October 15, 2021, Publisher: Breath Hub
A strong immune system is critical for our health and wellbeing. The immune system works 24/7 to protect us from external threats and keep us healthy. Our line of defence against viruses, bacteria and other pathogens depends on the strength of our immune system.
And to have a robust immune system, we need to be mindful of various routines – from nutrition and sleep schedule to physical activities and work/life balance. But did you know you can benefit from regular breathwork exercises to strengthen your line of defence?
Here are the 4 immunity-boosting effects of breathwork:
A healthy lymphatic system is one of the main elements of a strong immune system. Just like the circulatory system, the lymphatic system also wraps around our body like a web and serves as a communication channel for the immune system. Lymph nodes are the first line of defence against illnesses. When an area gets infected, lymph nodes send a message to the thymus – the ‘brain’ of our immune system. Thanks to this message, antibody cells are deployed to fight the illness.
Muscle movement and respiration keep the lymphatic system going. So, to maintain healthy lymphatic drainage, we need to regularly move our body and breathe well. Breathing for the lymphatic system is what heartbeats are for the circulatory system. Deep diaphragmatic breathing creates a pressure difference in the abdominal cavity, and that, in turn, helps with the lymph flow by bringing the lymphatic fluid in from distant parts of the body. In the end, better breathing habits translate into a healthier lymphatic system and stronger immunity.
A study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) shows that breath retention substantially contributes to the production of white blood cells. The increase of white blood cells (neutrophil granulocytes), which rapidly activate the defence response when the body is fighting off infection and viruses, significantly helps the functioning of the immune system.
According to a 2005 study by oncologists, regular and rhythmic breathing increases the immune cells that can fight cancer. The study shows how 3-6 months of regular rhythmic breathing practices increase these ‘natural killers’ (NK cells) that play a critical role in the immune system.
Did you know the immune system’s ability to fight diseases is directly linked to how well and how long we sleep? During sleep, the immune system releases cytokines that allow the cells to communicate with one another and warn the body against infections. That’s why sleep disorders and insomnia weaken our immune system by considerably affecting our ability to fight viruses and infections.
With breathwork, it’s possible to fall asleep easily and have better sleep quality. According to a 2019 study on sleep, slow breathing techniques prove to be more effective than drug treatment. Practising slow breathing regularly during the day and before we sleep will provide us with the much-needed element to improve our immune system.
Seen as the cause of many illnesses and pains, stress also weakens the immune system. It decreases white blood cells (lymphocytes) that help the body fight infections. That’s why our immune system becomes suppressed when our stress levels are constantly high. The decrease in lymphocyte levels makes us more vulnerable to diseases.
Controlling our breath is the fastest and most effective way of keeping the sympathetic nervous system activity – responsible for the stress response – under control. Slow breathing techniques can lower the levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone, and help the body fight autoimmune diseases by making the parasympathetic nervous system more dominant.
You can also strengthen your immune system and get your body ready to fight off diseases with breathwork. Download Breath Hub today to kickstart your breath journey and invest in your health.