The immune system: what is it?

How the immune system works

I am not a scientist! I’m trying to make this understandable for non-scientists like me. If I can get these basics down, so can anyone!

The first thing to know is that it’s not like other systems in the body in that it doesn’t consist of specific organs, like the digestive system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, etc. It’s bigger than that.

The immune system spreads throughout the body through the blood and bone marrow, and more specifically, it is a key function of the thymus gland, lymph nodes, mucosa (both mucous membranes and that surrounding organs), and the spleen.

The immune system works to prevent pathogens such as viruses from causing harm. There are two branches of the immune system, innate and adaptive.

The innate immune system responds first to invading pathogens. The innate response is rapid but not specialized. The adaptive immune system responds to pathogens that slip past the innate immune system, and it remembers them if exposed again.

The main cell types of the adaptive immune system are T cells and B cells, which are produced in the bone marrow from stem cells. They are also called lymphocytes.

T cells recognize invaders and coordinate immune responses. They are killers, helpers, and messengers. They kill infected damaged cells. They produce cytokines that fight pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and fungi. They send messages to activate the rest of the immune system.

B cells produce antibodies, called Immunoglobulin (Ig) of various types. These are specific proteins in our blood that respond to and counteract specific antigens (substances in pathogens that provoke an immune response).

Both T cells and B cells can become memory cells, which persist and can recognize when an antigen appears again and create a rapid, pathogen-specific immune response. For instance, having had the measles once confers immunity — If exposed again, you don’t get the measles again because your immune system recognizes and defends against it successfully. This is also how vaccines work.

We don’t have any specific immune cells for coronavirus yet, because it is novel — new.

The role of lifestyle

Your lifestyle is a major factor in supporting your immune system, making it healthier, possibly even conferring that symptomless version of COVID-19 that I’m sure we all wish we had (but knowing we have it and self-quarantining) and complete immunity afterwards.

But since it’s new, we’re still learning. A healthy immune system might also make the difference between a mild case and a serious case.

Hygiene, diet, sleep, fresh air, exercise, the parasympathetic nervous system, and supplements all play roles in keeping your immune system working well. I intend to explore these in the coming days.

Defend yourself with impeccable hygiene

Humans got way healthier when we started washing our hands and utilizing public sewage systems and drinking clean water. Before these practices became common, a lot of people suffered from and died miserably from cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, hepatitis, typhus, and other diseases spread from poor sanitation.

In the time of the coronavirus, the actions you can take to improve hygiene and reduce transmission of the virus include hand washing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, not touching your face with unwashed hands, wearing a mask, self-quarantining if exposed or ill (whether you test positive or not, given the shortage of tests), social distancing, sheltering in place, lockdowns.

This virus is very contagious! Please take care not to get exposed and not to spread it.

Current coronavirus stats from Austin

This is day 4 of sheltering in place. As of last night, we had 160 cases here and one death, a woman in her 70s with significant underlying health conditions. Blessings to her family. 💚🙏🏽

It’s still affecting more people in the 20-40 age group than older in this city.

One person at a homeless shelter has tested positive. The person is being isolated at a hotel.

I’m hearing reports of customers being abusive to employees at to-go restaurants and grocery store cashiers. I hope management protects their employees and bans these people for a few days so they will be more appreciative.

One Day It Stopped

Love in the time of the coronavirus

A Facebook friend posted this poem three days ago. Asenath Avinash is also a bodyworker. Her place of employment is currently closed, but if you love this as much as I do, you could ask for her when they reopen. http://www.workwellaustin.com/

It’s a good reflection of the shift in the narrative many of us are experiencing now.

And we looked around,
and we saw ourselves,
and it was so funny, so strange
to recognize, not the selves we had
built, but the ones that were buried
out in the long backyard of our lives,
forgotten, rusted, decomposing,
presumed lost, presumed even
never to have existed,
but there they were, just like the
canal-bottoms in Venice,
waiting for us, never having gone,
never having left,
and the miracle
was being able to see clearly
what was already there.

The miracle was how quickly
the pollution vanished,
and our eyes healed,
and we looked out on a world
that was fresh and different
and we saw that businesswomen
were really poets,
and that scientists were really prophets,
and that we were all vulnerable
and worth protecting,
and that toilet paper
was a kind of false security,
and that all our systems
needed a pause and
a fresh start
and that most of us
were really, very tired.

And we rested,
and our children wondered
what is happening right now?
and we couldn’t answer.
We weren’t supposed to
touch anything
or do any work
or go anywhere,
and it felt that we were
being shown something.

So we stayed at home, and
we mowed the tall grass
and listened to birds
and gave thanks
for the garbage collectors
and the grocery clerks,
and we organized our closets
and made pots of nutritious soup,
and the introverts
turned their cameras on
and taught us
how to make crafts,
and the musicians
picked up their instruments
and walked out
their front doors
and sang in the streets,
and nothing stopped them,
not cars, not fear, and no one
thought they were lunatics,
in fact, we thanked them,
we came outside to listen
standing far apart,
and feeling our interconnection.

We understood
that something so profound
was taking place,
and that if it went on
long enough, the fireflies
would come back
into our yards
and the ladybugs
and the milky way.
The earth herself
was waking up quietly,
or rather, we were,
and we saw that maybe
we didn’t need so much
after all, maybe
in this new world, we’d find
new careers
or they would find us
if we let them,
and we wanted to
stay put and be still and
feel it out
moment by moment.
We didn’t want to touch it
with our clumsy hands
or make plans or
disturb anything,
and so we just watched it
breathing softly
and steadily
like a precious newborn.

And we knew that,
at some point,
it would probably start up again,
which was confusing,
because, yes,
we did need money,
or so we had always believed.

-AAvinash, 3/24/20

I’m learning about the immune system

I have a dear friend who is my age (60+) who sn’t worried about getting sick from the coronavirus. She is a naturopath and a homeopath and is trained in a lot of other alternative health care modalities.

She has absolute faith that her immune system is so robust that she will not get sick.

I don’t quite have that much faith, even though I’m doing a lot to stay healthy, but it made me curious about immunity.

One question I have is this: how many people are positive for the virus but have no symptoms? Is this because their immune systems are so robust that the virus keeps trying to make headway, but it just can’t?

Or, possibly, could it be because they were exposed to very little of the virus, just enough to test positive, but not as much as people who get sick?

I believe the tests are binary: either you test positive or negative. (I wish everyone could be tested frequently.) The threshold for testing positive may be low if people are carrying it but symptomless.

I’m also assuming that people in close or frequent contact with those carrying or sick with the virus would have more virus in their body and be more likely to get sick. So, nursing homes. Prisons. Cruise ships. Mardi Gras. Spring breakers packing the beaches.

Packed churches at Easter?

I want to learn more about the immune system. We’re all interested now!

I’m going to investigate that and report what I find here in plain language.

Today is Day 3 of shelter in place in Austin, Texas, USA. As of last night, we have 137 known cases and no deaths.

Interestingly, the majority of cases are in people under 40. Only 19 cases are in people 60+.

Checking in

Love in the time of coronavirus

Today is Day 2 of sheltering in place in Austin, Texas. We had 119 known cases as of last night (but no deaths so far), and we know the virus is being transmitted in the community. No one I know has it so far, that I’ve heard, but friends and relatives of friends do. The number of cases will almost certainly go up over the next two or three weeks. The hope is that then the number of cases will start declining because of first, social distancing, and now, sheltering in place.

For me, this means staying home, which I have been since Saturday, and for the week before, my outings were rare. I’ve ordered groceries online and picked them up. I have a wonderful daughter who can pick items up and bring them to me. I have groceries enough to last for at least a week, and I’m keeping a list on the fridge door of the items I run out of that I can get next time I shop (which will probably be online to be delivered or picked up curbside, but I do have a mask and gloves in case I need to venture inside a store). My fridge, freezer, and nonperishable shelves are full.

I feel pretty good about my chances of getting through this without getting sick, or of being mildly ill if I do get it. I had a cold in October that was mild and lasted two days, and I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d previously had a cold. My immune system is robust.

However, it’s unpredictable. I’m in the 60+ population and therefore considered at risk. I do yoga and dance regularly (now doing these online), I eat healthy (organic unprocessed food mostly), and I meditate, which helps keep my nervous system more balanced rather than going into stress, which is hard on the immune system. I’m working on improving my sleep, getting more deep and REM sleep according to my Fitbit.

I take really high quality supplements from Premier Research Labs and Wellevate. (I have practitioner accounts with both that you can order through if you wish.) I have homeopathic remedies on hand too. I have health insurance should I need it, and I hope that if I do, the health care system isn’t overwhelmed and can tend to me. I’m very very fortunate and grateful.

Y’all, no one is immune. This virus targets humankind. It’s a great equalizer. It doesn’t respect fame, power, talent, or riches. Movie stars, professional athletes, famous artists, royalty, and politicians have come down with it. Because it’s novel, no one has immunity, except those who have completely recovered from it.

I’m hearing people say things like “What a year this past week has been” and “there are many days in a day.” We’re in a time of rapid change.

I believe when this pandemic is over, some aspects of our lives will not go back to the way they were. This will influence people living through it for the rest of our lives. We will not take our health for granted. We will better understand the relationship between lifestyle and health. We will require that our governments take actions that support our health over corporate profits.

Dead people don’t buy stuff.

I hope the biggest takeaway is that we humans are ALL connected through our humanity. We are all dependent on this planet for our lives. Maybe we will treat each other, and our home planet, much better.

Blessings for health, immunity, resiliency, resourcefulness, and connection. 💚🙏🏽

What to know when seeking manual therapy for jaw tension and pain

So far, since I began doing intraoral work for jaw issues in 2013, I’ve had several clients come in for TMJ relief sessions who had previously seen multiple practitioners who worked inside their mouths to try to relieve their TMJ symptoms.

They had seen chiropractors, chiropractic neurologists, Rolfers, dentists trained by the Las Vegas Institute (LVI), and/or other massage therapists.

These clients told me, “No one has ever touched me there,” after I worked on their lateral pterygoids.

These are small, hard to access muscles, and they are often key muscles to address to release jaw tension. It takes patience to get close to them and gently influence them to soften and lengthen.

You can see in the image below that there are two heads to the lateral pterygoid muscle. The upper head attaches to the disc (not labeled) between the temporal bone and mandible. Tension in this upper head pulling the disc anteriorly may create clicking or popping sounds on opening and/or closing the jaw.

It is important to address this early on to prevent irreparable damage. Even when there is damage to the disc or the ligament behind the joint (also not labeled), manual intraoral therapy can relieve tension.

The medial pterygoids are also major culprits.

anatomy of the jaw muscles

It’s not that the other jaw muscles don’t contribute. The external jaw muscles — the masseters and temporalises — also play a role in jaw tension and pain (they can have trigger points and taut bands within the muscle).

I’ve learned through trial and error that one 75-minute session provides relief (sometimes tremendous relief, as in pain-free and a spacious feeling around the TMJs), but it will probably not last. That’s often the issue with bodywork: the soft tissues tend to revert toward their previous tension until we change that strain pattern through timely repetition.

For longer-lasting relief, 5 sessions in 4-6 weeks with support for habit change and self-care homework can retrain the jaw muscles to lengthen and relax.

I don’t work with insurance, but even people living on a budget who are determined to get gentle, lasting TMJ relief have found a way to pay my reasonable rates. To that end, I offer various ways to pay for it (all up front, pay for a single session before deciding to do the 5-series then pay the balance at the second session, or pay session by session). I offer a $50 discount for 5 sessions within 4-6 weeks to encourage people to get the 5 series.

If jaw tension or pain resulting from jaw tension is your major complaint, and you’d like a sense of spaciousness in your TMJs (if you can even imagine how great that would feel), please seek a practitioner that works intraoral on the pterygoid muscles.

Click here to book a free 30-minute consultation. (My practice is in Austin, Texas.)

Things that distinguish my work:

  • I work as gently as possible. Sometimes people feel therapeutic pain, as in “this hurts a little but it’s exactly what I need to relieve this tension”.
  • I never make any sudden moves, and you can signal me to get my hand out of your mouth (and I watch you for signs of discomfort).
  • My sessions start with full body alignment and progress toward the intra-oral work, ending with deeply relaxing craniosacral therapy to help your system integrate the changes.
  • My referral partners include dentists, chiropractors, doctors, a Rolfer, acupuncturists, craniosacral therapists, an Ayurveda practitioner, a Somatic Experience practitioner, and many massage therapists.

I started a Facebook group, Word of Mouth: Resources for Jaw Pain/Dysfunction, for people who want to work on their jaw issues. You can ask questions and learn more there.

I hope this information helps you ask informed questions when choosing a practitioner to relieve your jaw tension and pain. 

Breathing and being breathed

I have been breathing since shortly after I was born, but I never really gave much thought to it until I started doing yoga a few decades ago, and there wasn’t much instruction. In fact, I was a mindless smoker for part of my younger, ignorant, addicted life.

Pranayama (breath work) is the 4th limb of yoga, right after asana (postures). A few of my yoga teachers have included pranayama techniques at the end of asana class. Awareness of where I feel my breath, feeling it down to my pubic bone, feeling it on the sides and back of my rib cage and in my lumbar area and between my shoulder blades, keeping my shoulders down, letting my diaphragm really expand downwards, moving the heart/lungs and liver/gallbladder/pancreas/stomach/spleen on either side of the diaphragm, increasing the movement of detoxifying lymph with each breath, being present with the energizing inhalation and the relaxing exhalation, noticing the pauses, noticing what happens in my chakras and in my whole being…

Some of the yogic breathing techniques that have stuck with me through the years are kapalabhati (breath of fire), a rapid bellows breathing that floods the body with cleansing, nourishing oxygen as well as increases motivation — and also prevents discomfort from my hiatal hernia, and nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing), calming and believed to balance the hemispheres of the brain.

Were you aware that throughout the day, one of your nostrils is more open than the other, and that they periodically switch sides?

Source: https://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2015/02/krishnamacharyas-own-asana-and.html

I practice these two techniques every day along with a more modern technique, 4-7-8 breathing, that was taught to Dr. Andrew Weil by his mentor, Dr. Robert Fulford, an American cranial osteopath/shaman (Wikipedia describes him as a pioneer in alternative and energetic medicine) who obviously had studied pranayam.

Dr. Weil recommends doing no more than four rounds of 4-7-8 breathing daily for a couple of months to train the nervous system to quickly move into a relaxed state. I notice that the main times I need to use it are when I’m driving and I narrowly avoid hitting something or being hit.

Another practice that’s not a technique (at least that I’ve ever heard of) is something that occurs in meditation. I call it “being breathed”. It occurs after settling the body and calming the mind, paradoxically by using the breath to relax by lengthening exhalations.

As relaxation/parasympathetic dominance increases, a gradual detachment from controlling the breath allows it to shift to operate on its own, automatically — as it does naturally when we’re not paying attention.

When you notice that your breath has become automatic — you aren’t doing anything to it or with it — you’re simply allowing it to do its thing — breathing becomes completely passive, occurring on its own, and observing it doesn’t change it — that’s what I call being breathed.

There’s a kind of awesomeness to this experience. I wonder if this is what Shri Krishnamacharya, founder of modern yoga, may have been referring to when he said pranayama could result in samadhi.

Am I experiencing samadhi? I don’t know. There’s a sense of oneness and a subtle sense of bliss that permeates. Namaste, my friends.

So that’s my current practice, doing three techniques daily that take 5 minutes, plus meditating (10 minutes with Sam Harris’ Waking Up app, and usually a few more in silence, breathing equally through nose and mouth with my tongue on my palate behind my upper teeth, a Kum Nye technique).

My advanced integrative bodywork practice

Featured

I make my living doing advanced integrative bodywork in Austin, Texas. I use four main techniques: craniosacral therapy, biodynamics, Zero Balancing, and orthopedic massage. As standalone treatments or integrated as needed, depending on my clients’ needs and preferences, these techniques can accomplish the following:

  • reduce stress and deepen relaxation
  • release muscle tension
  • reduce pain
  • improve the flow of fluids
  • align your structure and ease your movement
  • free the flow of energy
  • facilitate healing from injuries
  • harmonize your body’s systems
  • strengthen your body’s innate healing abilities
  • deepen your resilience
  • help you feel expanded and confident

Click here to view my business website.

TMJ Relief

Since 2013, I’ve been developing my skills and expertise in offering relief from jaw tension, pain, and dysfunction. I’ve studied with Ryan Hallford, craniosacral therapist and teacher from Southlake, TX, completed multiple craniosacral courses from the Upledger Institute, and studied with John W. Corry of London, Ontario, long-time massage therapist and teacher specializing in jaw and vocal issues.

My intent when working on jaw issues is to create as little discomfort as possible. This means that any pain experienced should only be productive “hurts-so-good” pain. I check in frequently, and my sessions end with deep relaxation. I can also help you start changing the habits that contribute to jaw discomfort.

I offer several ways to be of service to people with jaw issues:

  • You can join my Facebook group, called Word of Mouth: Resources for Relieving Jaw Pain/Dysfunction, which offers educational units as well as connection with others working on their jaw issues.
  • You may schedule a free 30-minute consultation so I can learn about your jaw issues, do an evaluation, and discover if we’re a good match for successful treatment.
  • You may alternatively schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to answer your questions.
  • You may schedule a 75-minute TMJ Relief session, which can be right after the in-office consultation if that time slot is available on my online scheduling program.
  • You may decide to join my TMJ Relief Program, designed to create long-lasting relief by offering 5 sessions in 4-5 weeks, along with education, exercises, supplement recommendations, links to videos, and more. Many patients try one session and then decide to do the program.

You need to be in Austin to receive a session, unless you arrange my travel elsewhere — please call to discuss if interested. The Facebook group is open to people anywhere who are seeking to address their jaw issues. The educational units (click Units on left panel to view) available for the group include teaching relaxed resting mouth position, jaw exercises, self-massage, relaxation techniques, terminology, sleep positioning, and more.

If you’re interested in joining the group, click this link, answer the three questions, and you’re in!

Treating TMJ issues: a series of posts

I’ve been writing about TMJ pain and dysfunction on my Facebook business page and on my Austin, Texas, USA, private-practice website’s blog. Now I’m sharing an index of these posts here on my “big blog”.

If you have TMJ disorder and want to read any of those posts, here are the links.

I view TMJ issues as not just biomechanics, although it plays a role. This issue has social, emotional, historical, biological, cognitive, and spiritual aspects. I am very aware that some people, especially in the mainstream medical and dental fields, may believe it’s unnecessary or even laughable to provide information on so-called “woo-woo” or “fluffy” topics like essential oils, yoga, and the throat chakra for people who are suffering from jaw pain and dysfunction.

So let me share how I came to write this series of posts. Instead of just going to experts (and I have done that), I also asked women who suffer from this problem what helps, and they told me. And I believe them!

Since nine times more women than men experience severe, chronic TMJ issues, this is super valuable information to share.

I want the world to know that TMJ treatment is available beyond night guards, pain meds, and surgery, and there are so many options for self-care: massage, exercises, training yourself in new habits, reducing stress, improving posture, acupressure, nutrition, stretching, journaling, meditating, and more. I’m working on designing programs to evaluate and treat specific TMJ-related issues. More later!

If you bump into this limited and limiting attitude, please share this post, and please share in the comments your experiences and any other resources you have found helpful.

FB posts on TMJ disorder and remedies

I am writing 30 posts in 30 days on my Facebook business page on TMJ disorder (jaw pain and dysfunction). Please like and follow my page if you are interested in this topic, either as someone who suffers from it (or cares about someone who does) or provides treatment (or wants to learn about treatment, ahem, dentists and hygienists).

I’ve been offering TMJ Relief sessions since 2013. I was lucky to have learned how to do intra-oral work from Ryan Hallford of Southlake, Texas (near Fort Worth). Ryan is a craniosacral therapist who also teaches internationally, and he is the creator of The Craniosacral Podcast.

I’ve also studied craniosacral techniques with the Upledger Institute, including how to work with the hard palate.

None of my TMJ sessions would be complete without some massage techniques.

I am so attracted to doing TMJ work because it so often makes a dramatic difference. One session will help your jaw move with more ease and feel more spacious. I recommend three sessions (a week to 10 days apart if possible) for lasting results.

I often never hear from people again after they’ve received three sessions. Others come back for a session only after experiencing prolonged dental work or stress. If you are interested in booking a session with me, here’s my website with online booking.

I am always interested in learning more about what works, and I look forward to researching and connecting in this area.

 

 

Accept what comes from silence…

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

~ Wendell Berry

IMG_3467

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 7, 2018, I will be Investigating the Power of Silence with attendees at the annual Free Day of NLP, held at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. My presentation is at 1 pm.

To RSVP, please click here, which will help with planning for the free breakfast and lunch and free parking (you need to register your license plate number — otherwise it’s $3).