Your body has an incredible capacity to heal itself. If you are injured or become ill your body should quickly and efficiently deal with the problem and restore itself to health. Why then, if our bodies are so well designed, are 20.4% of American adults dealing with chronic pain and more than 40% of Americans affected by chronic diseases?
The answer is in part due to the limits of our current knowledge. We know and understand some of the ways our bodies heal themselves quite well, scientists are just beginning to discover and understand others, and there are probably still more healing mechanisms we have yet to imagine. For many decades, scientific research and medical treatments have focused on treating the symptoms, usually with medications or surgery. This approach is wonderful when you need antibiotics for a life-threatening infection or need to set a broken bone but in other situations, it completely fails.
A healthy body fights infection, heals wounds, kills cancer cells, repairs damage, and fights the aging process. However, maintaining and restoring health so your body can effectively utilize the natural healing processes requires a bit more than visiting the doctor after something goes wrong.
How does your body heal itself?
Healing happens in a variety of ways. Here is a very basic overview of just a few of them.
Cells can heal themselves when they become unhealthy and replicate to replace destroyed or damaged cells. If you break a bone, your body immediately begins producing new cells to heal the damage. When your skin is cut, platelets in your blood clot to stop the bleeding, white blood cells remove the dead, injured cells and new healthy cells repair the damaged tissue. Daily wear and tear are also promptly dealt with. In fact, our bodies are in a constant state of removing damage and producing new, healthy tissue.
Our immune system is also meant to deal with intruders such as viruses, bacteria, and toxins. Mucus traps foreign materials, acids in various organs kills organisms, and a type of white blood cell called phagocytes engulf and destroy invaders. Natural killer cells recognize when one of our own cells have been invaded by a virus and destroy the infected cell. Inflammation, while it seems like it should be a problem, is actually your body’s reaction to an injury or infection, allowing your immune system to focus on restoring the injured or infected area to health. A fever is your body raising its temperature to levels that will kill viruses and bacteria. The elevation in temperature also triggers certain cellular mechanisms which help your body fight the infection.
Bodies also heal and regenerate themselves through stem cells. As a fetus is being formed in the womb, embryonic stem cells divide and differentiate into all the necessary cell types to mature into a fully developed human. Once the body is formed, the embryonic stem cells disappear and their descendants, adult stem cells, are left behind. Your adult stem cells divide, producing an identical daughter stem cell and a healthy, mature cell of a specific type. Unlike embryonic stem cells, each type of adult stem cell only has the ability to become certain types of tissue. For example, Mesenchymal Stem Cells have the ability to regenerate bone cells, fat cells, muscle cells, and cartilage cells, Neural Stem Cells help to regenerate nerve tissue in the brain and spinal cord, and Epithelial Stem Cells regenerate skin. Adult stem cells can reproduce for a long time but are not immortal and will eventually stop reproducing as efficiently as they did when you were young.
Why do our bodies fail to heal themselves?
Many factors inhibit a body’s natural self-healing functions. Some of these are obvious, and others we are still learning about. We do know that your body needs adequate high-quality sleep, healthy foods, and exercise. Various types of stress and toxins cause harm. Even your mindset can impact your health.
Getting the correct amount of high-quality sleep is crucial. A large portion of repair and regeneration is done while you are sleeping. Not getting enough sleep not only decreases the amount of time that your body is most effective at healing, it also weakens your immune system. This makes you more susceptible to illness, which requires your body to direct its healing processes toward beating the illness, rather than repairing damage from natural daily activities.
A healthy nutrient-rich diet is also vital for healing processes. Your body needs it for optimal health and energy. Conversely, your diet can be a major source of environmental toxins, which build up and put an enormous amount of strain on your entire system. Diet can also cause inflammation and contribute to digestive disorders.
Exercise, even something as simple as a walk, stimulates blood flow, bringing oxygen and nutrients to your cells while carrying toxins away. It helps you sleep better and improves your mindset while reducing emotional stress. Resea