We all know that winter can be a real breeding ground for colds and sniffles, especially in families, where often it will pass from one person to another and continue to do so in a vicious cycle until everyone has had their dose of the bug.
It is so important to stay healthy all year round, but especially so in winter, when the immune system is regularly made to work harder in order to stave off cold and flu attacks that are synonymous with colder weather. Here is how you can be fighting winter colds and sniffles, naturally!
How do you keep you and your family healthy and boost your immune system when it needs boosting the most? We spoke to our expert in the field of spinal and immune health, Dr Orly Zuker, to get the lowdown.
So, Dr Zuker… tell us everything what we need to know : )
The immune system is a complex feature of the human body. It is our body’s defense against foreign particles such as; bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, glass objects and dirt etc. In an event that the body is “invaded” by antigens (foreign bodies), an “attack” or immune response takes place. This is a normal, health and natural response.
In regards to the ever so common cancer, cancer cells in fact exist in everyone‟s body, although cancer in the form of disease will only ever occur as a result of the immune system failing and attacking itself, multiplying cancer cells by the second, as opposed to the common cold, which will occur as a result of the immune system malfunctioning.
Very simply, the immune system is physiologically made up of a complex arrangement of white bloods cells (WBCs), lymphatic tissue, bone marrow and organs such as the spleen and thymus, which work together to defend and protect the body. Leukocytes are specific WBCs that constantly circulate the bloodstream and lymph tissue, monitoring for the presence of germs and foreign substances that may cause illness.
In the 18th and the early 19th Centuries infectious disease, poor hygiene and sanitation standards were major threats to health. In the 21st century, infectious disease continues to be an issue in the form of „super bugs‟ (due to overuse of antibiotics). This has lead to an epidemic of what is known as Iatrogenesis; adverse effects/ illness or death that are caused by medical intervention. Unfortunately, Iatrogenesis is commonly caused by secondary infection that results from these “superbugs” that have become simply become resilient to antibiotic treatment. In addition, today we are faced by an epidemic of lifestyle illnesses such as; cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity that have become a major problem in our western world/ society. With healthy eating and an active lifestyle, we don‟t have to become a statistic of heart disease or nor do we need to lose a limb to diabetes.
If you are prone to poor immunity during the winter months, there a few things you may like to include or introduce into in your wellness lifestyle to help you avoid those winter sniffles, some may even be in your pantry!
Quite often, rest and recuperation is all we need, however when it comes to avoiding common colds, flu and sinus infections, nature has many of the answers. Minerals such as zinc, vitamins such as C, D and the B complex, echinacea, garlic, olive leaf extract and honey are just some! Regardless of whether you are interested in living till 101, warding off viruses, avoid cancer or merely maintaining good health, it is imperative to live a healthy lifestyle, by partaking in regular exercise, reducing stress, eating a healthy and well balanced diet and by having adequate sleep each night. These simple measures are not a full proof guarantee, although they should at least give your body a boost when it comes to your health, immunity and the aging process.
Immune boosters at home
Olive leaf extract
When you picture the Mediterranean, you see olive trees and olive oil, the staple of thousands of years. Interestingly, the rates of cardiovascular disease in countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy are impressively low, which scientists have attributed to the large quantities of olive products that are consumed each day. Historically, the olive tree has been referred to as the “tree of life”, as the leaves and fruit contain plant phenols that have healing and medicinal properties. In more recent years, olive leaf extract has become a popular multi use tonic. According to manufacturers, olive leaf extract has 400% more antioxidant power than vitamin C. Research has also suggested benefits in; enhancing immunity (due to antibacterial and antifungal action), in fever relief and in cardiovascular health… And all just from the humble olive leaf!!
Zinc is an essential nutrient required for good health, as it is involved in cell growth and function. Deficiencies may cause growth retardation in children, immune deficiency, as well as problems relating to skin and mood. Some studies suggest that the use of zinc can have benefits in childhood diarrhoea, chronic hepatitis C, adult shingles, tuberculosis, pneumonia, respiratory tract infections and the common cold.
For thousands of years in villages and communities around the world, garlic has been used for its powerful medicinal properties. Apparently, in 3000 BC the Egyptian and Roman workman ate raw garlic as they believed it enhanced their physical endurance and strength. Garlic contains a powerful compound known as Allicin for which studies have shown has anti-microbial properties (antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic). Allicin has also been found to have anti-cancer, anti- oxidant and anti-diabetic effects. Some studies have also shown a positive connection to cardiovascular health, by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.
Most people have either heard or know that vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant) offers assistance to the immune system. Public perception is that oranges and citrus fruit are the best choice in obtaining vitamin C, where in fact kiwi fruit, capsicum, garlic, olive leaf extract, berries; strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and guava actually contain greater amounts of vitamin C per gram.
In the bloodstream Vitamin C acts to reduce oxidative stress by destroying free radicals, and as a result slowing the rate of cellular aging and damage. Over time, studies have shown that Vitamin C may reduce inflammation and histamine as well as enhancing the cell mediated immune response.
Probiotics or “microflora‟ aid the body by maintaining balance between the gastrointestinal tract and the immune system. With the polluted environment we live in and with the regular antibiotic therapy that is administered, „unhealthy‟ or pathogenic bacteria often proliferate in the gut. This bacteria overgrows and inhibits the function of the “healthy‟ or beneficial bacteria that exists. This causes a disruption in the gut, often leading to gut dysfunction (dysbiosis), disease and inflammation in the body.
As a result, probiotic supplementation is commonly used by health care practitioners to prevent disease, maintain general health and in the treatment of conditions such as; eczema, psoriasis, immune compromise, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhoea and in coeliac or crohn‟s disease. Most probiotic supplements, especially the live cultured ones must be refrigerated at all times.
Honey, propolis and royal jelly are all products of the intricate beehive. Since ancient times, honey has been an important part of traditional medicine, and in more recent times, used by hospitals for wound healing with impressive results. The propolis and royal jelly feature of honey has been found to have anti-bacterial, anti- oxidant, immuno-modulatory, hypotensive, disinfectant, anti-inflammatory and anti- viral effects. With all of honey‟s medicinal properties, the old home remedy for soothing a sore throat has credibility: Pure honey & fresh lemon hot tea.
Echinacea is an indigenous North America plant, which produces a flower with known medicinal properties. Echinacea is most commonly used in Europe, Australia and America for common colds, flu, and other infections. Various studies have shown that Echinacea preparations (liquid, tablets and capsules) shorten the duration and or decrease the severity of symptoms associated common colds.
Your naturopath is able to prepare herbal tinctures for you that include Echinacea, zinc, garlic and vitamin C. This combination together will either help your body to avoid colds or assist in a speedy recovering.
It is a well-known fact that colds and flu are more frequent in winter. The parallel to this is that vitamin D deficiency is also common in winter. Science is only more recently discovering that there is a connection!! This is a confusing and contentious issue as we are encouraged to avoid the sun in an attempt to reduce skin cancer, however the “slip, slop, slap” campaign is at the same time creating other significant health issues. When thinking about sun protection, sun exposure and boosting vitamin D levels consider spending 10min-15min in the sun (with direct skin exposure and no protection), two times a week… This is a start and in addition to a high quality vitamin D supplement can be very helpful to the immune system.
Vitamin B complex
In nature, there are eight vitamins which make up the B-complex. These are all essential for metabolic processes that including: energy production, red blood cell synthesis/ formation, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, brain function and development, immune function and hormone activity. Of all the 8 B-vitamins, vitamin B6 and B12 are especially implicated in immunity and infection susceptibility.
If you are experiencing recurrent colds and infections, it is possible that you may have a vitamin B deficiency that needs to be explored by your health care provider. A simple blood test or hair-mineral analysis will give you this information.
Help from complimentary healthcare
For many years in their clinics, chiropractors have observed that their patients can often demonstrate greater immune resiliency, finding that colds disappear faster with symptoms being milder than previous times.
From a scientific perspective, preliminary research has indicated that chiropractic adjustments may have a significant effect on immune system function, by increasing the activity of WBCs. This occurs as a result of the nervous system functioning more optimally. This information is exciting for those people already under chiropractic care, as changes to immune function are more or less a side-effect or bonus to the results they may already be experiencing from regular chiropractic adjustments.
Naturopathy and Homeopathy
Both of these complimentary health modalities are age old. With holism they both aim to boost the body‟s ability to function optimally by correcting mineral and vitamin deficiencies or excesses. Treatment is often administered by the prescription of colloidal preparations, herbs, vitamin and mineral supplements. If compliance is strong, these health care measures are often quite effective.
Avoiding antibiotic therapy and recurrent illness, increasing your immune system and enhancing overall health is possible, however does require patience and dedication. There are multiple minerals, vitamins and foods that are either already in your pantry, or are available at your local grocery store or from your health care provider. Whichever way you prefer to manage your winter sniffles is totally individual, just commit and keep healthy.