Friday, November 15, 2013

Massage: for Mind, Body and Immune System?

The holiday season is quickly approaching and many stores have already begun to promote their holiday products.  All too soon people will be rushing to finish their holiday shopping and asking where the time went.  On top of that people are expected to attend holiday parties where they are likely to (over)indulge in hearty foods, rich desserts and festive cocktails.  All this activity and potential for stress, coupled with the cold weather can wreak havoc on your immune system; and as everyone knows with the holiday season comes cold and flu season.   
Everybody has their own “home remedy” for the common cold or flu, most commonly upping your vitamin C intake, eating chicken soup or taking herbal supplements.  But why bother treating the symptoms when you could prevent the illness in the first place?  There are many things you can do to protect yourself from everyday illnesses; things as simple as getting more sleep, increasing the amount of exercise you participate in, disinfecting hands and surfaces regularly and reducing the amount of stress in your daily life.  The latter may be easier said than done, but taking some time for yourself amidst the hustle and bustle of the season could be more beneficial than you think. 

Massage therapy stimulates relaxation and the reduction of stress and anxiety; many people also attribute a positive change in their sleeping habits to regular massage therapy sessions.  The mentally and physically therapeutic benefits of massage are widely known, and have been for years.  In more recent years studies have been done on the healing benefits of massage, specifically the benefits to the immune system.
The immune system’s purpose is to detect a wide variety of agents within the body and distinguish them from its own healthy tissues.  A controlled study recently determined that the physical stimulation provided through massage increases the body’s natural production of the hormone oxytocin and reduces the production of the adrenocorticotropic hormone.  Put simply, massage increases the body’s natural production of a “feel good” hormones and cells that boost the immune system and reduces the production of an anxiety or stress related hormone.  By having regular massage therapy sessions, you can assist your body in its process of natural protection and healing by boosting your immune system. 

Many people don’t realize one of the body’s natural healing processes is the fever; by raising its core temperature it increases the production and release of white blood cells into the blood stream, and slows the growth of bacteria and viruses.  Some people believe that steam therapy can be used as an “artificial fever” and stop a common illness before it starts.  Although it does not have quite the same widespread natural effects within the body, it does bring a form of relief to most people.  For everyone to benefit from any sort of treatment thought it is best to get it before you get sick.  Who knows, by doing so you might never get sick!  

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