Updated: Jun 5
If you have already read our previous post, "Our 5 Favorite Immune Boosters", then you might already have a few of these recommendation on board for prevention.
In combination with a healthy routine of diet, avoiding your food intolerances, junk food, eating lots of fresh vegetables and protein, you're already decreasing your susceptibility to infections from these viruses. Don't forget about good hand-washing techniques either!
But if you're like me, the stress got to you, your immune system faltered for a moment and now you can feel the tell-tale sign of a virus - often a sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes around the neck and a runny or stuffy nose. What should you do? You don't have time for this!
The answers are straight forward and easy, so be sure to start them right away:
REST! At this point, your immune system has recognized the foreign invader to your cells and started an all-out-assault. This takes a tremendous amount of energy from the rest of your body. Be prepared to take a few days off from work or school. Stay home! Not only will this help get you feeling better, faster, but will also limit getting all your coworkers or classmates ill as well. This is an excellent time to catch up on Netflix or Hulu, start a Star Wars Marathon, or just sleep.
MORE Immune Support! Now is also the time to give your immune system, which is at war, all the support and provisions it needs to win the battle swiftly. We generally recommend: ECHINACEA TEA or TINCTURE Can be combined with other herbs such as slippery elm or marshmallow root for sore throats. Echinacea has a rich research background in stimulating the immune system. ELDERBERRY SYRUP Anti-viral and delicious. Need I say more? Yes - Elderberry also acts as a neuraminadase inhibitor, which is what Tamiflu, the flu antiviral medication is - but without any side effects. Definitely take this one if you think you have the flu. THYMUS EXTRACT The thymus gland is mostly present when we're children and is the organ involved in development of the T-cells of the immune system. As we get older the thymus gland disappears. Research suggests that Thymus extract can help stimulate White Blood Cell production and activity, whether you still have a thymus gland or not. (1-2) VITAMINS A and D Vitamins A and D are both necessary for normal immune system function, and being low in either can increase your susceptibility to infections. Vitamin A deficiency impairs innate immunity by impeding normal regeneration of mucosal barriers damaged by infection, and by diminishing the function of neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells. Vitamin A is also required for adaptive immunity and plays a role in the development of T-helper (Th) cells and B-cells. Vitamin D is a potent immune system modulator, which helps regulate the immune response (3-4)
AVOID Theraflu, Dayquil, Nyquil, Tylenol, Advil and other cold/flu medications containing these ingredients. Many people are unaware that fever is a protective mechanism of the body to fight infection and increase immune system function. Bacteria and viruses cannot replicate when temperature is elevated and cells of the immune system are activated by higher temperatures. Mild fever is associated with better prognosis in viral and bacterial infections (5). Although many patients may want to take a medication used to reduce fever, this is not always necessary or helpful. In fact, medications such as Tylenol/acetaminophen or Aleve/ibuprofen and other NSAIDs have been proven to prolong viral illness and enhance its ability to be spread to others. Yikes. These drugs also show no benefit in reducing the length of viral illness (6). Use of these medications should be limited, and you can always contact your physician to see if that is necessary for your particular situation.
Hydrotherapy Another way to help stimulate that immune system, support it during fever (or without fever) and stimulate the lymphatic system (another portion of the immune system) is through hydrotherapy treatments. A series of 2-5 treatments is generally recommended (7). Research has shown that the beneficial effects on the immune system last for up to 24 hours after making this a very effective therapy for any disorder involving immune function (8). Additionally, 2-8 hours after a single hydrotherapy treatment, one can expect an increase in white blood cells at an average of 10,000 more cells released into circulation. Thus, hydrotherapy is a rapid way to boost your immune function and fight any infection, including common colds and flus as well as antibiotic resistant bacteria. One study demonstrated that hydrotherapy can boost immune function, eliminate excess fluid, and reduce the incidence of colds and flu by 50% (9).
Eat Light As somewhere between 70-80% of your immune system is in your digestive tract, now is not the time to bog it down with a cheese pizza, drive-through burger, or huge plate of pasta. If you have a fever, we generally recommend fasting, but without a fever you may still not even be hungry, and that's okay. Despite popular belief that you need to "feed a cold", you may be decreasing the immune system function temporarily by eating a significant meal. Most food breaks down into glucose, and research suggests that intake of sugars can dampen the immune response significantly for up to 5 hours (10).
We generally recommend ill patients stick to simple foods, easy to digest, comforting and warm, such as soups, stews and broths. This is the perfect time for that homemade chicken soup recipe. Make extra and freeze some for the next time you're sick. The less your digestive system is having to worry about breaking down harder to digest foods, the more time it has available to pumping out immune cells ready to fight.
These recommendations are general, should you need more specific advise, please speak with your physician, or schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our physicians. (503) 894-8977
Gorski, A., Skotnicki, A. B., Gaciong, Z., and Korczak, G. The effect of calf thymus extract (TFX) on human and mouse hemopoiesis. Thymus 1981;3(3):129-141. View abstract.
Gottschalck T., Westphal J., Medizinische Welt 1998; 49(12); 624-628. Revitalisation therapy with thymus peptides: immunocondition and subjective parameters in patients with recurrent infections and sensitive disturbance.
Kluger, Matthew J, The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 1986 (89-95), Is Fever Beneficial?
Greisman, LA, Current Opinion Infectious Disease, 2002, (241-5), Fever: Beneficial and Detrimental Effect of Antipyretics
Boyle, Wade, ND and Saine, Andre, ND, Lectures in Naturopathic Hydrotherapy, Sandy: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1988: 17-18.
Nivethitha, L., Mooventhan, "Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body", A., N Am J Med Sci. 2014 May; 6(5): 199–209
Ernst, E., Pecho, E., Wirz, P., Saradeth, T., “Regular Sauna Bathing and the Incidence of Common Colds,” Annals of Medicine, 22.4 (1990): 225-7.
Sanchez, A., et al. Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophilic Phagocytosis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Nov 1973;261:1180_1184
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