Optimize Your Immune System to Protect Against Cold and Flu



Optimize Your Immune System to

 Protect Against Cold and Flu

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In North America, flu season typically runs from October through May, with the majority of flu outbreaks occurring in January and February.
Every year the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends which viral strains are to be included in the years influenza vaccine. Most flu vaccines are only effective against about 10% of the circulating viruses.
While the flu virus can be transmitted any time of year, it most often occurs during the colder months.  There are many theories on why this is so.
Some believe that it may be due to spending more time indoors, in closer contact with others, thereby exposing oneself to more germs. Another theory is that the air is drier, which can dry out mucous membranes, making them more susceptible to respiratory virus infections.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked explanations for the increase in sickness during this time has to do with the idea that during Fall and Winter, sun exposure is minimized.
For most of us not living in a tropical environment, there is inadequate exposure to sun. As a result we do not get adequate exposure to vitamin D.
Vitamin D is an important tool to help minimize risk of infections. Even during the warmer months, we tend to block out most of the vitamin D through our use of sunscreen.


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It is important to optimize your vitamin D levels year round, not just during the so-called flu season. When we don’t have enough vitamin D, we are more susceptible to colds and flu.
Vitamin D deficiency is fairly common in the United States and this is especially problematic during cold and flu season.
The best way to protect against cold and flu is to maintain a healthy and hearty immune system. Vitamin D is just part of the plan. A typical dose for adults may start at 1000 IU D3 daily up to 10,000 IU D3 daily as an upper limit.
We also need to be aware that what we put in our mouths and our bellies plays a central role in our immune health.
Limiting sugar intake is hugely important. During the last century, Americans have increased their sugar intake on average by about 500%.
Sugar is devastating to the immune response. Sugar is like fertilizer for pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeast.
One piece of fruit may not be devastating, but even watching your intake of fruit is important due to the amount of sugar in fruit.
For example, one banana contains approximately 4.85 grams fructose per 100 grams fruit – not too bad considering bananas also contain fiber.
Dried fruit, on the other hand, such as dates, contain a much higher level of fructose – about 30 grams, and may best be avoided or limited.
Vegetables, on the other hand, can be immensely supportive for immune health. Vegetables can help to increase the good bacteria in our guts and help to alkalinize the body, making for a less hospitable environment for viruses and bacteria.
-Other lifestyle factors that we influence to help protect against cold and flu are stress and sleep. Stress can influence health in a big way. When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria and viruses is reduced. That is why we are more susceptible to infections. Stress hormones can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system. Stress can further provoke unhealthy behaviors such as over-eating, binge drinking, smoking that can also have a negative impact on immune health. Prayer, meditation, therapy, yoga, deep breathing exercises – these can all have a positive impact on reducing stress.


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-Sleep is extremely important for immune function. Ideally we would get seven to eight hours nightly. Approximately 50 million to 70 million American adults suffer from sleep disorders or fail to get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation is not good news for the immune system. For reasons not entirely clear, it appears that a lack of sleep leads to a decrease in T-cells (which keep the immune system strong) and an increase in inflammatory cells that depress the immune system.
-Exercise is important, in moderation of course. Since exercise can actually stress the body we need to use caution in terms of how far we stress the body. Endurance and competitive athletes can likely testify that putting in long training hours can actually tax the immune system. Exercise increases internal body temperature, similarly when we have a fever our body increases body temperature to try and ward off bacteria. Like many things in life, too much of a good thing isn’t always good. A good sweat everyday is wonderful. When your exercise routine becomes super rigorous, you may need to incorporate additional strategies to keep your immune system strong.
In addition to all of these lifestyle efforts to support a healthy immune system, there are dietary supplements that may also be included:

Vitamin C – potent antioxidant.

Vitamin C is water soluble and can dosed several times a day in increments of 1 gram every hour to two hours, backing off if you experience loose stools.

Mushrooms (Reishi, Shiitake, Maitake)

There are hundreds of mushroom species though to have health promoting properties. They contain trace minerals, protein, amino acids, fiber and immune boosting polysaccharides. They also support digestion detoxification, and promote normal cellular function.

Zinc has many years research behind it.

Zinc is used to strengthen the immune system, treat the common cold and recurrent ear infections, and prevent respiratory infections.  The recommended dose of zinc is generally not to exceed 40 milligrams daily.
There are certainly many more “remedies� on the market when it comes to immune support. But going back to the basics, the take home here is – limit sugar intake in a big way. Make sure to take extra vitamin D. Limit stress and get plenty of sleep. A little bit of homemade chicken noodle soup or greens-based soup is always good too. Thrive through the cold and flu season by taking care of yourself and nurture your immune system all year long.

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