Are there mechanisms to increase immunity and to improve the functioning of the heart and the lungs? Psychoneuroimmunology and mind body medicine are the best bets to answer this burning topic.

It is time to wake up to the reality that swine flu is here to stay for good. The evolutionary process has subjected man to many challenges and the fittest have survived. The present challenge is nothing different and will not be the last, but it poses an interesting question as to how we can make ourselves physiologically better to face these challenges. Drugs and vaccines developed in the laboratory may not be the answer as the virus can develop resistance or can mutate.

It is time to move away from conventional scientific views and accept certain out of the box ideas which could be effective. The burden of defining what the best medical practice is has rested on western scientists. There is a lot that is still unknown in this universe and the same applies to human physiology.

A(H1N1)virus appears to be on every one’s lips and mind and the electronic media has been successful in spreading not only awareness but also panic and fear. The latter two were undesirable. Panic and fear produce many chemical reactions in the body and weaken not only the immune mechanisms but also affect the cardiovascular and respiratory system adversely making one more vulnerable to the virus. The host resistance plays an important role in the fight between the bugs and the body. The healthy suffer only a minor form of the disease, but the vulnerable especially the diabetics, the asthmatics, the immune compromised persons and the very old and the very young have to live in constant fear.

Are there mechanisms to increase immunity and to improve the functioning of the heart and the lungs? Psychoneuroimmunology and mind body medicine are the best bets to answer this burning topic. That the mind influences the body and its functioning is an accepted fact. Psychoneuro somatic integration helps the body to function in the best possible manner to combat diseases and this is best achieved through the practice of yoga.

The psyche, the nervous system and all the body organs are hardwired by nerves and regulated by chemicals. The emotional brain lies between the newly developed brain, the neocortex, which is highly developed in the humans and the primitive brain that subserves elementary functions like breathing. The human brain is like three computers wired together. The hypothalamus and the amygdala are the important components of the emotional brain and control the sympathetic nervous system and regulate the secretion of cortisol and adrenalin. Unregulated release of these chemicals can wreak havoc in the body as happens in stress. Cortisol is an immunosuppressant and adrenalin acts on the heart and lungs, making them more vulnerable to attack.

Fear is an emotion that is very effective in the release of these chemicals! Subjecting the emotional brain to the control of the neocortical brain can help regulate these dangerous chemicals. The immune system is of primary importance and can be effectively stimulated by specialised breathing techniques that improve both alveolar ventilation and blood oxygenation making the body more efficient in combating the virus.. The killer cells of the thymus, a component of the immune system, that carry out surveillance in the human body against cancer, is also effective against viruses. The thymus is amenable to stimulation only by endogenous melatonin which can be increased by meditation.

(The writer is a senior consultant neurosurgeon in Chennai)

More In: Open Page | Opinion