Killing Your Cold and Sesonal Allergies
This year has been a particularity brutal cold and flu season with currently no end in sight, but allergy season is also right around the corner with warmer weather on the horizon! Although Westcoast Integrative Health is all about functional medicine, health enhancement and treatment of chronic health conditions, sometimes we need to throw all of that out the window to just treat the symptoms and get better. Even still, when it comes to gearing up the immune system for winter and allergy season, prevention is the best form of medicine.
Because the body has an amazing array of immune cells and immunoglobulins to protect us from getting sick, with the right support it’s easy to stay healthy all year round. When it comes to immune support, first line treatment should be diet and lifestyle. Given the right nutrients and avoiding certain foods, our bodies have no problems identifying, isolating and removing bacteria and viruses, which allows us to stay healthy and active throughout the winter months. By avoiding certain foods that trigger our bodies, we can also reduce the over reaction of our immune system against proteins like pollen and dust so that pesky allergy symptoms don’t plague us throughout the spring.
That said, not everyone’s immune system works effectively. This is where a functional medicine approach is critical. We can look at the balance of innate and adaptive immunity as well as the balance within the adaptive immune system itself. Testing like immunophenotyping, quantitative immunoglobulins, compliment, and white blood cell counts with differentials when a person is healthy, is a great place to start! Although this can be done anytime of year, when a person is “unsick”, is actually the best time for a thorough check in on the immune system. Testing for food allergies or sensitivities is also fairly critical as certain food proteins can actually distract our immune system from doing it’s job properly.
One of the most important things that people need to know when preparing for the cold and flu season, as well as allergy season, is that 60-80% of our immune system is actually in the lining of our gastrointestinal tract. That’s right, a healthy gut is the first place to start in supporting a healthy immune system. With our cold Canadian climate, warm foods like unrefined fats, lightly cooked vegetables and plenty of protein in the winter should be at the forefront of any good immune support strategy. Try making soups and stews using natural sea salt to taste and fats like olive oil and coconut oil which work as natural antibacterial and antiviral agents in our bodies.
Emotional and physical stress also play a major role in how our immune systems work. Keeping a balanced lifestyle and managing stress properly by reducing the consumption of excess sugar and refined grain products, while enjoying regular, but not excessive exercise, and getting plenty of good quality sleep are all important in cold and flu prevention. Stress reduction techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, yoga and meditation can help boost immunity by balancing stress hormones and increasing immune cell circulation, while improving digestion.
As viral and bacterial exposures typically come from surfaces and person to person contact, prevention should also start with good hygiene. Proper and regular hand washing with regular soap and water, keeps me healthy all year round and will likely do the same for you. For people that tend to get sick easily, nasal irrigation with a solution of sea salt and baking soda is also a very important strategy for staying healthy. Nasal irrigation kits, available in most pharmacies, keep the nasal passages clear of viruses and bacteria when used several times per day.
All colds and flus are caused by different viruses that can develop into secondary bacterial infections when we don’t listen to our bodies and rest. Common cold symptoms, such as runny nose, sore throat, cough and mild fevers or flu symptoms such as chills, fevers, muscle aches and significant weakness are all signs of the immune system trying to clear up the infection. When possible, let the infection run their course, providing the body with immune support and natural treatments if needed. Some exceptions are when fevers rise above 40.5 degrees Celsius or when mucous secretions become thick and yellow or greenish, leading to difficulty breathing. Although fever over 40.5 degrees Celsius is generally not a concern, plenty of fluids and a visit to the doctor may be considered.
Like something out of an adventure story, the microscopic world of our immune system interacts with millions of bacteria, viruses and environmental proteins each day. Staying healthy and seasonal allergy symptom free is not hard with a bit of planning and knowledge about how the immune system works. Although we all require a trip to the doctor for a cold at one point, or perhaps an antihistamine here and there, most of the time there are plenty of natural treatments available to help us stay healthy all year round!
Cold/Flu and Seasonal Allergy Treatment
|Treatment||Dosage and Cautions||Duration||Natural Sources|
|Vitamin D3 Medium chain triglyceride based supplements appear to have the best absorption||1000 to 10000 IU per day (25-hydroxy vitamin D levels should be tested and are optimum at 130 nmol/litre.||Higher doses may be taken at the first sign of a cold or flu.||UV light exposure|
|Vitamin C (Sodium ascorbate or ascorbic acid with bioflavinoids)||500 to 5000 mg per dayVitamin C can cause loose stool at high doses.||High doses at the onset of a cold or flu are recommended.||FruitsVegetables|
|Zinc||5-100 mgs per day Excess zinc intake should be avoided long term.
||Higher doses may be used during a cold or flu||Red meatNuts and seeds Beans|
|Probiotics Lactobacillus (Specifically Lactobacillus Rhamnosus) and Bifidobacterium bacteria||1 to 100 billion live cells per day||Higher doses prevent and reduce the severity of colds/flu and prevent and treat allergy symptoms.
||Yogurt/Kefir Kim-chiNatto and tempeh Sauerkraut|