Whether you had a cancer diagnosis or other health scare– Build immunity after cancer and you hear it all the time, “you have to build up your immunity”. What does that even mean? How does a previous chemotherapy and radiation breast cancer survivor begin to build immunity? Does building up your immunity really prevent cancer and reoccurrence?
Your immune system is the ultimate defender
It has the ability to recognize all the cells that make up our bodies and will do everything it can to get rid of anything that is unrecognizable and unfamiliar. Potentially, the vacuum cleaner of cells. It destroys bacteria and viruses and parasites. As awesome as this sounds, it can also cause problems. Just like a vacuum cleaner sucking up that little piece of Lego or earring. It may overreact to harmless pollen, grains, and grasses for example. In some cases, the immune system may decide to turn against the body’s cells and overreact, thus creating autoimmune diseases.
The best thing that cancer patients or previous cancer patients can do encourages the immune system to protect the body’s cells by fixing the system as a whole. The immunity system is a complex system that is dependent on many parts and will respond differently to those parts.
To prevent disease or heal after cancer, it is important to focus on a strong immune system- Rebuilding is CRUCIAL!
Ideally, you would want to strengthen the system before it’s too late- Here are the MUST DO’s to get your body to protect you once again.
1.) Get to know your Lymphatic System
I was blown away when I learned about a very intricate network of vessels that carry clear fluid called- lymph. It will flow throughout the body making a one-way journey to the subclavian veins, located in the back of the neck. Interestingly enough, this system that helps the immune system with removing and destroying toxins, wastes, dead blood cells, pathogens and cancer cells, cannot move on its own. It doesn’t have a pump. Instead, it pumps by the motion of our joints and muscles.
It moves upward and passes through the lymph nodes and they filter out wastes, pathogen and other toxic cells, like cancer!
For those who have endured cancer treatments and had to place a port in their chest, like I did- the catheter is inserted into the subclavian vein. The same vein that moves the lymphatic system. No wonder our bodies are so depleted after chemotherapy- we are hit by toxins and our bodies are in shock.
The lymphatic system and the immune system are best of friends. They depend on each other to protect the body’s cells. To help move the lymph fluid and strengthen your immune system, an unbelievable exercise that I would suggest is very light massage upwards towards your heart. The movement must be so light that it barely moves the skin. If it’s too rough, similar to a regular massage, the lymphatic system isn’t being activated. Also, dry brushing can work with a soft natural brush
2.) Sweat it OUT, or just move ABOUT!
Start off simple. Remember the goal is to get the lymph moving through your body. Simply moving your joints, muscles and feeling the blood begin to flow will remind your body of what it is supposed to do. Like I’ve mentioned in a previous post on my personal cancer blog, www.happilyeverafter.com that exercise releases happy little endorphins that make big mood changes.
Research clearly shows that a little bit of exercise, about 30-40 minutes, can prevent many western diseases, including cancer. Another connection to the lymphatic system is that as you exercise- the lymph moves, clearing out the toxins and the visceral fat from the cells. Some of my favorites body movements are yoga, qi gong, pilates and walking.
3.) Plant Based Eating
I’m not saying that you must go full RAW VEGAN, I’m not saying you shouldn’t either. Eating less meat, cheese, milk, pretty much anything that is animal based as well as packaged foods is a good idea to build immunity after cancer. Animals with additional hormones and pesticides will continue to tax your body and overload your liver, thus causing more stress on your system. Temporarily, eliminating these foods will help your body to create a stronger immune system to combat invaders that eventually do more harm.
Here are a few other notable mentions:
Juicing: Try it for a week and take note of the changes happening in your skin, mood, sleep, energy level, etc.
Raw foods: Eating raw foods as a primary diet I find rather challenging, especially in the cold seasons and with young children. Instead of dramatically changing your diet, eat more raw foods- Maybe 70/30 ratio.
Water: You are probably not drinking enough water- drink MORE! Lug around a cute water bottle and start making it a habit to drink whenever you notice it.
Drink Caffeine-Free Herbal Teas: Especially during the cold/flu season. Keep your body as hydrated and happy as possible by soothing your overworked digestive system and finding time to enjoy a comforting cup of tea.
4.) Sleep to Heal
Your body produces a hormone called melatonin that is secreted from the pineal gland in your brain. Melatonin regulates your sleep cycle and helps reduce inflammation. It will also regulate estrogen and growth hormones. Try to be in bed before 10:00. Sleep in a darken room and stay off your phone an hour before bed. This has been a challenge for me- I do like my pre-bed time Instagram updates. However, it is not healthy. Instead, try reading a book, writing in a journal, and my favorite: listen to a guided imagery cd.
As you are all aware, the journey to recovery and healing doesn’t happen overnight
Cancer is a disease that took place over time and will continue to be a reason to choice a healthier lifestyle. Focusing on your immunity is an excellent way to start. For more insights on my journey, check out www.happilyeveraftercancer.com
Much love on your journey,
Breast Cancer Survivor Stage 2, age 34