Quick remedies, anyone? Sure. But first let’s go holistic and remind ourselves – the source of dis-ease is stress. When we resist and struggle against our lives, dis-ease results.
When we run around stressed-out, short on sleep, caffeine zippy and dehydrated, eating detrimental foods and imbibing extra alcohol (because it’s tough to deal with x, y, z in our life), we can almost count on catching a bug.
Of course stress is the human condition, what can we do?
We have a choice about how much we indulge in fear, anxiety, anger. How often we practice Gratitude. We can choose where to place our attention. Usually we focus upon the 5% of things we don’t like. We find it extremely difficult to move our attention toward the 95% of what we do like.
Scientists and Sages agree the best remedy for stress is meditation. Daily meditation, even 5 or 10 minutes a day, can give us a lasting taste of the everlasting Peace and Benevolence underneath the chaotic skin of life.
Throughout history, Sages remind us that the spirit infuses and empowers the body. When contentment fills the spirit, the body functions easily. (see meditation practices and Glide posts.)
Chemically speaking: stress increases catecholamines, especially cortisol (and adrenaline/epinephrine, norepinephrine). These speed up our sympathetic nervous system unnecessarily (unless we are running from a tiger). Years of chronic stress, worries, and adrenaline ramped up by Starbucks and Carbs, wears down our immune system. (Gosh darn it, I love Starbucks too . . .)
Relaxation increases DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which has a nurturing restorative effect upon the body and strengthens our resistance to disease.
Shifting toward Immune Boosting Habits, keep in mind:
- lack of sleep (< 7 hrs) increases cortisol and inflammation in the body
- 30 min daily exercise/walk helps immunity and feel-good endorphins
- too much sugar, fat, or alcohol inhibits and dampens our immune system
- cruciferous veggies (cabbage, kale, broccoli) help the liver detoxify everything
- a high-vegetable diet reduces inflammation and builds immune strength
- good social connections and laughter reduce stress and illness
Our ideal master plan is to nurture ourselves with meditation, sleep 7-9 hours, good foods and veggies, daily exercise, simplify our life wherever we can, and reach for better feeling thoughts. Do our best not to hang onto old emotional garbage. Acknowledge and release it; let it rise up during meditation and flow out.
If we don’t Think we have time for any of that, let’s take up the habit of singing out loud – and lighten up.
Squash the germs: wash your hands with sudsy soap. Frequently! Sing happy birthday to yourself while washing, for a long scrub of 15 to 20 seconds.
Try to keep the hands away from the face, because contact with mucous membranes can easily spread germs into the body.
Since the nose and throat are usually the first toehold for a virus (yikes, cancel the image of those toes in there), take special care of these during cold and flu season. Try a nightly habit of Neti pot nasal wash; and warm salt water gargle. Nightly hot herbal tea may almost substitute for gargling.
Immune Boosting food remedies are many, including:
- fresh garlic is an antibiotic (not cooked; add before serving)
- shiitake and maitake mushrooms enhance immune function
- fresh ginger root alleviates toxins in sinuses, lungs, and lymph
Now some immune boosting supplements:
Probiotics (good bacteria for the belly)
Studies have shown 40% fewer colds when people take 10 billion CFU mixed strain probiotics each day (ie, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains).
Some practitioners recommend higher doses (>50 billion /day), because most of us have a chronic deficit of good intestinal flora.
About 80% of our immune function is located in our intestines, and these flora are intrinsic to the process.
Foods like Miso and Sauerkraut are rich in probiotics. My next blog post will cover the finer points you’ll want to know about probiotics and pre-biotics.
Magnesium deficiency can weaken the immune system and cause chronic inflammation. Every cell of the body needs magnesium to function. Studies show at least 75% of us are deficient in magnesium. Athletes and older people are especially deficient.
Leafy greens, whole grains, nuts and legumes are good sources of magnesium. It’s recommended to take at least 200 mg magnesium twice a day, with food and apart from other minerals so it absorbs better (ie, not with calcium).
You can take more. (Some recommend 4 times your weight – for 140# try 560 mg total per day – excessive dose is no problem for the body, but if you get loose stools, reduce the dose. Avoid magnesium oxide, but mag citrate and others are fine.)
Also try topical magnesium gel, which absorbs better than oral magnesium and does not affect the bowels. (The gel often works wonders for restless legs. Magnesium also reduces muscle soreness after workouts.)
Vitamin C is anti-microbial, increases white blood cells to fight infection, and preserves integrity of cells during the inflammatory response. It supports the adrenal glands, the organs, and the repair of most structures in the body.
Many proponents suggest 1000 mg of vitamin C several times a day. In the case of acute inflammation, such as hives or the onset of a cold, you can take 1000 mg every hour with plenty of water. (If you get loose stools, cut back the dose. This is not harmful, just an indication that you have plenty of C.)
Whole Food Vitamin C is not synthetic and many people find it works better than the standard Ascorbic Acid vitamin C which is chemically manufactured.
Vitamin D helps make antibodies to protect us against viruses. A few of us are lacking Vitamin D, especially if we don’t get enough sunshine (15 min per day without sunscreen). Your Vit D blood level and Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis may help to determine an appropriate dose. However: many of us, even as many as 80% of us, should NOT use vitamin D long-term, as it can reduce our intracellular potassium and impair our adrenal system, making us weak.
Zinc deficiency is directly related to a weak immune system, but this tends to apply to strict vegetarians, meatless diets. Supplement with 30 mg of zinc each day. There is some debate over zinc lozenges, which may reduce the duration of a cold by 50% or even avert the cold altogether. (Personally I have skirted around viruses by using zinc lozenges at the first inkling of a scratchy throat or drippy nose.) Zinc lozenges should be taken every three hours while awake.
This herb increases white blood cells which fight infection. It also increases T cells, interferon, interleukin, and immunoglobin, all of which are important for our immune system.
May your winter and every season be blessed with Great Health!