The Truth about “Cold and Flu Season”

Woman sneezingMy guess is you have either had the creepy crud that is enraging the country, or know someone that has.  Yes, it is “cold and flu season” again.  And this year, it seems to be back with a vengeance!  Approximately 50 million Americans will become infected with the flu this year, and millions more will experience common cold. Got your flu shot? Good for you. Even though you might have wasted some time, you are supporting our economy – and there is something to be said for that. If you got your shot and currently have the flu (my Facebook page is filled with these types of friends wondering what happened), you know what I’m talking about. If you got your shot and don’t have the flu, you have permission to be mad at me for insulting the shot. Please continue to believe it’s the shot that’s saving you from it. That belief alone is worth something in avoiding the flu – and again, there is something to be said for that :)

The truth is, you are exposed to the cold and flu virus all year long.  However, when your immune system is strong and functioning properly, it wards off the virus and you don’t even know it’s there.  Yet when your immune system is weak, the virus gets a foothold on your body.  You begin to feel symptoms – sneezing, aching, coughing, etc. It’s worth knowing that these symptoms are … drumroll … not the sickness! What? That’s right, the “symptoms are the cure.” Your body creates mucus as a sort of protective coating, insulating bacteria, virus, and fungus. You sneeze to expel the coated toxins, and you cough away the buildup. Your muscles and joints can ache as your body repositions minerals and fluids to focus on more urgent threats to more vital systems. Yes, ironically, these symptoms are not the virus. They are signs your body is fighting the virus. Furthermore, they are signs that your body is having to fight harder than it should. The answer is a stronger immune system.

Your immune system can be weakened by any number of things, but in general it weakens when you’re not taking care of yourself.  Think about our societal actions and the timing of cold and flu season. We are quick to blame the cooler weather, but is that all that’s at play? We start with Halloween candy and usually drag it on the munching until it’s all gone. Then we continue with Thanksgiving gorging, and eat on leftover pie for a week thereafter. Before we know it, it’s Christmas ham and cookies. Since there are so many social gatherings surrounding food and drink, physical activity goes down and alcohol and calories go up. Then we must welcome the New Year, which involves sleep deprivation and more alcohol. Then what? New Year’s resolutions! Time to sacrifice sleep again and get up at 5am to workout! Of course that’s tough … so enter lots of coffee, tea, or even red bulls, redlines, or any other legal liquid crack the stimulant industry comes up with next. And then what happens? Wham! I’m sick. Where did that come from? That stinking cold weather and that dang stuff “going around.” Kind of silly in perspective, isn’t it?

Here’s the good news. The truth is empowering: the most common 2 contributing factors, deficiency and toxicity, are also controllable.  I know they seem basic, but if you are not already doing so, be sure to implement the following practices to keep your immune system strong, so you stay well. Unlike the other common lists you may have seen in news, you WON’T find washing your hands with antibacterial soap on this list. I know that sounds insane, but hey, today’s insanity is tomorrow’s genius. You see, you breathe in THOUSANDS of germs every moment. You CANNOT AVOID GERMS, so quit placing your focus … in the wrong place! Instead, focus on the terrain that the germs encounter. It’s much like the ancient Biblical parable of the seed and the sower, only in this case growth of the seed will be a bad thing. If you recall, it’s not THAT the seed landed on the ground that determined whether or not it would grew. It was WHAT TYPE OF GROUND the seed landed on. It makes a great parable because THE TYPE OF “GROUND” MATTERS. And so it is with germs. Is your body the perfect environment to provide a home to bad bacteria, viruses, and fungus? Or do you create the type of internal environment that fosters good function, health, and vitality? To quote Pierre Jacques Antoine Bechamp, the unfortunately underrated contemporary of Louis Pasteur, “The germ is nothing. The terrain is everything.” Wow, if only we would have understood the wisdom in that statement, in the century that he said it. We wouldn’t have had to wait 100 years to experience wellness again.

 

Exercise  No surprise the home-delivered personal training and nutrition coaching company would place exercise at the top of the list, right?  (I hear ya, I’d think the same thing)  But the fact remains, though it’s one of the first things to be cast aside when you are cold, tired or busy, exercise is as good for the inside of your body as it is the outside. In fact, surprisingly so, most of the benefits of exercise occur on the inside! And there’s a clear connection between physical activity and immune function.  Just one example is an early study that found women over 60 who kept active to have much more responsive immune reactions than their sedentary peers.

Eat well  I could go on for days about all the reasons you should eat well.  As it pertains to the immune system, eating well keeps it balanced and strong.  Be sure to include these foods and supplements to supercharge your immune system:

◦ Nuts such as almonds, cashews and walnuts are packed with Vitamin E, an anti-oxidant that crushes free-radicals and creates anti-bodies to fight the cold and flu viruses.
◦ Citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines and clementines are at their peak right now, making them great tasting and budget friendly.  Citrus fruits are a great source of Vitamin C which fights infection and acts as an antioxidant alongside Vitamin E.  Also try bell peppers, which surprisingly have more Vitamin C than an orange!  Should you actually become ill with a cold or the flu, large doses of Vitamin C (500 mg every 4 hours) has been shown to shorten the duration of the illness by 50 percent.
◦ Yogurt has probiotics – the “good bacteria” – to keep your digestive system up and running.  Research from the Journal of the American Dietetics Association shows consuming foods with probiotics regularly may also help boost your immune system.  Sauerkraut, miso and tempeh are other foods high in probiotics. Think of it like this: crowd out the bad bacteria with good. Empower the army you want to win the fight!
◦ Green tea contains polyphenols which act as potent antioxidants. A specific type of polyphenol, called catechin, may stimulate immune system cells and hinder disease-promoting compounds.  If you choose to dress up your tea, adding honey is fine, but adding milk is a bad idea, as it will bind to the polyphenols and stop their immunity-building benefits.
◦ As Vitamin D3 is difficult to extract from the winter sun, consider taking a supplement. A high-quality multivitamin that contains an optimal dose will prove much easier than yet another single-nutrient pill to swallow.

Sleep  To successfully battle viral invaders, your immune system needs all the energy it can get. When you sleep, your body can focus on rest and replenishment.  Strive for 7-8 hours a night. I cannot overstate this.

Reduce stress  I know this one is easier said than done but it is important you understand stress activates the immune system in preparation for fighting infection and healing wounds.  Contrary to the way it sounds, this is actually a good thing… unless the immune system is constantly activated.  So identify just one stressful situation to remedy – whether it’s canceling an appointment to free up your calendar (but NOT fitness/assessment appointments – see the bullet point #1: exercise), assembling a team to work on a project you’ve been tackling alone at work (or maybe working alone instead of with a team), or finally having that tough conversation with a family member you’ve avoided the entire holiday season.  Down the road, you’ll be glad you did, and so will your body.

All that said, keeping a healthy lifestyle in a society-defined culture of disease is tough. If you happen to come down with the cold or flu, try this natural remedy. It has worked for me repeatedly since I discovered it in 1999. It’s liquid oil of oregano, 17% carvacrol. Oregano happens to be antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. Quite the powerful little spice – which you’ll confirm when you put 5 drops (not droppers) in 4 oz. of water, and gargle and swallow every 3 hours. 1 additional drop directly under the tongue for quick bloodstream absorption is not a bad idea either. You’ll want to chase with water shortly thereafter. No, you won’t do this for fun (though it’s really not all that bad), you’ll do it to get better. But you gotta actually do it this way. I’ll go ahead and say that I’m not a doctor and this is not medical advice for your situation. I’m just sharing a little something has prevented me from taking a single prescription antibiotic since 1999. Hope it helps, but don’t forget the lifestyle habits! That’s where the power of prevention lies!