Is it really a bad thing to get sick? I say whole heartedly, unequivocally, no! It is not a bad thing to get sick! I realize right about now you think I’m a little crazy, so allow me to explain all the wonderful things acute illness does for your body!
1) I want to address what everyone hates about getting sick: the symptoms. The body aches, nausea, fever, chills, headache, sore throat, and fatigue. Brings back great memories, doesn’t it?
But seriously, these symptoms of acute illness are miserable and uncomfortable. People tend to start hating their bodies when they get sick, and ask questions like “Why are you doing this to me?!” Ah, if only your body had the vocal apparatus to speak, it would yell back at you, “What am I doing to you? What are you doing to ME? Don’t you understand I’m telling you to slow down and rest!” Your body is communicating with you; it’s just that most of us prefer not to pay attention. We’ve got a presentation or important meeting, and we want our body to continue operating like a well oiled machine we never have to think about.
The symptoms your body creates exist for a reason. Your throat gets sore because your immune system is working overtime to kill off the pathogen. At first, only cells in the immediate area are drawn into the fight. These cells then release inflammatory and immune signaling chemicals called cytokines to recruit immune cells from all over the body. The cytokines are what produce the systemic symptoms like body aches and fever (check out my future post on fever!).
If you develop body aches, fever, and feel generally under the weather, you know your immune system is working hard to destroy the invading organism. These symptoms are an essential part of a healthy immune response, and it’s best to take a hot bath and let your body do its work.
2) The most amazing aspect of acute illness is that it can actually leave you healthier on the other side. Yep, it’s true. It goes back to an old naturopathic idea about discharge. Discharge is any physical, mental, or emotional excretion from the body. It can be a runny nose after a cold, working out at the gym to burn off stress and to sweat, or a creative outlet that acts as an emotional release.
Your body needs to process and discharge everything it experiences. Discharge is healthy. In healthy individuals, the body does this slowly throughout the day in multiple ways. However, many people don’t have enough daily discharge to keep them healthy. Emotions stay pent up, people don’t drink enough water for waste metabolites to be excreted, or cough suppressants are taken after a chest cold.
Acute illness provides a way for your body to rapidly discharge a lot of accumulation. The more intense the pathogen, the more deeply your body is cleaned out. The discharge in acute illness happens in the early stages (sweating, vomiting, diarrhea) and later stages (mucus in the lungs and sinuses) of the sickness.
Most people feel significantly better in the later stages of illness, after the fever has broken. This is because the cytokine storm has settled down, and your body is now able to function better overall. Large amounts of discharge from acute illness is like a spring cleaning for your body. It gets to rid itself of metabolic and emotional debris that has been impeding its health for the last 6 months or year. The deeper the pathogen goes, the more stuff your body is able to discharge.
So, next time you are feverish, achy, coughing up mucus or blowing your nose a lot, know that your body is working for you. It’s getting rid of accumulated junk and leaving you healthier on the other side. The experience is still uncomfortable and miserable, but sometimes it helps to know things will be better on the other side and that your body is doing what’s best for you. Discharge is a great thing!