08 Jan Cold and Flu Season
With the beginning of the holiday season comes the beginning of Cold and Flu season. What’s a person to do? Believe it or not, this isn’t rocket science. The Four Pillars of Great Health (as I like to call them) play a huge role in your immune health regardless of the season or exposure. What are the pillars? Diet (what you eat), Exercise (activity), Mental Health (spirituality/ stress management), and Supplementation (vitamins, herbs, etc.) are the four keys to staying healthy throughout the holiday season.
Let’s take diet. For example, all forms of sugar interfere with the ability of white blood cells to destroy bacteria-negatively impacting the body’s natural immune defenses. Alcohol consumption also has been shown to compromise the proper function of the immune system. These two substances play a big role during the holiday season as we celebrate at work and at home. Consuming those holiday refined foods like Grandma’s cookies, pumpkin pie, or the cocktail at the office party all contribute to lowering your body’s natural defense system.
With the holidays often comes lack of time for proper rest and exercise as well. Hectic schedules and travel takes you out of your routine as far as an exercise regimen. Cold weather means your activity level goes down as you can’t get outside as much. Then add in the stress factor of dealing with family, travel, money, and you have placed even more pressure on your already weekend immune system.
It should seem pretty simple that you start with behavior modification to stay healthy during the holidays. Instead of strapping on the feed bag, try just sampling the good things at your home and office functions. If you feel like you are “coming down with something” avoid refined foods and alcohol completely. Try to take advantage of the benefits of moderate exercise on immune function—but be careful about prolonged or intense exercise, which can temporarily increase your risk of infection. Just maintaining an increased activity level for 20 minutes a day can help. While it may be impossible to factor stress out during the holiday season, do try to take time for yourself.
Meditate, pray, talk with friends, walk in the woods or do whatever serves to support your well-being.
Now we get to the fourth pillar, supplementation. Just take a walk into your full service health food store and you will find a huge area of natural products for immune support. Where should you begin? You need to first understand what these supplements will be doing for you immune system. There are supplements for the immediate relief of immune system compromise and there are supplements which can be used for prevention over the long term. Let’s review the acute phase suggestions first.
Echinacea has gained world wide acknowledgement for its immune stimulating properties. Echinacea is also effective in reducing the duration and severity of symptoms of the common cold, coughs, bronchitis, and upper respiratory infections. I must add that taking Echinacea to “prevent” the common cold has not been proven and therefore is only recommended for the first onset of cold and flu symptoms. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) may help to improve immune function and relieve cold and flu symptoms. Researchers found that high doses of vitamin C decreased cold and flu symptoms by up to 85% compared to those who only took pain relievers and decongestants. Zinc Gluconate is another outstanding supplement for acute cold and flu symptoms. Clinical research has shown that using Zinc Gluconate lozenges produce a reduction in the duration of cold symptoms. People generally suffer fewer days of coughing, headache, hoarseness, nasal congestion, nasal drainage, and sore throat. Esberitox® is an herbal blend containing two types of Echinacea, Thuja and Wild Indigo that synergistically stimulate the immune system. This product has over 30 clinical studies supporting its health benefits and safety. Lastly, Black Elderberry has shown to have antiviral properties against 10 different strains of the influenza virus. Black Elderberry has shown to reduced the duration of flu symptoms by up to 3-4 days.
There are many different supplements that can help you maintain a healthy immune system. Some work directly with the immune system adding support and others work indirectly either helping the body adapt (adaptogenic herbs) to the daily stresses it is placed under. Beta Glucan exists in nature in the cell wall of Brewer’s yeast (WGP®) or from medicinal mushrooms (Maitake D-fraction); beta glucans have powerful immune boosting properties. WGP® Beta Glucan is in the purified form and has shown to positively impact the immune system over long periods of time without harm. Beta-glucans in general have been useful in modulating (not stimulating) the body’s natural immune defenses to more effectively fight against infection. Immunolin® is new to the nutritional scene, but has years of science behind it with regards to animal health and immunity. Immunolin® is protein complex derived from cow’s milk which is particularly rich in immunoglobulins. The basic function of immunoglobulins is to find and tag foreign substances (antigens) such as bacteria, viruses and other environmental pathogens so that they can be eliminated from the body. Thus, Immunolin® is a perfect natural support for the immune system. There are also combination formulas (Ex. Host Defense) that have a supportive effect on the immune system. Lastly, Probiotics have demonstrated immune-stimulating effects. Probiotics are known as the “friendly” bacteria or “flora” found in your digestive system (primarily the small and large intestine). Lactobacillus acidophilus is perhaps the probiotics that most people are familiar with, yet there are many other types of probiotics now on the market. The effects of probiotics observed in humans include increasing the activity of several types of white blood cells.
A word of precaution for those with autoimmune diseases: many of the supplements used for immune support are not recommended for those with autoimmune conditions. Your immune system is already hyperactive and by adding an immune stimulating supplement to your daily regimen would be adding fuel to the fire. Please consult with a qualified health care provider before using any natural health supplement.
Remember, you can take that stroll down the vitamin store isle and find many other effective immune supporting and stimulating products. This article only covers the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these supplements.
Dosages have intentionally been omitted from this and many of my articles due to the abundance of brands/strengths on the market. The answer to long term immune health and wellness revolves around the four pillars of great health. Without any one of the four pillars, you potentially open yourself up to a holiday season of sniffles, coughs and misery.