It is that time of year every mother dreads: Flu Season. What is the flu and why does it seem to be more prevalent during fall and winter? Did the flu and cold virus return from their vacation they have been on? I will answer these questions and give a few tips on how you and your family can stay healthy during the fall and winter.
The flu is a contagious respiratory infection that is spread through coughing, sneezing, talking or even touching surfaces contaminated with influenza. The symptoms include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, fatigue and headaches. The CDC claimed that the flu killed 80,000 Americans last year, but this number includes the flu and pneumonia! The actual number of flu deaths is much less. None of this sounds enjoyable so, what can we do to avoid the flu or prepare our bodies best to guard against it?
Let’s first look at how our immune system works. The immune system is a balancing act between Th1 and Th2. Th1 is our first line of defense. Its job is to get the bad stuff out. It lives in the skin, sinuses, respiratory system, and intestines. You know its working when you feel the symptoms. Think coughing, sneezing, diarrhea. Your body is trying to rid itself of the invader. The Th2 system comes into play in case of emergencies. It fights the bad stuff by starting an inflammatory response. A balance between these two systems is key in maintain a healthy immune system and response. The problem comes when we intervene too often. Vaccines stimulate Th2 and most medications inhibit Th1. Think of OTC meds clearing up your cold symptoms and fever reducers. This imbalanced immune system can end up leading to all different kinds of chronic illnesses such as, allergies, asthma and chronic inflammation, known as autoimmune diseases. If that doesn’t sound fun here are some tips of how you can combat the flu naturally.
One thing you can do is to continue to get adjusted under chiropractic care or start seeing a chiropractor if you aren’t already. Chiropractic adjustments actually boost immune function. Chiropractors are looking for spinal misalignments, called subluxations. These subluxations result in interference of the nervous system by affecting the function of the nerves. The nervous system is the master system of the body and controls everything, including the immune system. During an immune response, the brain and immune system communicate to maintain homeostasis. A study found that after an adjustment to the midback, the response of WBC taken 15 minutes after the adjustment was significantly higher than the blood collected 15 minutes before. This is why we always recommend you keep your appointment if sick or not feeling well. It will help fight whatever you have going on.
Why does the flu suddenly show up in the fall and winter? Flu is actually not a season. It’s our bodies inability to adapt due to decreased sun exposure, decreased water intake combined with increased sugar intake and stress. The days are short now. Most of us leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark. We rarely see the sun and when we do we are bundled up, because it is so cold outside. We decrease our water intake, because we are not outside running around in the heat. Back to school, holidays and winter breaks create stress for even the most chill person and with the holidays and cold weather we naturally increase our sugar intake ie: pumpkin spice lattes.
We cannot control the lack of sun, but we can supplement. Vitamin D moderates immune function and inflammation. We recommend 5,000 IU a day and if feeling sick can boost that to 10,000 IU.
Since 70-80% of your immune system lives in the gut, and your digestive system is dependent of the presence of healthy bacteria. Taking a daily probiotic is like planting seeds of good bacteria.
In the Spring and Summer, we are outside more often exercising and running around. When we are out moving we are sweating and detoxing. This is the bodies natural way to rid itself of a virus. Exercise and movement stimulates the lymphatic, respiratory and digestive system to get everything moving along and get it out! Whether it is dust, dander, cold or flu virus it can’t stick in our bodies if our plumbing system, lymph, respiratory and digestive systems, are working properly. If we are sitting around and not moving, neither are those systems, so get out and move! Find something you enjoy.
We can’t control the seasons and weather change, but we can control what we put into our bodies. This is not the time to be eating and drinking lots of dairy and sugar. Sugar provides our body nothing in terms of vitamins and minerals. It causes dysbiosis and promotes inflammation. If our system is too inflamed it cannot get the virus out. Dairy also creates thickened mucus, making it harder for the body to rid itself of invaders. Eat real food during this time. High quality protein, good fats, healthy oils and veggies should be the main part of your diet. Fuel your immune system with natural occurring vitamins and minerals.
As we already mentioned this time of year causes stress for most of us. It is common to carry that stress in our upper back, shoulders and neck. This is for adults, kids and babies. It just so happens this is where most of our plumbing system for our body is, ears, nose, and throat. These systems drain it to your digestive tracts where the acidity of the stomach gets rid of it. Whenever things are tightened and tense in that area we have a less effective drainage system. Chiropractic adjustments can realign the spine and help relieve that tension and get things flowing properly. I believe it is also important for us to find time for ourselves to manage our stress levels. Some techniques that work for me are yoga, exercising, and mediation. You need to find what is best for you.
If you do start feeling sick here are some things that can help kick it and get you feeling better. For a supplement we highly recommend Viracid. When taken when symptoms first start it is highly effective. Apple cider vinegar also contains powerful healing compounds. It acts as a natural antibiotic. You can take a small swig of it in the morning.
Mindfulness is the best medicine when it comes to the flu season. Boosting your immune system naturally through healthy eating, exercise, chiropractic, and supplementation not only will keep you healthier in the short term, but it will also help your body maintain a healthy Th1/Th2 immune system balance in the long term. The adage “get a lot of sleep, and drink a lot of fluids” is the best way to recover, and promote strong immune function in the future.
Cheers to your health!