Support Your immune system to avoid colds and flu this winter!
Our bodies have an amazing immune system involving our lymph noes, appendix, bone marrow, tonsils, adenoids, thymus, spleen and gastrointestinal tract. This is a great time of year to think about how to support our immune systems. The highest rates of cold and flu are seen December through March. The strains of flu viruses constantly change, making supporting your immune system your best defense. Here we’d like to offer some tips and tricks to help you and your family boost your immune system (plus, what to do if you DO get sick). A prompt counter attack shortens illnesses.
Several factors that can contribute to a weakened immune system, leaving your body susceptible to illnesses like the cold and flu, include stress, lack of sleep, lack of sunshine, poor diet, alcohol, and sharing of germs. Follow these tips to keep your immune system strong through these winter months and beyond…
- Get plenty of good quality sleep.
- Exercise. It helps pump your lymphatic system, and your immune system needs good circulation in order to perform at its best for you.
- Reduce stress. Remember that stress depletes vitamins and minerals (especially zinc, B vitamins, and vitamin C). Breathe deeply, and prioritize your health. If you are experiencing too much stress, try a guided meditation or simply rest when you can.
- Wash your hands! Germs are easily shared at work, school, and while traveling. Washing your hands often and keeping them off of your face can help prevent this. Avoid antibacterial soaps, and opt for pure, chemical-free soaps. Anitbacterial soaps contain ingredients toxic to cells. The rubbing action of the hands with soap is very effective in removing germs.
- Eliminate sugar and processed foods from your diet. Sugar consumption has an immediate, debilitating effect on your immune system. Go for delicious, organic whole foods instead! Try cooking with garlic, onions and mushrooms, which have natural antibacterial and antiviral compounds. Chicken soup or bone broth contains cysteine which helps thin mucous. Grandma was right!
- Give your vitamin D level a boost. Vitamin D deficiency is the likely cause of seasonal flu viruses. Getting an optimal level of this vitamin will help you fight infections of all kinds. Get a little sun when you can, and consider supplementing with high quality liquid vitamin D drops.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Soups, coconut water, teas and other nutritious drinks help your body clean house and heal.
What if you DO get a cold or flu?
If, despite your efforts, the cold or flu gets to you, make an appointment for osteopathic treatment. The value of osteopathic manipulative treatment for influenza was shown during the flu epidemic of 1918. Doctors at the time noted that the most effective treatment was begun at the early onset of symptoms (within the first 24 hours) and consisted of carefully applied muscular relaxation and relaxation of the deep spinal musculature and mobilization of the spine, along with supportive measures like hydration. Osteopathic manipulative treatment stimulates blood flow which increases the immune response. Lymphatic drainage techniques also help support the immune system and decrease congestion. Stimulating the sympathetic nervous system decreases mucous production. Treatment decreases pain and muscle spasm and increases relaxation and well being. These treatments are individualized to suit each patient’s needs and can help shorten illnesses. Colds and flu are the body’s way of cleaning house and ask us to slow down and take care of ourselves.
Dr. Mary Anne’s Remedy to Ease Cold Symptoms
Dr. Mary Anne suggests gargling salt water to relieve respiratory congestion, especially if you have a sore and itchy throat. It can loosen that thick mucus which coats the throat, and can remove allergens, bacteria, and fungi taking up residence.
For great results, stir ½ tsp. of sea salt in 8oz. warm clean water until well dissolved. Spit out the salt water once you have gargled and swished.
Studies have shown that gargling 3 times a day during the flu and cold season can decrease your chances of getting an upper respiratory tract infection. Children enjoy this funny sounding cleansing of the throat. Make sure you have a towel ready to catch any excess water that doesn’t make it into the sink! This teaches kids a very easy, effective, and inexpensive self-help remedy they can use for the rest of their lives.
Elderberry syrup is one of my favorite antivirals for children. Individualized doses of zinc, vitamin C, and Vitamin A help support the immune sytem as well as carefully chosen homeopathics. We can help you with an individualized plan to get well and stay well.