovanna Daniele
As we transition to the cooler temperatures of autumn and get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, what better time to not only share some good food and thanks but to show some love to yourself with a little boost to your immune system with reflexology. This month’s blog, it’s all about the simple things we can all do to strengthen our immune system and nourish and warm the body from the inside out!
Hi Giovanna, when I think of Thanksgiving, I think of all the things I’m grateful for, and then I shout out loud “ok let’s eat”! It’s a time to indulge in the harvest bounty and acknowledge with gratitude all that we have – especially that which is not tied to anything materialistic. We give thanks for having health, family and friends. But post -Thanksgiving, I notice that my body feels sluggish, and run down. What makes up our immune system?
GD: I could not agree more with you. I love this colourful season, especially in its selection of root vegetables and the many comfort meals that can be made from them. These colder months are all about eating nourishing foods that are going to help balance our hormones, boost our energy, and strengthen our immune system. Regular reflexology sessions as a preventative measure can really aid and boost our immune system, especially as we face these darker days, which can also affect our mental health. Our immune system guards us against diseases caused by those tiny invaders called pathogens, i.e., viruses and bacteria. The immune system comprises a network of cells, tissues, glands, and organs that work together to destroy these invaders and help protect the body. Some of the major organs involved in the immune system include the spleen, lymph nodes, thymus, and bone marrow. When your body’s ability to fight infections and diseases is compromised, your immune system is weakened, and that is when you are more susceptible to falling ill.
The Spleen is the largest organ in the immune system. Can you briefly tell us about its primary function?
GD: Until recently, the spleen has been overlooked for its many important functions. First, the spleen is on the upper-left side of the abdomen cavity, beneath the diaphragm and next to the stomach. One of the primary jobs that the spleen performs is to help fight infections and make antibodies. The spleen keeps the blood cells healthy and works together with the circulatory system, the system which brings blood to the body. If the spleen needs to be removed, the liver can take over many of its filtering functions. A person can live without a spleen but can become more prone to infections.
Is it true in talking about the immune system – stress plays a role, can you expand on this?
GD: Absolutely, the one thing we know for certain is that our emotions, i.e., anxieties, fears, stress, can affect our immune function negatively. When we are stressed, it can lower our ability to fight infection by decreasing the number of white cells which are necessary for fighting infection. When we are stressed, it can increase inflammation in the body, which can further weaken our body’s defense mechanism, making us more vulnerable to chronic diseases, colds, and flu and even some food allergies. Therefore, it’s so important to reduce stress and tension throughout our bodies and keep our immune system healthy. We are fortunate that we get to perform reflexology on our clients, which alone helps the body to feel more relaxed and less stressed while improving blood and lymph circulation. Another benefit of reflexology is how it can boost the production of endorphins that positively contribute to the immune system performing optimally.
And would you agree that besides boosting those good endorphins, a healthy immune system would positively affect our energy levels?
GD: For sure! It is all connected, which is why, following a reflexology session, some people have said they feel like they have more “pep in their step” – stimulating the feet helps to move and circulate the lymph fluid, which helps the immune system continue to be efficient and as a bonus can leave you with an increase in energy levels.
I have heard there are specific things we can do to keep our spleen healthy. What are a few things we can all do?
GD: Well, taking care of your overall health is a genuine commitment. Even making a few tweaks can have a tremendous impact. I can only speak for myself, but I enjoy following a diet with generous portions of fruits and vegetables, and I make it a point to limit my sugar or fat intake. Nutrition, rest, daily exercise, like simply walking and hydration, all play an important role. Something I have always avoided is cold drinks. I have always preferred drinking my water at room temperature, and it turns out that this is also good for our digestion, and in particular, our spleen.
I am so relieved to hear that because I only drink water if it’s been on the counter and is not cold. There is a plethora of information about what exercise, foods or diet may help to keep your immune system strong. I think it’s important to always consult your doctor beforehand to discuss whatever lifestyle changes might be right for you.
That being said, when working on a client that has expressed lacking energy and fatigue, which reflex points would you focus on, and why?
GD: It bears repeating, that reflexology practitioners never perform reflexology to remedy any specific conditions. In order for our immune system to be effective and strong, we need all our organs and systems to be functioning at optimal levels. Fortunately, during a reflexology session, we work all the reflex points to ease muscle tensions and release stress, and this already allows the immune system to work properly. In a typical reflexology session, we would cover the adrenal glands and spleen reflex points related to keeping our immune system in check, but what we might do is linger over these points a little longer to better encourage calm and balance.
The mind/body connection sure is amazing, Giovanna and we have many options for maintaining our health. Reflexology is one such practice that can stimulate your immune defenses and leave you with a feeling of serenity, energy, and wellbeing, so you can hopefully thrive during these stressful times. Now that’s something to be grateful for!
GD: Hear! Hear! Enjoy every day with a sense of wonder and gratitude and have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!