Unfortunately, the holiday season can bring lots of stress with it. Combine this with travel, holiday parties and the flu season, and you have a recipe for getting sick! So what can you do to prevent or minimize your chances of illness over the holiday season? Here are are some steps you can take to help prevent illness:
Wash your hands. The importance of this simple step cannot be overstated. Prevention is the best cure and unless someone coughs or sneezes directly in your face you acquire bacterial and viral illnesses through your hands! Use hand sanitizer whenever you cannot wash your hands. Bacteria and Viruses do not jump on you they must be transported to a place of entry (eyes, nose, or mouth). During air, train or bus travel it is worth considering having anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down surfaces on and around your seat as well.
Exercise. Who knew right? Moderate exercise boost immune function through several well-established mechanisms so do NOT skip your workouts during the holidays!
Get your sleep. If you have not figured this out already let me clue you in – lack of sleep prevents recovery and wears your entire system down so make sure you allow time for adequate sleep.
Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Supplement. This is not the season to be deficient in key vitamins in minerals – several of which will directly submarine your immune system. There are many examples such as lack of adequate zinc and vitamin c. Enough said – take a high quality vitamin and mineral supplement daily!
Limit Intake of Refined Carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates such as cake, cookies, candy, donuts, pie, juices (that’s right fruit juices are not the way to do – way to much sugar!), pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, cereal, etc. All this sugar directly blunts immune response!
Avoid Trans Fats aka “Partially Hydronated Fats” prevalent in junk foods and fast foods. These fats also blunt immune response.
Most respiratory and gastrointestinal illness are viral not bacterial. Colds and Flu are viral infections and will not be helped by medication other than symptom relief. So knocking down some of that leftover antibiotic in your medicine cabinet is a bad idea! That being said, there are always exception so consult with a physician whenever you are in doubt! If you are given an antibiotic for bacterial infection it is CRUCIAL you finish the entire prescription even if you feel better before you are done!
You can also add some of the supplements described below to help shorten the duration of your illness. However, keep in mind that some antibiotics are effected by foods, vitamins, and minerals so make sure you read the instructions and ask the pharmacist. For example, several antibiotics need to be taken on an empty stomach while others need to be taken with food and others can bind and become inactivated if taken at the same time as a vitamin or mineral supplement.
Antibiotics. If you are prescribed an antibiotic one side effect is that it can kill the beneficial bacteria which are supposed to be in your intestines. To prevent diarrhea and/or fungal infections which come as a result of killing the good bacteria take a probiotic supplement (beneficial bacteria) to replenish the bacteria during and for at least two weeks after using any antibiotic.
Good brands include: Culterelle (available in many pharmacies and health food stores), enzymatic therapy acidophilus pearls, and best of all is Jarrow (Jarrow Dophilus). Shelf stable brands such as these are BETTER then refrigerated products because the products requiring refrigeration WILL NOT be refrigerated during transport to the store. Expiration dates are VERY important with these products. They are safe for everyone and follow label directions for dosage.
Do not take at the same time as you take the antibiotic because the antibiotic will kill the bacteria. By the way eating yogurt to replace the bacteria is like throwing a brick in the Grand Canyon to fill it – way too little to be effective. Probiotic supplements are inexpensive and worth every nickel if you are taking antibiotics – particularly for females who want to avoid yeast infections due to antibiotic use.
Specific Immune Enhancing Supplements
Alkyglycerols from shark liver oil. The body uses alkyglycerols to create immune cells. They are found in high concentrations in two places: mothers milk and shark liver oil. Numerous controlled, peer-reviewed studies have established that supplemental intake increase can safely and significantly improve immune response by increasing the number of immune cells. In fact, this supplement has been shown to prevent the immune suppression associated with chemotherapy and radiation.
This supplement can be very helpful for certain people because its method of action is to rejuvenate the immune system by providing the raw material for creation of immune cells rather than merely stimulate the immune response like other supplements like Echinacea. If the immune system is stressed immune stimulants like Echinacea may not work without the use of Alkylglycerols to build it up.
The most widely researched variety of this supplement is called Ecomer. This particular brand was used in all the research studies. A company called Scandinavian Naturals sells it under their label. Since shark liver oil can contain impurities such as PCB’s and other contaminents it is important that you buy a product using the Ecomer variety because it is molecularly distilled and free of all contaminants.
The only people who cannot safely take this product are organ transplant patients since it could in theory counteract the immune suppressing drugs they take to prevent their body from rejecting the organ. Even people with auto-immune disorders tend to benefit because this supplement tends to balance an overactive immune system as well. This product can be taken during the entire cold and flu season and is very effective at reducing the incidence of cold and flues. Dosage is 1 to 2 capsules per day with meals. This product is moderately priced but very effective – particularly if you know that you have a tendency to catch more colds and flues then other people.
Astragalus Astragalus is a tonic adaptogenic herb used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tonic adaptogenic herbs are herbs that can be used for long periods of time and normalize the body’s response to stressors. Astragalus acts as a deep immune stimulant. It has been extensively researched and documented to improve immune response. It is best taken for the entire season. It comes as drops (called a tincture) or in capsules. For tinctures excellent brands include: Herb Pharm, Gaia, and Natural Factors. For capsules excellent brands include: Nature’s Plus, Enzymatic Therapy, Twin Lab, and Solgar. The only known contraindication is for organ transplant patients. Dosage: follow label recommendations. Astragalus is very inexpensive and an excellent preventive measure that many people swear by.
Echinacea – is an extremely potent immune stimulant. However there have been several studies showing little to no effect in human trials. This occurred because an inferior product or insufficient dose was used in these studies. Using the right product is VERY important. The finest brand is unquestionably Natural Factors. They control and test their product from seed to plant to end product. They are one of two companies to insure standardization for the three key active chemicals.
The controlled, peer reviewed research on their Echinacea known as Echinamide shows outstanding effectiveness for viral and bacterial infections. Their products are made in tincture and gelcaps. They also make a mixed product that includes astragalus, lomatium, and mushroom extract which is outstanding for preventing or mitigating viral infections (the vast majority of illnesses are NOT bacterial they are viral). Always see a physician to make sure you do not need another medication.
Another outstanding product is called Quick Defense by Gaia Herbs which comes in a liquid or liquid cap.
Another excellent brand is Nature’s Way Echinacea in tincture form – it has also been used in several successful research studies.
Another excellent product is Esberitox sold under the Enzymatic Therapy label. It combines Echinacea, Thuja, and Blue Flag in chewable tablet form that tastes good (the tinctures mentioned DO NOT taste good, but they work). Esberitox has also been proven effective in excellent research studies.
It is VERY important to take an adequate dose of Echinacea to produce results. Preventively you can take a much smaller dose, but to affect an illness that has started you really need to increase dose significantly so follow the label directions which provide for different dosing for prevention and use during illness.
Probiotic Supplements – as mentioned above these supplements are key when taking antibiotics. Good bacteria serve vital roles in human physiology and due to poor diet, toxin and drug intake many people lack the ideal levels of these helpful bacteria. They directly stimulate immune response and can help prevent many of the causes of digestive illnesses such as food poisoning, yeast infections, etc. The brands listed above are excellent.
Vitamin C and Zinc. Short term increased intake of vitamin C and Zinc can boost immunity during illness. Be careful with Zinc because too much for extended periods of time can cause problems. Properly manufactured Zinc lozenges such as Cold-Eeze are extremely effective if used as directed for SHORT term use only. Your multivitamin will provide plenty for regular daily use.
Vitamin C is extremely safe because it is never truly toxic. If you take too much vitamin C your bowels will become loose. During illness you can usually tolerate much higher doses of Vitamin C (up to 20 grams per day in divided doses) without having loose bowels. During illness start with 2 grams (2,000 milligrams) every 2 hours until you notice any bowel symptoms. If you do back off the dosage slightly until the bowel symptoms go away. If you do not have any bowel systems increase the dose.
You will be amazed how much Vitamin C you can tolerate IF you are really sick, and it takes high doses to be effective when ill. The best type of Vitamin C is a buffered time released for of Vitamin C. Buffered C is easier on the stomach and boosts plasma levels of C more efficiently than regular C. If you want vitamin C to help you have to take several grams at a time as indicated above. All the studies with Vitamin showing lack of results used inadequate dosing. If you use enough it is an amazingly effective and inexpensive strategy for colds and flu.
Oscillocoxinum or Oscillo for short. This is a homeopathic remedy specific and useful for one thing: the flu. It MUST be used IMMEDIATELY upon symptom onset or it WILL NOT be effective. Like all homeopathic remedies it is an FDA approved over the counter remedy that has NEVER produced side effects and is safe for anyone to use. Several well designed clinical trials have proven the effectiveness of this product for the flu. Simply follow label directions. It costs about $15 for a complete supply that will get you through a bout of the flu. When it works it is so effective that sometimes people think they did not have the flu which is very nice compared to getting the flu.
Combining supplements: all of these supplements can be taken together without fear of interactions. My suggestion is that in addition to the multiple vitamin you focus on the Alkylglycerols and a good probiotic supplement throughout the cold and flu season then have some of these products on hand in case you do get sick. It is worth having a few of these products on hand (such as Esberitox Mentioned above) because they can shorten the duration and intensity of viral and bacterial infections but are only effective if started at the first onset of symptoms.