Health and wellness is traditionally viewed as the absence of disease while feeling vital, energetic, happy, and content. However, the complete absence of all signs of illness is not always an adequate measure of a stronger immune system or complete vitality. In fact, it is good for a body to get sick.
Getting sick for good health is an odd concept and one that many people neither hear often nor really understand. Health is purportedly deemed to be the non-sick, strongest bodies, unaffected by viruses and bacteria; those that “haven’t had the flu in 20 years.”
But, if we view the body as an organism that needs to remain responsive to the surrounding external environment, then we can begin to view illness as a healthy response, not a weakness.
The body as an organism needs to remain adaptable, stimulated, and fluid. When the body is inundated by viruses and bacteria, such as cold and flu bugs, it is normal for it to mount an appropriate response to these elements by producing cold and flu-like symptoms. A strong body will react with increased immune response when it senses exposure to pathogens. This response can be sinus congestion, cough, lethargy, or achiness. These are signs that our body is strong enough and responsive enough to understand how to deal with pathogenic body invaders.
As a responsive organism, it is actually a sign of health for the body to get sick from time to time to show that it knows how to work when called to action. A person with a healthy immune system will get a cold or flu every 1-2 years. The individual that is sick several times a year, constantly lacks vitality, and has ongoing chronic health issues, is also a person showing signs of a depleted immune system. A strong immune system and great health strikes a balance between being adequately able to adapt to the environment and mount responses as appropriate, and the inability to be entirely well for long periods of time.
An individual who rarely gets sick, or has not had a cold or flu in years, may actually be prone, theoretically, to deeper or more significant illnesses. It can be that this person actually has an unresponsive immune system that does not fight appropriately when exposed to heavy pathogens. If a person has not had an adequate cold or flu in years, it may be time to reassess health, adrenal function, thyroid function, nutritional status, and digestive health. These specific systems all play significant roles in stimulating and regulating the immune system. If the immune system is not responsive, then assessing the health and wellness of these areas of the body is a first step.
Allowing and welcoming a yearly flu can ensure a strong immune system for the rest of the year. However, if you are rarely ill, a functional health assessment holistically addressing the entire body is advisable.
Dr. Sinsheimer is a Naturopathic Doctor with Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568-2598.