I used to swim competitively and it seemed that I would always get a cold right before the state or national championships. A stuffy nose would keep me from sleeping well at night and thus I was tired the next day. At a time when I needed to feel my best, I was feeling my worst.
I hate colds and flu with a passion. When I used to get a cold, it would knock me out for about 8-10 days. I get significantly fewer colds now (shorter durations 3-4 days) and I have not had the flu in over 4 years. I wish I knew then what I know now.
I listened to a very helpful seminar last week that was put on by Sanoviv Medical Institute . It featured Diana Noland, RD MPH CCN & Medical Nutrition Therapist.
Here are my notes and my reflective thoughts:
According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), the top health related problems during the winter months are as follows:
1. Colds and Flu. viruses
2. Mood disorders. Winter depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD
3. Obesity is a winter illness. Increasing body fat during the holidays.
4. Cancer. Most cancers are diagnosed during the winter months.
The best way to minimize your risk for disease during the winter months is to develop a healthy immune system.
Here are the six golden rules to developing a healthy immune system.
Golden Rule #1 - SLEEP
We have survived these diseases over the centuries because we used to sleep a lot. We slept according to the sun. Before the invention of the light bulb, we went to sleep when it got dark and woke up when it got light. You have probably heard the saying, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."
Get enough sleep.
Babies need about 14 hours of sleep, children need 12 and adults need at least 7-9 hours. Many of the cancers, weakened immune systems, depression and an increased rate of ageing are related to a lack of sleep. If people would just get the proper amount of sleep, they could slow down the rate of ageing. Ninety percent of your human growth hormone is made when you sleep. This is a key to staying young.
Some people say that they get by just fine on 4 hours of sleep per night. Then, they get up in the morning and ingest 3 or more cups of coffee in order to start their day. People who drink a lot of coffee tend to have elevated levels of homocystiene. The more they drink, the more they have. Homocystiene levels are associated with an increased risk for heart disease. This may be in part because of coffees diuretic action causing B vitamins such as folic acid to be flushed out. Folic acid is an important nutrient to keep homocystiene levels in check. Coffee is also extremely acidic. Coffee is one of the most acid-forming foods we can consume. This again is in part because of it’s diuretic action on the body causing valuable minerals to be flushed out. Mineral deficiencies are associated with osteoporosis, periodontal disease, muscle cramps, shin splints, hypertension and also cancer. Don't get me wrong, I like to have a nice hot cup of coffee now and then too. While it can be healthy in that it it contains some powerful and protective polyphenol antioxidants, it also can do some harm, especially in high amounts. Try and limit your coffee and caffeine intake to 300 mg. caffeine/day (i.e. 2-3 cups of coffee)to be on the safe side.
Golden Rule # 2 - Limit Your Sugar Intake
Sugar has some direct effects on your immune system. It will depress your immune system and slow down your white blood cell activity about two hours after you after you eat a food with significant sugar in it. During that two hours, you will be less able to fight off any germs that come along. Also, sugar can increase body fat percent because it will increase insulin which is the hormone that helps you build more fat especially around your middle.
Sugar can tend to congest the fluids in your arteries. If your arteries are like a pipe and the fluid in there is gunky and congested, it will not flow well and will not have a very clean pipe.
Stay away from High Fructose Corn Syrup and artificial sweeteners. Try natural sugar Agave Nectar, Stevia, cane sugar and just get back to the basics.
Sugar feeds cancer cells.
Lick The Sugar Habit
Just A Spoon Full Of Sugar?
Why do we crave sugar?
1. Your body is starving for something it is not getting. The most common nutrient that relates to craving are minerals. If you get your magnesium levels up, your cravings for sugar goes away. One of the studies done by the U.S. government states that at least 80% of the people in our country did not even get the RDA level of magnesium in there diet. That is really bad. So try to include more vegetables and whole grains in your diet.
2. You have low blood sugar. Your body is trying to raise your blood sugar to a safer level. This is called hypoglycemia. A way to prevent that is not to skip meals. Make sure to eat 3-5 times a day.
Drink plenty of water so you do not get dehydrated. Drink 8-16 ounces of pure water before a meal. Many times the hunger that you are feeling is really a false hunger. You are actually thirsty.
Drinking water helps keep bodily fluids thin enough so that they can flow through the body and keep your immune system healthy. Blood is the one we are most familiar with but lymphatic fluids are critical to keep fluid and flowing. If it gets congested, you will get sick more easily. The tonsil area is a lymphatic tissue. If you don't drink enough water, it gets congested in there and you get a respiratory infection. Drinking enough water keeps the mouth rinsed out so the bad bacteria in your mouth doesn't cause tooth decay. Drinking enough water helps your intestines. This is an elimination organ and it helps you not to be so constipated. Your kidneys need a lot of water too. Without enough water, the urine gets too concentrated and you will have a higher chance of getting an infection in there or not being able to eliminate the toxins.
Golden rule #4 - Maintain High Levels Of Vitamin D
Make sure that you are maintaining your vitamin D3 levels in your blood. You might even want to go to your doctor and have him/her measure the vitamin D25- hydroxy in your blood. The further north you live, the more important this becomes. Exposure to sunlight will increase the levels of vitamin D naturally. This is being related to certain cancers like colorectal cancer and winter depression. Use full spectrum light lamps to help with this. Vitamin D is an immune system modulator. Helps your whole body to have a good immune system. It even helps with prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis and even the pain of OA. Get out and get 15 minutes of sun every day on your skin. Your skin makes vitamin D. Foods that have vitamin D in them are fatty foods like wild Alaskan salmon, eggs, pickled herring. Take a supplement of at least 1000 IU of vitamin D3 during the winter months. The upper limit for vitamin D consumption is 2000 IU. Anything above this level could be toxic and cause you health problems. Vitamin D2 is found in milk and is not the same as vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is also far more effective than D2. People taking D3 (as long as it's oil-based) easily obtain healthy levels of vitamin D in the blood. People taking 50,000 units per day of D2 (the recommended quantity) remain miserably deficient, with minor increases in vitamin D blood levels. In short, D2 barely works at all. D3 works easily and effectively.
Best Vitamin D Articles
Golden rule #5 - Keep Moving
Movement helps to keeps the lymphatic system flowing. Viruses love the lymphatic fluid that is all gunked up and congested. It thrives in that stuff. Movement is really the main way your body moves the lymphatic fluid around. The lymphatic system does not have a heart that pumps like our blood system, so it is your movement that does that. A ten minute walk every day with your arms swinging will help to strengthen your immune system.
Golden Rule #6 - Love and Laugh.
Marriage and Health
Don't take yourself so seriously. In the final episode of the popular sitcom, M.A.S.H., the army psychologist says his final goodbyes to the wartime medical unit that he has come to love and respect. His final words were, "Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice." In other words, if you can't find the humor in life, go out and make some of your own.
Captain Kangaroo was one of my favorite television shows growing up. He always made me laugh. In an interview that he gave before he died, he said, "You can't die laughing but you sure could die without it."
"Laughter is the best medicine... unless you're asthmatic - then it's 'Ventolin'." - old joke.
The Laughing Cure
Research has shown health benefits of laughter ranging from strengthening the immune system to reducing food cravings to increasing one's threshold for pain. There's even an emerging therapeutic field known as humor therapy to help people heal more quickly, among other things. Humor also has several important stress relieving benefits.
Research has shown that laughing can help in:
-lowering blood pressure
-reducing stress hormones
-increasing muscle flexion
-boosting immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gammainterferon and B-cells, which produce disease-destroying antibodies.
triggering the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers
-producing a general sense of well-being
So what happens if I feel a cold coming on? What can I do to stop it? Can it be stopped and if so, how?
1. Get some kind of nasal irrigation system. Colds usually enter the respiratory system through the nose. If you can clean out the population of germs in your nose, it is much to your advantage to not get sick even if you have started to get a cold. Go to the pharmacy and get something like a syringe that you can rinse your nose out with salt water. There is a thing called a Neti Pot that looks like a little baby tea pot that will help you to rinse out your nose. I felt a cold coming on last week and used a NeilMed Sinus Rinse and it was gone in minutes! Here are a few links to see what these devices look like:
Got a Runny Nose? Flush It Out!
Dr. Oz explains the use of a Neti Pot on Oprah
I use a NeilMed Sinus Rinse. I like even better than a Neti Pot
2. Increase your vitamin C intake and spread it evenly throughout the day. Vitamin C has antiviral properties that will help you fight a cold.
3. Don't eat sugar!
4. One of the top homeopathic remedies for a cold is called Oscollicocinum
5. Of course, everyone knows that you should wash your hands often. Picking up germs and then rubbing your eyes or nose is a very common way to catch a cold or flu.
Is there anything you can take or recommend to get a good night's sleep?
1. Sleep is naturally promoted when the body gets with a low light. Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by your body to induce sleep and is produced in your blood when the sun goes down. So, if you have a lot of bright lights, you will suppress your melatonin. Don't watch TV an hour before you go to bed. Especially if it is one of the older TV's instead of the newer plasma or LED TV's. The light is like millions of little strobe lights that hit your eye. There are photo receptors that are hit by that light and they tell the melatonin to stay low. So, keep the lights low and stay calm an hour before you go to sleep.
2. You might want to have a cup of chamomile tea to relax. If your sleep problems are more intense, you might have to go to see your doctor or a nutritionist.
3. Another thing is to not have a stimulant like coffee or tea after 12 noon.
4. Taking a mineral like magnesium will help you to relax. Sometimes your muscles are too tense to go to sleep. Magnesium will help your muscles to relax.
5. If you take a high quality multivitamin, vitamin C and some grape seed extract, you will strengthen your immune system and lessen the duration of a cold. Grape seed extract has been found to be a powerful antioxidant. It is 50 times stronger than vitamin E and 20 times stronger than vitamin C.
How does stress affect the immune system and what can be done to minimize it?
Stress can come from many different avenues. It could be biological, physical or emotional. Maybe you had a trauma to a muscle or a bone. It could be from an infection or from your emotions like having a toxic relationship or a work related stress. From many studies we know that it affects the physiology and depresses the immune system. That will lead to an eventual sickness or breakdown eventually. Read my entry on Holiday stress to find out how you could keep stress from making your hair fall out.
What can be done?
1. Get some sleep. Things always look better in the morning. It does not matter who your are. If you get enough sleep, the stress will be less because you get more stress when you don't get enough sleep. Studies have shown that if you get enough sleep, you will have a better chance of losing weight too.
2. Change your environment. Change your job? If it is work related, you might consider quitting your job and finding another one that gives you less stress. I read a great book once called, "Do What You Love And The Money Will Follow." It is true. Why are you working? What are you working for? Isn't it to have enough money to do the things you want to do and spend more time with the ones you love? Consider working for yourself. I did and you can read my story at http://jeffiversen.com/
3. Check your vitamin D levels This might be a factor
4. Infections could be a factor. Make sure you get your health back and get rid of these chronic infections. Some of these can be sub clinical and you don't even know that they are there. Sometimes these can be found in your teeth. So visit your dentist and make sure there are no problems there.