The Miracle in Getting Sick…Part 1

Last year around this time I got sick for the first time in probably over 7 years. Knowing what I know now as a health professional, this was a fascinating experience and it inspired me to share with you what’s really going on when you get sick.

 

You hear about it everywhere, in the news, from your friends, your family, and you even experience it for yourself as you go out into public and hear people around you let out chunky, gurgley coughs.

That’s right, folks, It’s Cold and Flu season….apparently.

Getting sick is just a part of life –and a miserable part at that– so how’s that a miracle?
You’ll find this to be a little odd, but the miracle is actually in the misery itself. Yes, the yucky feeling you have when you’re coughing, sneezing and aching is truly a miracle happening inside your own body.

Did I lose you?
Hang on, just open your mind and join me on this journey through a new perspective on being sick.

Imagine, for a moment, what it’s like to be sick, the runny, stuffy nose, the scratchy throat, headaches, body aches, fever, and chills. Yuck! You feel terrible and when you are in the thick of it all it seems like you may never feel better again; and you might even find it impossible to remember what it felt like to be well in the first place.

That darn virus!

Ahh, but what you need to understand is that it is not the virus or bacteria that is making you feel so terrible, it is your own body making all of that misery happen. The unpleasant experiences you feel with the congestion, and coughing, and everything else are all the feelings of your own body at war with the pathogen that has invaded you. These troublesome experiences are merely Symptoms. The symptoms you feel are simply your intelligent body’s response to the infection. The root cause of all this is the virus attempting to take up residence in your body; and when that happens, your body’s immune system takes full command.

Now let’s go inside….

Sit back, and relax as we take a ride inside the body and follow the course of a common influenza virus.

Once upon a time, somewhere, somehow a virus, just doing its job, caught a gust of a breeze and gracefully found its way onto your body.

“Success!”, cries the virus, “I’ve landed”.

Here’s something to keep in mind: viruses, bacteria, mold, fungus, and many other undesirable things, which I shall refrain from mentioning here, are at all times floating around in the air and often finding themselves landing on your body.

Ok, Stop screaming.
This has been going on forever, and guess what…you’re still alive.

You can only do so much to keep yourself clean and hygienic. These foreign things, called pathogens will always get on you and in you; there’s no stopping it. In fact, whether you feel sick or not, it is highly likely that you have a few viruses present in your body right this minute, but your body’s amazing immune system is doing its duty to keep those germs from doing their duty. However, sometimes your immune system may get caught off guard, or overwhelmed defending against some invaders. And that brings us back to our little, ambitious virus friend.

“Success” it cries as it touches down on the edge of your nose. Not aware of this or any of the other things coming into contact with your skin, you touch your nose as you may do many, many times each day, and in that process you happen to unwittingly dislodge the microscopic virus and by some perfect incident the virus now finds itself on your lip. [The tension builds.] You say a few words to your co-worker about the episode of Seinfeld you saw last night, and by simple act of vocal pronunciation your lips have relocated that virus inside your mouth. Uh Oh!
Naturally the happy, little virus finds its way to the warm, moist back of your throat.

“Home, Sweet Home” says the virus nestling in to start a happy new life on the windy plains of your throat. And so, it begins to start a family, multiplying and spreading as it invades your cells, destroying them in the process. See, your intelligent body knows what’s going on because all of these cells being attacked, and also those around them, begin to send messages calling for help, so your body sends some patrol cells to the area to see what’s going on. When they arrive they find a quickly growing war zone, and they call out a full alert. Code Red Invasion!!

Spy cells called Macrophages {good luck saying that one} swoop into the battlefield to take bites out of the viruses and bring those bites to your T-Cells to await orders; T-Cells are like the Masters of Command of your immune Army. The T-Cells determine exactly what is needed to destroy the viruses and call in an attack plan. By now you’re starting to feel that scratchiness in your throat. Ugh.

Your body wants nothing more than to be healthy and experience homeostasis. A nice, brainy definition of homeostasis is: the relatively stable equilibrium of interdependent parts of a whole. In other words: cellular harmony; a community working together at its best. When homeostasis is threatened, your intelligent body will do whatever it can to eliminate the threat and repair the resulting damage. In the case of this virus infection, your body will make you sick as a powerful defensive force to rid your body of this intruder.  Go get ‘em, Boys!

The first thing your body will do is send a powerful signal to all of the nerves in your muscles and joints telling them to cease any unnecessary activity and donate all available energy to the defensive strike. This, my friends, is why your body feels so achy when you’re sick. Think about it, when you feel overwhelmingly achy the last thing you want to do is move, and rightly so. Your muscles use a tremendous amount of energy to flex and contract to move that body of yours, but in times of war the whole community must make sacrifices. The energy that you would normally use to go about your daily life feeding the dog, making copies, changing the world, is now being almost completely diverted to your highly powerful immune system. Basically, when you feel that aching you NEED to REST!!! Pushing through it whether out of ignorance or stubbornness will only prolong your sickness and may even cause you more damage than you know.

Next comes the famous Shock and Awe attack lead by your genius immune system. Floods of millions of immune cells all rush to Ground Zero in your throat via your Lymph vessels and blood to begin the counter attack on the now gigantic threat of multiplying viruses. At this point you begin to feel the fever, and swelling, and inflammation as the war is in full swing.

Your nose and sinuses begin to over-produce mucus to wash over the battlefield like sticky lava to capture, suffocate and remove viruses. Of course some of that mucus is going to flow out to the front of your nose also, for drainage, and also as a defense to prevent any further pathogens from entering. So have your tissues handy.

A fever is the body temperature rising from the heat of battle, literally. You will also feel warm areas on you body, such as your head, neck, and chest; this is all the cellular activity rushing, not just to fight, but to protect the surrounding areas as well to avoid any further infestation elsewhere in your body as the virus multiplies and attempts to spread. The chills you get is your body reacting to the high concentration of heat being focused on the area of danger. Your throat, head and respiratory system heat up as the energy flows there, meanwhile your muscles and limbs feel chilled because they have sent all their energy to the cause. It’s like your muscles are buying war bonds. Thanks guys!

You can feel your glands swollen in your neck and face. These “glands” are in reality your Lymph nodes which are like Base Camps for your immune army. These Lymph nodes are where your immune cells reproduce for battle, where battle plans are made and carried out, and where many of the casualties of war are delivered. The rest of the dead and living viruses and cells are washed down through to your stomach and digestive system by mucus and fluids to be burned away and eliminated by stomach acids and your intestines. Fun huh?

The war is now beginning to turn in favor of You. Your immune system army is fighting at full force and beginning to overcome the viral enemy, but this epic story is not over. Your body has a lot of work to do and next week we will learn what happens just after the climax of battle.

Plus I will follow that by offering you 9 valuable tips to help you make your sickness go away as fast as possible, so you can get back to your life. That’s the second best thing to not getting sick in the first place.

To Be Continued….

 

 

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

 

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