Cold and Flu: The 4-Pillars of Health Approach
It is that time of the year again. Cold and Flu season is upon us. In order to understand how to prevent or even treat the cold and flu, I though it might be better to explain how the immune system works and who the players really are. You don’t go to a cricket match or the theater without getting a program and you shouldn’t play doctor without understanding what you are really impacting.
The immune system, like any sports team has different players for different aspects of the game. In cricket we have bowlers, batsman, whicket-keeper, captain, etc. With the immune system, we have different players too. It is also a vast network of tissues, organs, cells and chemicals. Our bone marrow, thymus gland, tonsils (why have them removed?), lymph nodes, lymphocytes (white blood cells) phagocytes, natural killer cells, antibodies and interferon all play the game we call immunity.
There are two types of immunity protecting our body: innate and adaptive. Innate immunity exists at birth and gives us our first line of defense against disease. The skin, mucus secretions, and the acidity of the stomach are examples of innate immunity. Adaptive immunity is our second line of defense. We acquire this immunity as we go thru life. The adaptive immune system remembers foes from the past and is therefore ready to defeat them when exposed to them again.
What’s your approach going to be this season?
There are two approaches to the cold and flu season: Pay me now…or…Pay me later. The “pay me now” approach is proactive and focuses on building a strong immune system. The “pay me later” approach involves waiting until you are already getting sick to take action. On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I toured several amazing forts built 4-500 years ago. These forts were built to protect the island from foreign invaders (back then it was the Dutch). The Spanish saw a need to prepare for the potential attack and not wait until it was too late. Our approach to cold and flu season can be looked at in the same manor; spend time now building a strong immune system (fort) for the eventual attack by the enemy (Viruses and bacteria) or wait until it is too late and suffer.
The 4-Pillars of Health: Diet, Exercise, Spirituality and Complimentary Medicines
I believe that in order to truly be healthy we need to have an equal balance of all four of these areas. If you have a car with one flat tire, you can still drive it, but it won’t be easy to keep it on the road. The same holds true with my 4-Pillars. Each pillar that is not followed is like having 1 more flat tire on your automobile. The more flat tires, the harder it is to drive the car and get where you wish to go. Let’s take a closer look at how these 4 Pillars plays a role in the upcoming cold and flu season.
With regards to immune system support, here’s where you need to focus: Avoid Sugar- (this includes other “white” foods like pasta, bread, cake, etc. and honey). These types of foods make your immune cell “stupid” and ineffective at fighting off diseases for extended periods of time. Why do you think our children get sick after birthday parties and holidays? Dairy is also evil due it’s effect on thickening mucous (thick mucous leads to infections). Eliminate all “man”-ipulated foods from your home. What should you eat? A diet high in fruits (not store bought juices-they are high in sugar), vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and lean cuts of meats.
Adding in 30 minutes per day of brisk walking (walking at a pace that makes it more challenging to carry on a conversation-almost short of breath) will have a profound impact on boosting your immune function. Science has repeatedly shown us that getting regular exercise will improve our overall immune function. The impact on our immune system is two-fold: Increased immune cell production and stress reduction. Stress (emotional and physical) is one of the leading causes of a weakened immune system.
I am a firm believer in being spiritually connected and grounded. Whether you are a Christian like me or have other beliefs that you follow, spirituality will help you during this cold and flu season. Science has proven the impact of prayer on immune health. I have found in my own life that being spiritually grounded also reduces stress (mentioned above) and helps me keep a healthy outlook. The mind/body connection also falls into this area. Numerous studies have been done showing the connection between positive thinking and improved immune health.
Complementary medicines (I call them supplements)
Supplementation will have an amazing impact on your “pay me now” or “pay me later” approach to this cold and flu season. I prefer to call this area supplementation because complementary medicines provide “supplemental” nutrients that are missing from our everyday diets. Supplements not only provide key nutrients required for a healthy immune system, but also provide phytochemicals (phyto=plant) that either support or stimulate our immune function. Supplements such as medicinal mushrooms (Maitake, Reishi and Shitake), herbs (olive leaf, elderberry, garlic, oregano, etc.), nutraceuticals (Wellmune, probiotics, etc.) vitamins (D3) and even a Neti pot (flushes away irritants from the sinus passages-where the infections usually start) all can be taken daily to help support the functionality and health of your immune system on a daily basis. These all fall into the “pay me now” approach.
Supplements such as Echinacea, high dose vitamin C, Elderberry (yes it works fast too) and even Zinc are for those who decide to not live a healthy lifestyle and “pay me later”. Supplements in this category “fire-up” the immune system quickly and will hopefully shorten the duration of the illness you are getting. These are to only be used for short periods of time (1-2 weeks).
The best approach to either method is to use a combination of these ingredients when addressing your immune health needs. Rarely will I use just one ingredient in working with any health challenge. Using combined therapies assures a multifaceted approach to addressing your health needs.
Finally, don’t forget good hygiene. Wash your hands- Goodness knows what all you have on your hands. I like grapefruit seed extract as my hand sanitizer. When you are around someone with a cough or sneezing, stay at least 1 meter away if possible. The cold and flu virus are usually airborne and when they come in contact with our mucous membrane (nose or mouth) is when we become potentially contagious.