Colds, Flu, and You

It’s that time of year again.  Cold and flu season is here. Do you have a tendency to suffer from several colds every winter? Are you already worried about potential sick days from work?  Are you debating whether to get the flu shot?  Read below for some important tips on how to maximize your immunity this winter.

The physical barriers of the skin and the cells lining the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts are your first line of defense against the microorganisms that make you sick.  These cells must be healthy to maintain effective immunity.  The cells lining these tracts and your skin are continuously shed and replaced with newly developing cells, all requiring a rich and steady supply of nutrients.  Without the correct supply and amount of nutrients, the integrity of these cells is impaired, and their ability to actively defend against foreign invaders is weakened.

How Do I Get Sick?

The common cold and influenza are caused by hundreds of different viruses and are transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets (i.e. sneezing, coughing).  The viruses that cause cold and influenza can survive outside the body for several hours on your skin, door handles, money, and grocery cart handles.  Your best primary line of defense against the yearly cold and flu is frequent and proper hand washing with hot water and soap, especially after coming into contact with a sick person.

Should I Take Antibiotics?

Viruses are not susceptible to the effects of antibiotics, so using antibiotics will have no effect on the duration or severity of your cold or flu.  Some infections (especially of the throat and ear) may indeed be bacterial and will respond to these medications.  To determine if you need antibiotics, ask your Doctor for a swab (this will indicate whether the infection is viral or bacterial, and can be treated appropriately).

Feeding Your Immune System

Nutritional support of your immune system may reduce your chances of getting a cold or flu, or at least reduce the duration and intensity of cold symptoms should you get sick.   Key nutrients in maintaining optimum immunity include vitamins A, C, E, B6, Selenium, and Zinc.  Higher doses of vitamin C and Zinc, taken at the first sign of a cold or flu, can help reduce the severity of an illness.  The best way to get the nutrition your body needs when sick, is to consume fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, clear soup broths, and plenty of water.  Juicing is an excellent way to concentrate your daily vitamin and mineral requirements.

Why is My Digestive System Important?

Also important to care for and maintain is the health of the digestive system.  Greater than 70% of your body’s immune system cells are located within the lining of your digestive tract!  If this lining is compromised through poor dietary choices, stress, poor or inadequate sleep, or medication, the function of your immune system will be impaired and weakened as well.

What Else Can I Do?

Certain herbal medicines offer excellent immune support and work as natural antibiotics.  As herbal medicines can interact with medications, consult with your Naturopathic Doctor to determine the best herbs for your body. Far infrared saunas and hydrotherapy treatments are also effective at staving off potential illness by giving the immune system a quick boost.

Keep in mind there is no magic bullet for preventing the cold or flu.  Each individual has a unique set of nutritional and lifestyle requirements, and these should be taken into consideration when attempting to treat any health care concern.  Work with your Naturopathic Doctor to create a treatment plan that will keep you strong and healthy through the winter season.

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