Beef up your immune system

By Annelle Norman

“…the germ is nothing; the terrain is everything.” – Louis Pasteur

Cold and virus season is upon us and many of us are hoping to avoid aches and pains, drippy noses and hacking coughs not to mention lost days from work and school. So how can you protect yourself and your family?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) first and foremost recommendation for everyone is to get immunized with this season’s flu shot. Each year scientists engineer a vaccine to protect against the strains of virus that health experts believe are most likely to be widespread that flu season. The CDC estimates flu-related hospitalizations among adults are reduced by between 71 and 77 percent in those who had been immunized with similar benefits for children and the elderly. Flu shots are available at the Point Roberts Clinic on November 3, 6, 10 and 11. Call 945-2580 to set up an appointment.

As you’ve heard on many occasions while watching your favorite football team, “The best offense is a great defense.” Your immune system, or your “terrain,” is both your best offense and defense against viruses and bacteria of all sorts. Even the father of immunization, Louis Pasteur, acknowledged that the terrain is what determines whether a germ can multiply and cause illness. So what makes for a healthy terrain or immune system?

Unfortunately, there are many strains of viruses and bacteria out there so here are some steps you and your family can take to minimize your chances of coming down with a virus.

Eliminate sugar. We know processed sugar, and the foods that contain it, suppresses our immune system’s ability to make and maintain healthy white blood cells, the immune system’s army of warrior cells. Even natural, “healthy” sugars like those contained in fruits can have this effect, so keep your fruit consumption to those that are lower in sugar and high in nutrients like apples, pears, berries and citrus fruits.

On the other hand, certain nutrients nourish and support the immune system, such as vitamins A, C, D, E and B, omega 3 fatty acids, minerals, phytochemicals and plenty of healthy proteins. It is generally agreed that whole-food vitamins are more readily absorbed than their chemical equivalents, so if you decide to supplement, seek out quality brands that contain vitamins and minerals from whole foods. What would this look like on your plate? Generally speaking, a plate covered with varied and richly colored vegetables and fish or poultry will provide these nutrients.

Cut back on caffeine and increase herbal teas. Caffeine suppresses the virus and bacteria-fighting part of your immune system and raises cortisol levels, which further suppresses your immune system. Substitute herbal teas such as licorice root, peppermint, tulsi (holy basil), red clover and alfalfa.

Protect your body’s natural barriers. This means your skin, nose, mouth and even the digestive juices in your stomach. Wash your hands frequently with normal soap; antibacterial soaps are actually contributing to the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant germs. Use essential oils such as lavender, lemon, orange, peppermint or tea tree to wipe down surfaces in your kitchen, bathroom, doorknobs, steering wheel, etc. You could even saturate baby wipes with alcohol or your favorite mix of essential oils to use in public places like on grocery cart handles.

Use a neti pot with a mild saline solution to rinse your nasal passages, and support healthy digestion and a powerful barrier against food-borne pathogens by taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with your meals.

Reduce stress and stop worrying. Stress raises cortisol levels, and when that happens, your immune system is suppressed. Healthy, stress-free exercise such as walking, yoga, biking, or a dance class are fun and raise endorphin levels, which enhance immune function.

Annelle Norman, BSc (Hon) LCH is a homeopath who lives and practices in Point Roberts.

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