The Link Between Chronic Pain and Your Immune System
Pain can be thought of as your body’s own alarm system. When you experience pain, your brain signals the alarm that triggers the “fight or flight” response in your nervous system to help your body combat the threat. When your body is in this fight or flight mode, it diverts energy away from some processes, including immunity, so it has more energy to take on the danger.
Ordinarily, the body is only in fight or flight mode for a short period of time. But when you experience chronic pain, your body stays in this alert state for an extended period. When this occurs, hormones produced by the nervous system can suppress and destroy the cells your body needs for immunity. So when you’re experiencing chronic pain, you must take extra measures to fight against this reaction and improve your immune health.
Smoking compromises your immune system in a number of ways. It lowers the levels of protective antioxidants in your blood and leaves you more susceptible to numerous infections including pneumonia and influenza. That’s why smokers tend to have longer-lasting and more severe illnesses than their non-smoking pals. When you’re battling chronic pain, your immune system is already compromised. You can help it bounce back by giving up the cigarettes for good.
A healthy, well-balanced diet provides essential immune-boosting nutrients including vitamins A and C, zinc, selenium, and iron. Make sure most of the foods you consume are natural and unprocessed. Be sure to include a good variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, legumes, nuts, and seeds to give your body all the nutrients it needs. Maintaining a healthy weight is also essential for good immune health, so remember to keep an eye on your portion sizes and avoid overindulging.
Get Regular Exercise
When you’re dealing with chronic pain, working out can be the last thing on your mind. However, there are some important reasons to get moving. Exercise causes positive changes in the antibodies and white blood cells that help your body fight disease. Working out can also help flush bad bacteria from your airways and lungs, reducing your risk of contracting a cold, a flu, or another airborne illness. Just remember to take it easy. Walking, yoga, and strength-training workouts are all excellent low-impact exercise options for people with chronic pain.
You may not see your immune system, but if you’re struggling with chronic pain you can guarantee it is suffering. If you experience chronic pain, remember to take additional steps to boost your immunity.