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How To Strengthen Your Immune Function And Recover More Quickly From Colds And Flus

By: Dr. Hayley Collinge, NMD

Everyone hates being sick. The red, runny nose, sore throat, fever, chills, sneezing is no fun no matter how you slice it. Being sick is inconvenient, and no one has time to take sick days with so much to get done in today’s society.  Missing school and work days, can leave you playing catch-up, and hurt your pocket-book if you aren’t someone fortunate enough to get paid sick days. So what can you do to prevent colds and flu, or shorten the duration of a cold or flu you might ask?

Knowing the basics of how to keep your immune system strong during cold and flu season can go a long way, and prevent you from missing work and school due to unexpected illness. If you do happen to get sick during this cold and flu season, there are a few basic things you can do that will help you get well sooner. If you get sick often, despite your best efforts, your best bet is to seek out the advice of professional who will be able to determine the cause of your immune system dysfunction, and help put you back on the road to good, sniffle-free, health. Naturopathic doctors know a lot about the immune system, how it functions, and what to do to strengthen it. So, if your immune system needs a little extra help to get it functioning properly, please set up a free consult to discuss how Dr. Price can help.

6 Keys To Preventing Illness

The key to preventing illness, is to maintain good overall health so your immune system is strong and able to fight off any germs that you come into contact with.  The following is a list of the six most important factors in immune health.

Sleep.

Getting a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night helps keep your immune system strong. Kids and teenagers may need even more sleep than this as they are also still growing.

Water.

Drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of filtered water per day also helps fend off illness. If tissues in the nose and mouth get dehydrated, they are more prone to damage, and this damage can allow bacteria and viruses to enter your system. Drinking fresh water also helps flush out any bacteria and viruses we come into contact with.

Healthy food.

Diet is super important too. A good diet is well-balanced, nutritious and comprised of whole-foods. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, with an emphasis on the veggies. Veggies are high in fiber which helps the good bacteria in the gut to thrive. Friendly gut bacteria play a strong role in overall gut health, and immune function since 85% of our immune system is found in the gastrointestinal tract. Fruits and veggies also contain many vitamins and minerals which help the immune system to function correctly. Getting enough protein is very important as well, since our immune system needs proteins to make protective immunoglobulins. Fermented foods and drinks like miso, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha also help keep the immune system strong.

Exercise.

Physical activity is also important because it helps the body to deal with stress and improves the body’s ability to fight off infection. Stress is horrible for your immune system, and wears it down almost as fast as sugar. Therefore, anything you can do to lower your stress, whether it be deep breathing, yoga, meditation, prayer, or just having a hot bath or taking a walk in nature will improve your immune function.

Eliminating added sugar.

As a general rule, steer clear of pre-packaged meals and anything that comes in a box, even if it says Organic or all natural. Most, processed and pre-packaged foods have added sugar in its various forms whether that be high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, glucose, fructose, sucrose, or various others. All are bad for immune system function, and if you are sick will actually feed the virus/bacteria keeping it around longer. Just one teaspoon of sugar will weaken the immune system for up to four hours, and 12 teaspoons (the amount in most soda/pop) will paralyze your white blood cells for up to 4 hours. This immune suppression, allows pathogens to slip by your immune system unnoticed, making you sick. Aim for the foods our ancestors ate, that are fresh, unprocessed, whole and real, and that contain only naturally occurring sugars. Your immune system will repay you with fewer sick days.

Avoid antibiotic overuse.

Antibiotics kill not only the bad bacteria, they also kill the good bacteria. Good bacteria (as stated above) are necessary for gut health, and gut health plays a huge role in immune function. Many doctors overprescribe antibiotics, giving them for both viral and bacterial infections.  If you have a viral infection (most flus and colds are viruses) antibiotics will do nothing, and may actually do more harm than good. Antibiotics are not only prescribed by doctors, they are also found in trace amounts in many conventional meat and dairy products. Buying organic/free range dairy and meat products, by farmers that do not use antibiotics on their animals, is a good idea for this reason. Another source of antibiotics are hand-sanitizers and anti-bacterial soaps. Washing your hands frequently with plain soap and water is better than using anti-bacterial soaps, because plain soap doesn’t kill the good bacteria on your skin which are actually part of your immune system. Use antibiotics only when needed. If you have a severe bacterial infection, antibiotics truly can be life-saving. Using them only when necessary helps prevent antibiotic resistance too. Antibiotic resistance is when antibiotics no longer work against the bugs that they used to. This is becoming a huge problem, and now we are dealing with more and more powerful antibiotic resistant superbugs that we can no longer kill.

5 Supplements To Take When Sickness Occurs

There are certain, easy-to-find supplements one can take to help ensure strong immune function. Many people are deficient in these vitamins, minerals and friendly bacteria, so taking them in supplement form can really help give the immune system the boost it needs to ward of illness. These supplements can also be taken when sick to help you recover more quickly and include:

Vitamin D.

Also known as the sunshine vitamin, is actually a hormone that plays a very important role in immune function. We make it when UV-B rays from the sun hit our exposed skin, leading to the production of Vitamin D. Sunscreen blocks UV-A and UV-B rays which also blocks the conversion of cholesterol in our skin to Vitamin D. We need at least 20 minutes of sunshine per day sans sunblock, with a large portion of our skin exposed for our bodies to make all the vitamin D we need. As the weather gets colder, few people spend enough time in the sun to make enough vitamin D. The next best thing is taking the activated form of vitamin D calcitriol in supplement form. Taking 4000 IU per day is perfectly safe for a few weeks at a time.  Higher doses than this should be taken only under the advice of a trained physician. Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means it builds up in our fatty tissue and isn’t readily excreted, so getting levels tested every few weeks is a good idea to make sure levels aren’t getting too high.

Vitamin A.

Like vitamin D this vitamin is fat soluble and helps regulate immune function and maintain mucosal surfaces so viruses can’t get into our system as easily. Not having enough Vitamin A impairs immune function leaving us more susceptible to infection. The best food sources of this vitamin are sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, spinach, kale, mango, liver and broccoli. 2,500 to 5,000 IU is perfectly safe when taken short term. Caution should be taken though if pregnant since vitamin A in too high a dose has been associated with birth defects.

Vitamin C.

This is a water soluble vitamin. The best form to take is L-ascorbate and oranges contain this form in abundance. Strawberries and other citrus fruits also contain high amounts of vitamin C. Taking up to 3 grams per day of L-ascorbate, or up to bowel tolerance (especially when sick) is perfectly safe. Higher doses than this can be administered intravenously by your Naturopathic Physician if they practice IV therapy. Vitamin C helps normalize the stress response because it feeds the adrenal glands. A normalized stress response leads to less immune depression, and as a result less getting sick. Vitamin C is also able to destroy viruses making it an excellent antiviral.

Zinc.

A mineral that helps in immune system regulation. When you are deficient, T cells and other immune cells don’t function properly. The best food sources of this mineral are oysters, beef, pork, chicken, baked beans, milk, chick peas and almonds.  Zinc is very helpful in treating the common cold, upper respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, bronchitis and ear infections. Adults can safely take up to 40 mg per day especially when sick or deficient. Always take with food, as taking without food can make you nauseous.

Probiotics.

These are friendly bacteria that live inside your digestive tract. Certain bacteria influence immune system development, correcting deficiencies in your immune system and helping with T cell production. Stress, medication, processed foods, environmental contaminants, and lifestyle can disturb the balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria, causing the bad bacteria to take over which impairs immune function, and often leads to illness. Choose probiotics that are refrigerated or shelf stable, contain prebiotics like FOS, are enteric coated (helping them withstand stomach acid), and that contain at least 20-50 billion CFU (colony forming units) of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains.

What To Do If You Get Sick Frequently

So, what to do if you are following the above to a “t” and you still get sick all the time? Your best bet may be to talk to a Naturopathic Physician, who will be able to figure out the underlying cause of your immune system depression, so that the immune system can be strengthened and function normally again. Naturopathic doctors are trained extensively in Immunology, Pathology, Diagnosis, Lab testing and Microbiology, so they understand the causes of immune system depression. They are also trained extensively in Clinical nutrition, Botanical medicine, Nutrient therapy, lifestyle counseling, and many in Acupuncture as well.  Dr. Price may use lab testing, food sensitivity testing, and/or hormone testing to determine the cause, then prescribe intravenous nutrients, acupuncture treatments, dietary modifications and/or various professional grade supplements and botanicals to help strengthen your immune system. She will also discuss lifestyle strategies, and relaxation techniques which will help your immune system function optimally.

 

hayley price nmdDr. Hayley Collinge is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD), who has been practicing as a licensed Naturopathic Physician in Arizona since 2014. She earned her 4 year degree in Naturopathic Medicine at Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM) located in Vancouver, BC. Prior to this, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a Minor in Psychology from Thompson Rivers University located in her hometown Kamloops, BC. She combines Western and Eastern Medicine philosophies, often using Acupuncture and Traditional Asian Medicine as part of her comprehensive treatment approach. She also enjoys working with woman’s health issues, balancing hormones, blood sugar, thyroid, adrenals, and naturally helping woman obtain and maintain a healthy weight. In addition, she has successfully treated a significant number of patients with Digestive and Autoimmune complaints. She holds certifications in IV vitamin therapy, Neural Therapy and Biotherapeutic Drainage Therapy. Dr. Collinge, will be continuing to improve patient’s lives and assist them on their healing journey through her practice, Evolve Healthcare By Dr. Hayley. 

For more information, or to set up a consultation, please visit www.theacupuncturenaturopathicdoctor.com or call 623-696-0615. You can also visit https://www.facebook.com/theAcupunctureNaturopathicDoctor/ for more information, or to set up an appointment.


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I’m Marian Mitchell, Health Coach, Chronic Illness Warrior, Mom, and Food Lover. I help you navigate the food and lifestyle side of Chronic Disease Management with coaching, meal plans, recipes, podcast, and this blog. You can thrive without eating the same 4 things every day. I’m here to show you how.

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