Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Can Exercise Keep You From Getting Sick? Enterovirus & Ebola Protection? Maybe...
Recently, the Florida Department of Health confirmed it's first case of Enterovirus D68 in the state. A 10-year old girl in Polk County was treated at Tampa General Hospital for 6 days back in September and then released. To date, there are 5 reported cases of Ebola now in the US.
With scary viruses running around out there like the Enterovirus D68 and Ebola, it makes you wish you could do something to protect yourself from sickness or create in yourself an immunity to these viruses. But we all get sick from time to time and so it feels like there is no way to prevent it. However, Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom comments in her book that there might be a way to prevent sicknesses or at least prevent their frequency.
She states that vigorous exercise greatly increases circulation in your body. This in turn creates an increase in white blood cells throughout your body. White blood cells are an important part of the immune system that fight off infectious disease and foreign invaders. With more white blood cells running around in your blood stream, the more likely they are to catch and destroy viruses and other germs that make you sick.
The US National Library of Medicine seems to agree with Dr. Northrup. It states on it's website (nlm.nih.gov), "Exercise sends antibodies and white blood cells (the body's defense cells) through the body at a quicker rate. As these antibodies or white blood cells circulate more rapidly, they could detect illnesses earlier than they might normally. The increased rate of circulating blood may also trigger the release of hormones that "warn" immune cells of intruding bacteria or viruses."
Another theory revolving around exercise and sickness prevention is that exercise calms the mind and relieves stress. Prolonged or chronic stress is an enemy to the immune system, but the relieving of stress may give your immune system a boost. Here's why: When your body is under stress, your adrenal glands release hormones called adrenaline and cortisol to help you react to the stressful situation at hand. It's the fight or flight reaction.
While this is happening in your body, your brain tells other systems like the immune system and the digestive system among others to temporarily stop working so that your brain can concentrate on "fighting or flighting". Once the perceived "danger" has passed, body systems begin to return to normal. However, under a chronic stress situation, your body continues to suppress these systems. That's why your immune system doesn't function at optimum and you seem to get sick more often.
On a side note, your digestive system has trouble metabolizing your food efficiently during these chronic stress situations as well and you may gain weight. Most people are familiar with the fact that excess cortisol (the stress hormone) causes extra belly fat. Extra weight can tax the body too, causing an impaired immune system. Exercise helps to burn off these stress hormones, relaxing the brain and boosting the immune system.
Symptoms for Enterovirus D68 are much like that of a cold except that fever might be higher, breathing can become labored, chest pain may be present and stools might be significantly softer. It is more common for children to become infected with Enterovirus D68 and possibly adults with asthma or compromised immune systems. The CDC highly urges everyone to wash their hands with soap and water frequently to help prevent the spread of this disease. It was noted that typical hand sanitizer is not affective in destroying the virus.
Exercising for 20 minutes a day can greatly increase blood circulation, heart health and apparently improve your immune system too.