This is the inaugural article in a series that I’m calling, “When Being Healthy Doesn’t Feel Good.” In this series we’ll be exploring those times in life when health is expressed in our bodies but it doesn’t necessarily feel so great.
Before we kick this off, I think it’s really important to define our terms. Let’s take a look at “health” and what it means to “be healthy.” Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines health as “a state of physical, mental, and social well-being.” The World Health Organization says that health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” While I like this definition better because it addresses the fact that health DOES NOT equal feeling good, I tend to resonate most with French physician, Georges Canguilhem, who stated that health is “the ability to adapt to one’s environment.”
Health is the body’s ability to perceive its internal and external environment and then take proper actions in response to that environment-all with the goal of maintaining homeostasis (internal balance). For example, health is the body’s ability to sense that the external temperature is cold and then respond appropriately by constricting blood vessels, shunting blood away from extremities like hands and feet, and creating a shiver (muscle contractions) all to maintain internal body temperature. Health is also the ability of the heart and lungs to work harder and faster when the demand on them is greater (like during exercise) and then relax when the demand diminishes. All of these (and more) adaptations are regulated and controlled by the nerve system. In fact, Dr. Bruce Lipton, PhD states “the function of the nervous system is to perceive the environment and coordinate the behavior of all other cells.” Basically, it’s the nerve system’s job to make sure we adapt.
For the most part, though, when we’re healthy we feel good, right? Our body is at ease and everything is functioning the way it should be. However, there are times when we are adapting to specific situations that we might not feel so great. In fact, sometimes we feel downright miserable. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re not healthy. It just means that we’re adapting.
Let’s take a fever for example. Imagine that you’re doing some primitive camping in the woods. You hiked in miles to reach your campsite and now you’re thirsty. But, you left your water bottle in the car. Uh-oh. What do you do? Well, imagine there is a stream nearby. You go over to the stream and scoop out some water. However, before you can drink it, what must you do? You boil it, right? Why? Because you want to burn off any viruses, bacteria, or other nasty stuff that may be living in the water before you ingest it, right? Absolutely! Raising the temperature of the water creates an environment that is inhospitable to viruses and bacteria and they die off. Well, guess what? The EXACT same thing happens in the human body!
When the immune system (which is moderated and coordinated by the nervous system) senses an overwhelming presence of viruses or bacteria, the very first step is to raise the core body temperature. This is ADAPTATION. This is the HEALTHY response. The body is raising it’s temperature to fight off and kill the invaders. Often times when core body temperature elevates, we feel chills, we may shiver, we feel very tired and run down, and, in general, we don’t feel so great. But that doesn’t mean we’re SICK and it certainly doesn’t mean that the body has failed in some way. Quite the opposite, in fact.
A fever is the body’s first line of defense against infection. When left alone to run its course and do its job, a fever is an extremely efficient and effective way to fight infection. In fact, your immune system will end up stronger after a fever than it was before. There are a few instances, however, when a fever should warrant concern and immediate action on your part. First, an infant under 3 months with a fever needs immediate attention. Second, if the fever is the result of a toxin or poison, seek help right away. Thirdly, if the fever is the result of a “heat stroke” type situation (like a child being left in a hot car in the middle of summer, or an athlete rigorously practicing a sport in extreme heat) then medical intervention is required. However, for the most part, in otherwise healthy individuals a little fever (on average up to 104) is perfectly fine. In children, the biggest indicator of just how “sick” a child is their demeanor and how they’re acting. You should be paying closer attention to this, than to the number on the thermometer.
So, what happens when you reach for Tylenol, Motrin, or Ibuprofen when the thermometer reaches greater than 100? Antipyretic medications aimed at lowering core body temperature actually work against the body’s innate intelligence and immune system. By lowering the temperature you are taking away the body’s best defense. You are actually hindering the process and prolonging the infection. I know, I know, it is heart-wrenching as a parent to watch your little one not feel so great, but trust me, they will get through it. Here are some ways you can help them:
- Make sure their nerve system is working the best it can. Remember, you live your life through your nerve system and your nerve system controls and coordinates every other system in your body (including your immune system). If your nerve system is experiencing a disturbance to due to subluxation, it may be hampering your body’s ability to fight. Chiropractic adjustments, when necessary, will free the nerve system from interference and allow the body to work the way it’s supposed to, thus increasing ADAPTABILITY.
- Stay hydrated. Make sure you or your child is getting lots of fluids. Dehydration will only make matters worse.
- Rest. Rest. Rest. Your body is doing battle. That process requires a lot of energy. Help your body out by taking it easy and sleeping as much as possible.
- Cool compresses or a tepid (not cold) bath are useful ways to help bring relief to a very warm body. They will also help to lower the temperature a little bit if it starts creeping up near 103-104.
- Support the immune system with Vitamin D and probiotics. These should already be a part of your daily regimen, but if they aren’t, what are you waiting for? Both Vitamin D and probiotics have powerful effects on the immune system and are known to boost it’s activity and support it’s functions.
- Relax. Try to remember that a fever is an ADAPTATION. It is a sign of health.
As always, we are here to help you and your family live life and thrive! If you don’t already have a family chiropractor that makes sure your nerve system is working properly on a regular basis, get one! We are always happy to help and can be reached at 610-925-2572.