19 December 2010

A Cold: Our Enemy Is Not Always Another Person

In the martial arts, we learn how to protect ourselves from an enemy. One important enemy that is often over looked, is the one of disease. For this reason, we have made the Health Principles an important part of the Soo Shim Kwan.

I came down with a very bad cold recently. As is usually the case, I can track the reasons for it quite clearly against the Health Principles that I have been violating over the last couple of weeks.

The first is a lack of sleep. Not only have I not adequately rested, but I've been burning the candle on both ends. Since it was exam week recently and I therefore did not have to be at my office early, I took the liberty to stay up even later than usual. Our body requires adequate rest to recover from daily wear-and-tear. Merely sleeping enough hours is not the only concern. While not sleeping enough is linked with early death, not sleeping early enough is also harmful as restful hours before midnight are when detoxification in the lymph glands occur. In other words, while sleeping enough is important, not staying up too late is also of value. Going to bed early is my greatest struggle. I practise martial arts most week nights. Training usually finish around 22:00. Since I live about an hour away from the different gyms I attend, I usually get home at around 23:00. It is therefore inevitable that I go to bed late. It will still be a while before my time in Korea comes to an end and I can return to an earlier training schedule.

The other principle I violated is the dietary one. Since it is the end of the year I've visited a number of seasonal parties, which often include all kinds of sugary treats. While I haven't been overeating, I have been eating far too many sweets over the last two weeks. Refined sugars lowers one's immune system. A main reason for this is because glucose and Vitamin C are similar in structure, causing less Vitamin C to enter the cells when there is more glucose in the blood. White blood cells need Vitamin C to function properly, but if the glucose levels are too high, the white blood cells, which basically is your immune system, won't function properly. Futher more, too much sugar causes your insulin levels to increase; this in turns lowers your body's production of Growth Hormone which is needed for recovery.

I've also eaten far more greasy food over the last few weeks than usual. Fatty foods, it has been proven, also makes it more difficult for white blood cells to fight off bacteria. While too much fats is definitely unhealthy, not all dietary oils should be avoided. The body needs some healthy oils in its diet. But here is the thing, they should be healthy oils and in moderation.

Two other health principles I violated include not getting adequate fresh air and sunlight. Having grown up in South Africa, I am not used to the very cold winters we experience here in South Korea. So far we've had many days under zero degrees Celcius, one day was -12° Celcius (daytime temperature!). Needless to say, I've been very reluctant to open windows in my apartment. This means of course, that I did not get a healthy supply of oxygen rich air, especially during my sleeping hours. Without good air, the body cannot function at its optimum. As for sunlight: because of the cold, I've been spending very little time outside and therefore experienced very little of the sun's health inducing rays.

I have been keeping up with the other Health Principles. I'm drinking lots of water, getting frequent exercise, and so on. The Health Principles work in synergy, however. It is their combined harmonious effect on the person that keeps you healthy. The continuous violation of even one of these natural laws of health will result in sickness.

My serious cold is not all bad. It has reminded me of the Health Principles and forced me to take inventory of my adherence to them. Now that I'm aware of which ones I have neglected, I can remedy the situation and again take measures to live the healthy lifestyle required of an active martial artist.

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