With cold and flu season around the corner, there is no better time to stock up on hand sanitizer, supplements and boost your immune system. Now while many of you may be worried about the recent Ebola outbreak, and we certainly should be concerned and vigilant, it is far more likely that many of us will be exposed to and possibly catch a cold or flu this Winter. So what can you do to decrease your chances of catching something?
Well first off, it is important to understand how viruses (colds and flu) are contracted. In general, these are infectious and contagious. Meaning if someone with a cold or the flu sneezes on a surface, you touch that surface and then touch your eyes or mouth—you just inoculated yourself with virus. Hence, avoid touching your eyes or mouth or face without washing your hands first or using a hand-sanitizer.
Unfortunately, the flu can also be airborne—meaning virus particles are floating in the air attached to mucus, perhaps from someone coughing. You may happen to walk through that cough zone and breathe in those particles which get to the lung lining and take hold, this can cause you to get sick. Thanks for the gift, right? If you are sick, stay home, it is not very neighborly to go out and get others sick. And remember, wipe off surfaces you touch like tray tables on airplanes, computer key boards and even the community microwave at work.
How The Immune System Works
Now just because a few cold virus particles made it to you eye and then into your nose does not mean that you will get sick. How strong and prepared your immune system is will play an important role as well. The immune system is basically divided into two parts: the natural and the adaptive. The natural immune system includes all of our native barriers like mucosa, skin and the white blood cells floating around in us all the time. The healthier it is, the better. The adaptive immune system is the part that reacts to re-exposure and brings all the cells and antibodies already prepared and prevents that re-exposure form taking hold and making you sick—that is how vaccines work. There are many foods and supplements that support our immune function and help prevent us from getting sick when we do touch a dirty surface or breath in a ‘cough cloud’.
Helpful Immune System Supplements
One of the most frequently taken supplements is Zinc. Not only has zinc been shown to support the immune system, but zinc is actually anti-viral—it kills the cold virus . This has led to the popularity of clinically proven zinc lozenges and dissolvable tablets. Other common immune boosters include Reishi Mushroom, and herb/roots such as Astragulus, Echinacea, and Goldenseal. Lysine and Vitamin C area also great to boost immune function and are often packaged together along with zinc in a combination form. Don’t forget your probiotics to keep your gut healthy, a potential source of micro invaders into the body. Green tea, Propolis, Garlic and Rutin are also beneficial.
Article by Jeff Pearl, MD
Dr. Jeff is a trained general, pediatric cardiac, and transplant surgeon. Nutrition has always been an important concern for surgeons in regards to patients healing from surgery. He has had a longstanding interest in health, nutrition and supplements, and been an advocate of the use of nutrition and supplements in the hospital setting to aid in his patient’s recovery. He has a history of basic science and clinical research and a keen ability to interpret studies and statistics to determine their true significance. He is the father and step-father to several teenage athletes and knows firsthand the challenges they face in balancing their time, eating habits and use of supplements. He is adamant about trying to educate our youth about better nutrition. Dr. Jeff recognizes the challenges that healthcare faces and the need for people to take charge of their own health and disease prevention. He loves being outside and is one of those crazy few seen hiking or biking in the middle of the day in summer.