Is Your Immune System Ready for Cold and Flu Season?

The 2013/2014 school year has just begun in Nashville, and already we’re hearing from friends and neighbors that their children are getting sick and missing school.  Of course, kids love to share, and they’re sharing germs with siblings and their parents, who are sharing with their friends and colleagues.  The vicious cycle of cold and flu season is starting.

Unfortunately, the transition from playing outside in the summer to sharing space in a classroom with 20-30 other students can be a shock to the system.  How can you decrease your children’s vulnerability to illness, as well as your own?

1)      Visit your acupuncturist.  Acupuncture itself helps the body’s processes flow smoothly and work to its optimal potential.  Additional techniques such as Gua Sha and Cupping can offer relief from pain, stiffness, and congestion, and may shorten the period of illness or prevent illness from progressing.  Affinity Acupuncture in Brentwood, TN offers all of these modalities, as well as a variety of nutritional supplements to boost the body’s immune system.

2)      Wash your hands. Yes, we all know this one.  But did you know that hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap aren’t necessarily better than non-antibacterial soap?  In fact, they can sometimes sanitize too much, to the point that they kill GOOD bacteria and the body’s natural defenses and immunities are compromised.  Using a standard soap, when you have access to a sink, is sufficient with good washing habits (at least 20 seconds, getting soap in between fingers, etc.).

3)      Win the race against germs in your home.  If you want to avoid the chemicals found in many antibacterial wipes and sprays (such as formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid, and phenylphenol), there are more natural versions available.  In fact, a spray or wipes made with a mixture of water, vinegar, and essential oils (orange, lavender, tea tree, and eucalyptus all have anti-infectious, antiseptic, and antiviral properties) are highly effective cleaners.  Don’t forget doorknobs and faucet handles!  If you do prefer pre-made sprays and wipes, make sure you read the directions – some require wetting surfaces as much as 10 minutes in advance.  Also, the disinfectant sprays only work if you clean the surface areas of dirt/grease/grime in advance – otherwise, your disinfecting the dirt, grease, and grime.

4)      Chicken soup – it’s true! And not just for the nostalgia factor. Cooking chicken releases the amino acid cysteine, which appears to block the inflammatory white cells that often gather in the bronchial tubes with colds.

Looking for more preventative methods?

1)      Take your vitamins.  Your acupuncturist can recommend the best supplements for your body’s specific needs.  They are often more potent and readily digestible than the ones you can purchase at a drug or health food store.
–   Probiotics (which are naturally found in yogurt) help with immune support, maintaining blood sugar, decreasing depression and anxiety, weight management, and allergy relief.
–   Vitamin D decreases vulnerability to influenza and asthma attacks.
–   Elderberry Extract protects against strains of the flu and Strep.
–   Vitamin C increases white blood cells which fight off infection, cell surface antibodies that ward off viruses.  It decreases rates of colon, prostate, and breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
–   Vitamin E helps the body produce the cells that seek out and destroy bacteria, germs, and cancer cells.
–   Vitamin A acts as a barrier against germs in your skin, digestive system, and lungs.
–   Vitamin B6 increases white blood cell counts.
–   Vitamin B12, amino acids, linoleic acid, folate, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium are all intrinsic to immune system health.

2)      Eat your garlic (AKA Russian penicillin). It stimulates production of white blood cells and may help the body get rid of carcinogens.

3)      Focus on whole grains like oats and barley.  They have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

4)       Have plenty of fish in your diet.  The selenium found in shellfish helps white blood cells flush out the flu virus, and Omega-3 fats decrease inflammation and protect the lungs from infection.

5)      Drink your tea.  Black and green teas contain L-theanine, an amino acid that stimulates development of virus-fighting interferon.

6)      Protect your skin – it’s your front-line organ against bacteria and viruses.  Eat plenty of foods with beta carotene (sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, and pumpkin), which your body will convert into Vitamin A.

7)      An apple a day – at least!  A diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables is also rich in antioxidants, which protect cells from free radicals in your system.  Kale, onions, spinach, artichokes, beans, leeks, and other foods also contain prebiotics, which stimulate the growth of good bacteria in your digestive tract.


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