Aaaaachoo!! There goes up to 40,000 droplets that have left someone’s mouth at more than 200 miles per hour! If a droplet is infected and you inhale it or touch a surface contaminated with it and then your eyes, nose or mouth…BAM! That single virus can start producing an army within your body. Are you one of those people that fears someone breathing on you during flu season? Fear not! There are some great ways to get your immune army into tip top shape this fall.
Its time for battle.
Think of your immune system like an army of soldiers fighting for you every day. At least that was the image I planted into my son’s mind when he was younger and I was trying to convince him to drink anything green. “You’re making the soldiers (aka natural killer cells) in your body stronger so that they can fight off the bad guys (aka viruses)”, I would tell him. And guess what…it worked!
So how can we prepare for battle this season? Here are my top 5 ways.
“Should I or should I not get a flu shot”? That is a common question we get from our patients. According to a report last February, for the 2016-2017 influenza season, the flu vaccine was 48% effective in preventing laboratory-confirmed influenza A and B viral infection associated with medically attended acute respiratory illness. Those at highest risk of developing complications from the flu are patients with cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, pregnant women, adults over 65 and children younger than 5, especially younger than 2 years old. There are many other viruses that can cause influenza-like illness, and even if you get the vaccine, it isn’t 100% effective. Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than 2 weeks.
- Immune Boosting Nutrients
Vitamin D, zinc, probiotics and omega-3 are among my top nutrients for improving your immune response. At CentreSpringMD, we can evaluate your nutrient levels to ensure your immune system is functioning optimally. Vitamin D levels should be above 50ng/ml, preferably between 50-80 ng/ml and the recommended dose will vary based on your level. Typically, dosing is between 2000-5000 IU per day for most adults. In addition, I commonly recommend 30-50mg of elemental zinc, a multi-strain probiotic containing 20-50 billion CFU and 1000 mg of omega-3.
Refined sugars, grains, alcohol, and processed foods will make it more difficult for your immune system to perform optimally. Since 80% of your immune system is located in your gut, your diet has a HUGE impact on your immune system. Sugar will cause bacteria, yeast and fungus to replicate and create imbalances in your microbiome called dysbiosis. Consuming fermented foods is a great way to help create a better balance in your gut. Also, adding in garlic, turmeric and a rainbow of vegetables and some fruits on your plate can decrease your chances of becoming ill.
- Sleep and Stress
If you’re overstressed and not sleeping well, you are twice as likely to get sick according to a study on participants with a common cold. Chronic stress reduces natural killer cell cytotoxicity. Th1 cytokines, which defend against many infections and some kinds of cancers, are suppressed with chronic stress. Th2 cytokines, which activate humoral immunity, can exacerbate allergy and many kinds of autoimmune disease. In fact, a study showed that less than 6 hours a night could increase your chances of getting a cold when directly exposed to a virus than getting at least 7 hours of sleep. Sleep was actually more important than stress, age and smoking status. Other ways to lower stress are meditating, journaling and praying. Acupuncture and energy work, such as marma therapy, can be a wonderful way to balance energy in the body and improve overall wellness. These activities are usually the first to go when life gets chaotic, however, they can make a significant impact on your physiology.
Increasing circulation can flush out bacteria and improve circulation. It will also decrease the release of stress hormones. It is best to incorporate moderate physical activity with less intense activities such as restorative yoga, tai chi or Pilates.
At CentreSpringMD we will help you not only create a wellness plan to decrease your risks of the common cold and flu, but also help you to prevent chronic diseases as well. We look forward to serving you and your family and giving you the tools you need to create optimal health!