It’s that time of year again when we start worrying about catching the latest cold and flu. Kids are going back to school, work gets busier, and the weather starts to change.One to three mild colds per year is completely normal in a healthy individual. However, if you are finding that you get more than this or if your colds last longer than 7-10 days, it’s time to consider focusing on your immune system.
This can be achieved with Naturopathic Medicine by using many different modalities and techniques. It is always important to seek professional help when choosing supplements in order to achieve the acquired dose and avoiding any adverse interactions (especially with herbs). It should also be noted that those who struggle with an autoimmune condition and children should not be taking the same supplements as normally healthy adults.
Zinc is very well known for helping the immune system. It has been used for the common cold, recurring ear infections, asthma, and preventing respiratory infections. Zinc works in helping the immune system by many different mechanisms. First, it is a natural anti-microbial, which means it has been proven to reduce or more importantly, prohibit the growth of many bacteria. Zinc is also an anti-inflammatory. When you decrease any inflammation in your body, your immune system functions better. In addition to this, Zinc is a very powerful anti-oxidant, that helps repair any DNA damage throughout the body.
Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oils also play an important yet indirect role in immune system health by decreasing certain inflammatory markers in the body, helping the immune system fight off infections with saved resources.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that occur in your body, mostly on the mucous membrane areas. This means the mouth, sinuses, female orifices and gut. The body relies on its natural bacteria to metabolize drugs and food, absorb nutrients, and prevent “bad bacteria”from overtaking your system. It should be noted that probiotics in yogurt do not have the same effect on your immune system as when they are sold in supplement form. Studies have shown that the majority of their bacteria is inactive. It is important to buy a multi-strain probiotic.
The best way to take herbs are in herbal combinations. There are many herbs used to help fight off infections. For example, Astragalus has been studied to be anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory. Eleuthero (also known as Siberian Ginseng) has also been shown to have these effects.
Mushrooms are often included in herbal combinations. The most common mushroom seen in combinations is Reishi. It is beneficial for immune system support and in flu recovery. It is also used in many other conditions that involve the kidneys, lungs, heart, or liver.
What you eat and put into your body will affect your immune system and how well it functions. Nutrients and minerals help cells communicate with each other and function optimally. It is important to eat a variety of whole foods. This means no processed food, including dressings and sauces. Your meals should include lean proteins (chicken and fish), brightly colored vegetables (tomatoes and spinach), and a healthy grains (quinoa).
Eating sugar significantly decreases the function of the immune system, possibly more than anything else! Did you know that as little as 2 teaspoons of sugar changes blood chemistry enough so that the body is no longer in homeostasis –the balanced state where it functions best? Sugar is obviously found in sweets but is also hidden in many products and goes by various names. Be sure to read labels closely to become aware of what you may be ingesting.
Stress causes a decrease in the function of your immune system and it increases the amount of inflammation in the body. Many different techniques and supplements are available and should be considered if this is a problem.
Washing your hands often will ensure that any bacteria you come in contact with will be removed before accidentally entering your body. This is the simplest and most effective method to decrease colds and flus.
For more information on helping your immune system, please contact Dr. Kelly Brown, N.D. at Good n’Natural (204 326-9565) to book an appointment.