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The Fight Against the Flu

How many of us know someone who has already had the flu this season? Let’s make this more broad and talk about being sick in general--seasonal colds, stomach bugs, pneumonia, strep throat, and the list goes on. During the winter, these illnesses seem to manifest themselves on a much more regular basis. In the office, I keep talking with patients about others they know that have been sick this year and what it comes down to is “everyone and their brother” is or has been sick. But why? Why is “flu season” a thing? Why is is so much more prevalent in the winter than it is any other time of year?

Let’s start by talking about how getting sick occurs. If anyone knows me and knows me well, I am not afraid to be around “sick people”. Whether they have a cold or a stomach bug, they are welcome in the office. I am sure many think this is a crazy notion but how do we truly get sick? Many believe in what is called germ theory--this is the concept that if germs are present, they make us sick. If this theory were true, why is it that 10 people get exposed to the exact same germs in the same place at the same time and only 1 get sick? It makes you think doesn’t it? I come from a little different perspective after studying the human body for 8 years in college. The difference is the individual person’s immune system! It is not that they got exposed to germs but rather the fact that their immune system was not strong enough to fight off these “germs”, resulting in illness. So what does that mean?! It means you simply need an immune system that is strong enough to fight for you and keep you from becoming ill rather than the silly notion that says you need to avoid all germs.


EAT HEALTHY. Eat a healthy balanced diet with nutrient-dense foods-- Have you ever noticed in the winter we do not crave the clean, fresh flavors of crisp salad or nutrient rich strawberries? Instead we prefer warm foods that are commonly known as “comfort foods”. Though comfort foods are in fact comforting, they tend to be void of quality vitamins and minerals our body requires to be healthy.

Decreasing alcohol consumption is also known to widely increase the function of the immune system. When alcohol is consumed, it decreased you ability to fight an infection significantly. I know, i know--it is football season and many tend consume alcohol while watching their favorite team. Just know that drinking in excess can in fact set you up for getting sick.

EXERCISE. When it is cold outside, it is common for people in the Midwest to stop working out as much. We do not want to be outside in the cold or we do not want to leave the comfort of our warm home to go out in the cold and go to the gym. Maybe these points will serve as motivation:

  • Physical activity helps flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness by stimulating this natural process.

  • Exercise causes change in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). WBCs are the body's immune system cells that fight disease. These antibodies or WBCs circulate more rapidly, so they could detect illnesses earlier than they might have before.

  • The brief rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing. This temperature rise may help the body fight infection better. (This is similar to what happens when you have a fever.)

SLEEP & STRESS MANAGEMENT. These things usually go hand in hand. When we are stress, we do not sleep and when we are not sleeping well we often find ourselves stressed. Sleep-during all times of the year we should be shooting for 7-10 hours of sleep each night, depending on your personal needs. Without getting good, quality sleep, we are setting ourselves up for getting sick. Not only that, it can also affect how quickly you are able to recover if you do end up sick!

Have you ever noticed when you get stressed, you do not sleep as much and typically you will end up sick right around the same time? Stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes — the white blood cells that help fight off infection. The lower your lymphocyte level, the more at risk you are for viruses, including the common cold. Elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels cause a decrease in immune function and an increase in inflammation which sets us up for things like IBS, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, and chronic pain.

Things you can do to reduce stress:

  1. Try taking a warm bath with Epsom salt

  2. Do something for yourself you enjoy

  3. Yoga, mediation and/or Tai Chi

PROBIOTICS. Our immune system is not confined to one particular organ but over 80% of the immune system resides in the gastrointestinal tract as receptor cells. Because of this location, what happens in your gut has a dynamic influence on the immune function. When your gut is healthy, your thriving population of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, supports the immune system receptor cells. They provide a protective barrier within your colon and intestines. Optimizing and supporting the beneficial bacteria in your gut is one of the most powerful things you can do for your health and well being, including your immune health.

SUPPLEMENTS & HERBS. These are meant to do just that, supplement an already healthy lifestyle. A pill or herb should not be your sole source of any vitamin and nutrient!

  • Vitamin D- This is among the most important of all nutrients for residents of the Midwest, especially in the winter! Because we are not able to get outside and get a reasonable amount of sun exposure, it is important to get this from a supplemental source. Vitamin D is not only known to affect the immune system but also affects mood and overall sense of well-being!

  • Vitamin C- this is a commonly know immune booster that can be found in citrus fruit

  • Vitamin A- Can be found in things like carrots, broccoli, squash, sweet potatoes

  • B Vitamins- these not only help with your immune system but also with your energy!

  • Zinc- many people do not think of this mineral when considering supplements to boost their immune system but when used in conjunction with vitamin C, it can be widely beneficial!

  • Elderberry- the super food is known for being high in vitamin c, dietary fiber, and powerful antioxidants

  • Echinacea- increases the number of white blood cells, which fight infections

CHIROPRACTIC CARE. Chiropractic care aides in the overall health of patients and although adjustments of the spine help in relieving the pain of those suffering from back and neck discomfort, these adjustments also aide in our immune system. Our immune system is directly connected to our spine and when it is not aligned, it may through your entire system off track. Thus, resulting in a non-responsive system. One of the main causes of immune system problems comes from subluxations (compression of nerve pathways).

If you or someone you know if having trouble getting healthy, or staying healthy--we would be more than happy to discuss some options for how they may be able to naturally boost their immune system to prevent them from being down and out with one of those nasty bugs!

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