Being on the Defensive side of Cold & Flu Season BY: Dr. Rachel Steiner
Looking at the upcoming weekly weather, I see temperatures of mid 60’s and lows in the 20’s in the forecast here in Tuscaloosa. I wear my winter jacket (which I previously wore in my snowy home state of Ohio) to work in the morning, but by the afternoon I could almost be in shorts. It is the many mood swings of weather here that manifests into the “cold and flu” season. I don’t watch a lot of television, however I have seen more than my share of Tamiflu or Robitussin commercials! Instead of taking these medications once you are already infested with sickness, your defense weapon should always be doing things to prevent them from happening in the first place. Through research and personal opinions from being in the field conservative healthcare, these are some helpful tips to stay healthy and keep your body functioning at its greatest potential.
Get some exercise- exercising increases the immune system through the release of endorphins and sweating out toxic substances. With added stress- whether it is physical, emotional, or mental, sends the bodies’ immune system into a downward spiral. However, physical activity decreases stress levels by releasing “happy hormones” and mentally clearing the mind. Also good news, if you are already sick exercise stimulates the production of epinephrine, which constricts blood vessels in and around your mucous membranes and can relieve nasal discomfort and congestion.
Eat your way to health- Think of food as an insurance policy, like a preventive strike against cold and flu season. Eat a diet that is high in antioxidants, which are found in fruits and vegetables. More specifically and beneficial, eat fruits and vegetables that are rich in colors like red, orange, yellow, purple, and dark green such as tomatoes, oranges, bell peppers, eggplant, spinach, and blueberries. Don’t forget that healthy eating is not just a winter concern but should be developed into habits for a healthier life.
Start taking vitamins aka “Fight-amins” - Our Vitamin D levels decrease in the winter months because the sun is not as powerful and the amount of sunshine becomes few and far between. Unfortunately, you can only consume a small amount of Vitamin D in your diet so you need to take matters into your own hands. Why Vitamin D? Because it helps the body fight off colds. In fact research shows, taking 10,000 IU of Vitamin D a day can help fight respiratory infection.
Drink more water- Water oxygenates your blood and flushes out toxins from your body. It also hydrates all your organs and specifically your eyes and mouth, which keeps them moist to repel viruses. What I recommend to my patients in the office is drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example-if you weigh 160 pounds, you should be drinking 80 ounces of water each day. Try it, it will change the way you look and feel.
Avoid Sugar and Dairy- According to research, the amount of sugar in one can of soda (Or my northern lingo, a can of pop) can decrease your immune system by 30% for 3 hours. Some will argue that sugar should be completely avoided in your diet however, sugar intake should be limited to 9 and 6 teaspoons respectively for men and women. Dairy products increase mucus production and thickness, making it harder to fight congestion. Dairy also increases inflammation in the body, which can lead to further constricted airways, making it harder to breathe.
Eat your Protein- Research shows that a diet too low in protein can deplete the immune system. The recommended about of protein per day set by the American Registered Dietician Association is .4 grams per pound of body weight. So again if we take a 160-pound person and multiple that by .4 grams, this person should be consuming 64 grams of protein per day. Good sources of protein include lean meats such as chicken breasts and turkey, eggs, legumes, peanut butter, and whole grains such as quinoa.
Chiropractic Care- First of all let me say, chiropractic care is not a cure for the common cold. Regular chiropractic care, however, will increase a person’s natural resistance to colds through natural resistance. The natural resistance I am talking about is the body’s ability to function optimally, which can only happen if one is free of misalignments of the spine. These misalignments prevent proper nerve flow through the body and lower its natural resistance to fight illnesses.
In closing, I want to debunk the saying “feed a cold, starve a fever”. Anytime your body is fighting a sickness, nutritious foods will aid your immune system in getting rid of whatever you are battling. Also, when you have a fever your metabolism is higher which means you are burning more calories than you normally would due to the higher temperature of your body. So you actually need more calories for energy and for your body to function properly.
Although these are suggestions for preventing a cold or flu, in general they are healthy habits that should be implemented year around. Trying all of these at once may seem overwhelming, but instead try adding one change a week. Making small changes at a time will add up to a big change and in return a much healthier you. Best of luck and I wish you the healthiest, happiest year yet!