Three Simple Tools to Support the Immune System

The immune system is comprised of many interconnected biological structures and processes that help to protect the body against infection. Below are three simple factors to incorporate into your lifestyle to help improve the functioning of your immune system.

1. Hydrate

Drinking enough clean water to fulfill your minimum daily requirements is imperative for proper immune system functioning. The daily requirement is equal to half your bodyweight in ounces. For example, someone who weighs 160lbs would need to drink 80 ounces of water, or 10 cups. It is important to not guzzle the water down in one sitting, but to frequently sip throughout the day well before bedtime.

Examples of the Benefits of Hydration:

  • Helps to keep our mouth, nose, eyes and sinuses moist. The protection of these areas is essential for oral and respiratory health.
    • The mouth and saliva are the first step of the digestive process.
    • As part of the upper respiratory system, the nose and sinus filter and moisten air as it travels down the airway.
    • Symptoms of allergies and asthma can worsen with dehydration.
  • Lubricates the joints: Joint cartilage and disks between the vertebrae are made up of approximately 80% water and help with shock absorption, which can prevent pain.
  • Removes waste from the body through sweat, urine and feces.
  • Blood is made up of more than 90% water and carries oxygen – which is picked up in the lungs – to the rest of the body. If enough water is not present, the blood can thicken and result in the increase of blood pressure.
  • Protects the brain and spinal cord: Dehydration in these areas can affect both their structure and the functioning, resulting in issues with thinking and reasoning.

2. Sleep

Getting adequate sleep promotes healing through hormonal and immune responses, and is vital for proper immune system functioning. Ask any of our experts about alignment, pillows, and manual and alternative treatments to help improve your sleep.

Tips for Improving Your Sleep

  • Make small changes where you can.
  • Too much blue/junk light can disrupt melatonin production and circadian rhythm.
    • If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), try to get 30 minutes outside or with a blue-light lamp early in the morning to tell your body to wake up.
    • Dim the lights at night, and shut off screens, such as phones, computers and TVs 1-2 hours before bedtime.
    • Blue-light blocking glasses help to facilitate an ideal environment for melatonin production.
  • Make sure your room is DARK, even an alarm clock light can affect your sleep quality.
  • If you snore, ask your doctor about getting tested for sleep apnea. Apnea is a temporary cessation of breathing and it can occur during sleep.
    • Alcohol consumption can worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.
      • The muscular relaxation that occurs with alcohol consumption also affects the muscles of the throat, thus increasing the risk of snoring and apnea.
      • While alcohol consumption may help you to fall asleep, it blocks restorative and rejuvenating REM sleep.
      • It is a diuretic so instead of sleeping, you may be up urinating.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach as it can contribute to the pain in your lower back, your neck and your jaw.


3. Manage Stress

Excessive and chronic stress can persuade the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) to stay on like a light switch. This stress response (fight or flight response), can suppress the immune system.

Tips to Manage Stress

  • Controlled breathing: You can use your breathing to reduce SNS activation and to balance the autonomic system, lower cortisol, blood pressure, and improve blood and lymph flow.
    • Controlled rhythmic breathing helps to increase the prevalence of Natural Killer cells (cells part of the immune system that help to fight infection).
    • Take time out in your day to stop and just breathe.
  • Use a journal to get busy thoughts and triggers out onto paper.
  • Spend some time focusing on gratitude and love for the people, animals, nature, and experiences you come across daily.
  • Something as simple as going for a walk in a forest aka forest bathing, can be incorporated.
    • Interacting with nature has shown to increase the production of Natural Killer cells, reduce blood pressure and pulse, have mood boosting effects, and reduce inflammation through terpenes in the air.
    • We are constantly bombarded by invasive electromotive forces (EMF) from wireless devices, cell phone towers, Wi-Fi, cars and more. You can reset your own natural electromagnetic field by physically touching the earth and nature.
    • Take a break from it all. If you cannot get out of the city, head to one of Toronto’s forest saturated parks or find a quite spot on the shores of Lake Ontario while maintaining social distance.
  • Massage therapy not only feels amazing for your muscles and fascia, but has shown to increase the number of lymphocytes and to lower cytokines which play a role in inflammation after only 45 minutes. It also reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and vasopressin which plays a role in aggressive behaviour. Incorporate a regular monthly massage as maintenance for your muscles, fascia, mind and immune system.
  • Exercise, Yoga, Pilates, ELDOATM and meditation are all excellent outlets, just ask our expert team!
  • Aim to cultivate a lifestyle that incorporates stress management naturally.

Written by: Ashly Metcalf, Registered Massage Therapist at Ace Sports Clinic

3 Pillars of a healthy and balanced body and how Massage Therapy can help?

Our body is a very complex and balanced bio mechanism.  So many systems are interconnected with each other, working together to create a unique and highly adaptable structure.  But in our competitive world, days of high stress and fatigue can really put our body and these interconnected systems to the test, potentially causing overload to the point of break down.  For example, a corporate office job with strict deadlines and an insurmountable workload can cause a person to skip meals (causing improper digestion), stay overtime (causing mental fatigue) and keep incorrect posture for prolonged periods of time (causing pain in multiple areas of the body due to overuse or underuse of certain muscle groups).

Therefore, to keep our bodies from malfunctioning and to avoid unwanted aches and pains we need to build and balance the 3 basic Pillars of good health.  The Pillars are good nutrition (healthy diet), proper rest (Sleep ~ 8 hours / night) and exercise (³ 150 minutes of moderate-intense exercise / week).

Our skillful, Registered massage therapists can positively influence the body to help improve each of these categories.

  1. How can Massage Therapy help to improve digestion?

Massage therapy can help regulate and improve digestion through different ways:

  • Massage can influence the body’s nervous system to switch from SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) to PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System). SNS is responsible for the “Fight & Flight” mechanism.  When activated it puts our body on guard to fight off external or internal stimuli, which make our senses acute and body tense.  On the contrary, PNS is responsible for the “Rest & Digest” mechanism.  When our body is in this state, it relaxes, starts healing processes and digestion can function optimally.
  • The digestive system can also be influenced directly through massage & manual work on abdominal wall muscles, fascia (connective tissue), and hip flexors. These structures can commonly become tight and compress or pull on our intestines, which in turn can slow down normal digestive processes.  Scar tissues from abdominal surgeries or traumas can also be a reason of such tightness which massage can also help.
  1. How can Massage Therapy help to improve sleep?

Sleep is important for the optimal function of every system in our body.  Loss of sleep is often connected with the amount of stress in our life and how we handle it.  Increased levels of Cortisol hormone are noticed with people who are constantly under stress and can’t get enough sleep.

Studies show that massage can decrease the amount of cortisol in our system by 31% and increase the release of dopamine by 31% and serotonin by 28% (“The happiness hormones”). Therefore, by influencing the biochemistry of the body, Massage Therapy can help to reduce daily stress which can improve our sleep quality.

  1. How can Massage Therapy help with exercise & optimal physical activity?

Massage Therapy is most beneficial for the musculoskeletal system of our body and can help people with various fitness and wellbeing goals.

  • For athletes and people with active lifestyles, massage therapy can be beneficial to warm up muscles and fire up the nervous system before an event or competition. Massage can also help during the cooldown period, when toxins stored in muscles and connective tissues need to be flushed, muscles stretched and our nervous system calmed down to help recovery.
  • During training periods, massage can help keep muscular tone under control to prevent strain type injuries and also maintain muscle balance and prevent abnormal compensations from previous injuries.

So, think of Massage Therapy as an essential support tool to build and balance your 3 Pillars of good health.  We generally find that people who proactively invest time in taking care of their body through regular massage have less injuries and live healthier lives.

Massage Therapy at Ace Sports Clinic

Massage therapy is the perfect complement to Osteopathy, Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, Personal Training and Pilates. It is also a superb treatment on its own or as part of a regular maintenance program to promote optimal tissue health. Taking time away from your computer, phone and other life stressors and simply focusing on your breath, listening to your body’s subtle messages of vitality, joy and relaxation help restore your mind and body. The ancient Chinese, Egyptian, Indian, Greek and Roman civilizations all reference the use of massage techniques as playing an important role in the healing process. With good reason, as there are countless proven and perceived benefits of massage such as improved sleep, reduced muscle tension, improved joint mobility, improved posture, better lymphatic drainage, decreased stress hormones, reduced inflammation and pain along with improved immune function.

3 Wellness Enhancing Benefits of Massage Therapy

1. Improved athletic and fitness recovery

The ancient Greek athletes used massage pre-& post exercise, a theory still practiced today. A decrease in swelling and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) by 30% was found in a 2005 study on The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness, swelling and recovery of muscle function. “This suggests that a massage performed post exercise but before DOMS develops can alleviate soreness, no matter how the massage is performed”. Interestingly, the upper arm circumference was measured pre and post massage and the treated arm had a significantly smaller increase in circumference, demonstrating a prevention of swelling

2. Improved immune function

In a 2010 preliminary study by Rapaport et al, a 45-minute massage therapy vs light touch therapy group found “the data do support the notion that a single session of Swedish Massage therapy may have fairly profound acute effects on the immune system” compared to baseline results and a light touch control group. There was a decrease in cytokines, interleukins, cortisol and vasopressin, and an increase in the number of lymphocytes (white blood cells).

3. Shift towards a more Parasympathetic (Relaxation) state

Are you stressed?
Do you live in sympathetic overdrive?
Our autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic nervous system (“Fight or Flight”) and parasympathetic nervous system (“relax and digest”).
A 2009 study by Diego and Field, from The International Journal of Neuroscience reported the 1st half hour of moderate pressure massage calms the sympathetic nervous system and shifts to a more parasympathetic state vs the light pressure group which provoked a shift towards a sympathetic response.

So, consider a regular maintenance massage as less of a luxury, and more of a necessity for your physical and mental well-being.

Written by Ashly Metcalf, Registered Massage Therapist & Osteopathy candidate

1. Zainuddin Z, Newton M, Sacco P, Nosaka K. Effects of Massage on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, Swelling, and Recovery of Muscle Function. Journal of Athletic Training. 2005;40(3):174-180.
2. Rapaport MH, Schettler P, Bresee C. A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2010;16(10):1079-1088.
3. Miguel A. Diego & Tiffany Field (2009) Moderate Pressure Massage Elicits a Parasympathetic Nervous System Response, International Journal of Neuroscience, 119:5, 630-638