We all know how hectic the holiday season can get.
Between family gatherings, holiday parties, cooking traditional feasts, buying gifts and sending out cards, it’s no wonder we reach a point where we are overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed. Odds are good that our patients are also feeling much the same way. Unfortunately, all of that stress, combined with lack of rest and overindulgence in food and drink that may not be the most nutritious, can often compromise our immune system, making us more susceptible to colds or the flu during the holidays.
We all know that standard public health recommendations will stop the spread of germs, but what are the exact mechanisms that allow chiropractic adjustments to also protect us against getting sick during the holidays? Read further for a quick refresher on the best public-health practices for your patients to protect themselves, as well as some interesting research on just how chiropractic adjustments boost the immune system.
Standard recommendations to boost immunity
Most of the usual recommendations to keep the immune system in top shape are really just common sense: Get enough sleep; exercise daily (even if it is just a moderate amount); don’t overindulge in food that is high in fat, sodium, or sugar; and moderate any alcohol intake.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has other recommendations that are specific to reducing the chances of catching or transmitting the common cold or flu: Wash hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap; cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing; and wiping down common areas with disinfectant agents.1
As you learned in chiropractic college, there is a link between alignment of the vertebrae and the body’s ability to function properly, including the immune system. If the vertebrae are misaligned, they will impinge on the ability of the nerves branching out from the spinal column to properly communicate with the brain. If the brain is not receiving or sending correct signals regarding the body’s function, it can lead to an increased risk of injury or illness.
An early literature analysis in the Chiropractic Journal of Australia, took this concept one step further to suggest that the nervous system modulates the immune response, so any interference with that system can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system.2 The authors compared results from a number of articles that all studied the effect of chiropractic manipulation on immune response. As a whole, the literature on this topic seemed to suggest that chiropractic manipulation had a positive effect on T- and B-lymphocyte, NK-cell, plasma beta-endorphin and antibody levels, and phagocytic activity, all of which are known to play roles in the body’s immune response function.2
A more recent article, from the journal Chiropractic & Osteopathy, went further and reported on the results from a study done to measure levels of immunoglobulin G and immunoglobulin M before and after spinal manipulation.3 As both of these markers are thought to play a role in immune response, higher levels could indicate a connection between a spinal adjustment and a positive effect on the body’s immune response.
A group of 74 study subjects were randomized to receive spinal manipulation with cavitation, spinal manipulation without cavitation, or a control group that only provided blood samples. The other two groups provided blood samples provided blood samples before spinal manipulation, and then again at 20 minutes and two hours afterward.3 At the 20-minute point, both spinal manipulation groups showed a significant increase in immunoglobulin G. By two hours, both groups also showed a significant increase in immunoglobulin M.3 The researchers concluded that this appears to show that spinal manipulation can boost the body’s immune response.
Perhaps the best advice that you can give your patients at this hectic time of year is for them to take some time out for themselves. Take things in moderation, try and get in some self-care, and don’t forget about regular chiropractic adjustments to keep the immune system strong and healthy to get all the way through to the New Year.
- CDC says “Take 3” actions to fight the flu. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Accessed Nov. 22, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm
- Allen JM. The effects of chiropractic on the immune system: A review of the literature. Chiropractic Journal of Australia. 1993;23(4):132-135.
- Teodorczyk-Injeyan JA, McGregor M, Ruegg R, Injeyan HS. Interleukin 2-regulated in vitro antibody production following a single spinal manipulative treatment in normal subjects. Chiropractic & Osteopathy. 2010;18:26.