Winter Immune Health
Bacteria and viruses are the major culprits of illness during the winter months, producing many common side effects like coughing, sneezing, fever, and vomiting. Bacteria are simple, single celled organisms that under the right conditions have the ability to reproduce and multiply at astonishing rates. Just one bacterium can divide itself into two separate parts in under 20 minutes, meaning within hours, millions of that bacterium is flourishing in your body.
Viruses are consistently misunderstood, as they are not live organisms. A virus is a sliver of DNA in a protective coat, which attaches itself to cell walls and injects DNA or enzymes in the cell. The DNA uses the inherent cell technology to reproduce new virus particles so when the cell dies and splits open, the new virus particles are free and can infect other healthy cells. Bacterial and viral infections are both spread through contact with contaminated people, surfaces, food, water, animals or insects. Most bacteria are harmless to people, with less than 1% causing diseases. Viruses do cause disease and are often very specific about the cells they target. There are certain types of virus that attack cells in the liver, respiratory system, lymph and blood.
The Immune System is an intricate, intelligent and hard working machine, dedicated to protecting your body from bacteria, microbes, viruses, toxins, and parasites. The immune system first uses your skin to create a barrier preventing bacteria and viruses from entering your body. Skin is usually impermeable as it secretes antibacterial substances. Tears, saliva and mucous contain enzymes that destroy bacterial cell walls. Mucous is able to trap germs and prevent them from invading your body further. Mast cells that are made to fight infections line the nasal passage, throat, lungs and skin. If a bacteria or virus is able to enter the body, the immune system will try to quickly detect, identify, and destroy it before it can invade cell walls and reproduce. Much of this work is done through the lymphatic system where cells and bloods are drained and filtered to remove bacteria. Antibodies, produced by the white blood cells, bind to virus particles or bacteria and prevent them from invading cell walls. The last way the immune system protects your body is by supporting detoxification of any virus or bacteria that have been able to reproduce. Leukocytes are white blood cells that move freely through the body capturing invaded and disease cells. Different types of leukocytes have specific immune boosting roles. Lymphocytes become T and B Cells found in the bloodstream, lymph tissue, and digestive system. B cells produce antibodies while T cells hunt down contaminated cells, bump up against them, killing them. Macrophages are critical to the immune system as they ingest foreign particles like bacteria and microbes.
Junk Food & Sugar: Junk foods are full of chemicals, processed sugars, and polyunsaturated fats. When you are malnourished, your immune system does not have the tools or energy it needs to function. Toxins, chemicals, and invading organisms are able to store or hide themselves in polyunsaturated fats preventing them from detection and detoxification by the immune system. Sugar significantly inhibits the process of phagocytosis, the process by which immune cells engulf, kill and digest invading microbes. Just 75-100 mg of sugar (the amount in two cans of soda) starts to suppress immune health within just 30 minutes and can continue to for at least five hours after ingestion.
Sedentary Lifestyle: People who are sedentary have a less efficient immune system and are far more likely to contract colds, flus and other illnesses. Walking just 30 minutes a day increases the amount of leukocytes in the body. The lymphatic system also relies on exercise to keep it moving, as it does not have a pump like the circulatory system. The lymphatic system is a major component of your immune system, as it transports lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.
Stress: Stress significantly impacts the health of your immune system and its ability to fight off disease by elevating levels of the hormone cortisol. Chronic stress lowers the amount and function of T cells and macrophages, ultimately leaving you move vulnerable to disease and illness. Virus and bacteria thrive in a body wracked by stress, and spread and mutate more quickly throughout the body.
Lack of Sleep: Your body heals and repairs itself as you sleep. Keeping your body from sleep contributes to an increase in cortisol levels. Those who are sleep deprived have lower levels of killer cells. Your digestive system is also disrupted by a lack of sleep. Since your immune system lives in your gut, it is important to keep your digestive system healthy and replenished with good, healthy probiotics.
Isolation: People who are isolated or experience feelings of loneliness are more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections and illnesses. They also experience more reactivation of latent viruses in their systems and higher amounts of inflammation. Isolation has been shown to affect the immune system on a cellular level due to changes in DNA and gene expression. Incredible as our bodies are, laughter is truly the best remedy. Laughing provides a major boost to the immune system by increasing white blood cells, infection-fighting antibodies, and by lowering levels of cortisol.
Inappropriate Antibiotic Use: Antibiotics do not fight viral infections like colds, flus, the majority of sore throats (only about 10% of sore throats end up being Strep Throat), bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections. They do not cure infections. They do not keep you from getting sick. They will not help you or your children feel better. Only take antibiotics to fight bacterial infections. Take them right away and for the entire course as they were prescribed. Do not use them as a prevention tool. Do not save or share your antibiotics. Do not use soaps or lotions that are antibacterial. The antiviral drugs created to help prevent and stop the spread of flu (influenza A) are no longer effective. According to the CDC at least 2 million people become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria each year and that number is growing. The World Health Organization states that antimicrobial resistance threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. WHO reports it is an increasingly serious threat to public health that requires action across all government sectors and society. This is why it more important than ever to protect you and your family from viral and bacterial infections by giving your body what is needs to naturally boost the immune system and stay well.
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamin A: This fat-soluble vitamin is critical for immune health as it reduces the rate of viral infections, enhances white blood cell function, helps fight against bacterial infections and carcinogens, and supports the immunes defenses of your skin and mucous membranes.
B Vitamins: B6 helps to insure that white blood cells respond to bacterial and viral infections. B12 manages cell division and supports the growth of white blood cells. Folic acid supports the development and maintenance of the immune system.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is the master immune-boosting nutrient. Alone, it is anti-viral and anti-bacterial and is able to detox your body of toxins from bacteria. White blood cells rely heavily on vitamin C to fight infections and inflammation. Vitamin C helps immune cells mature. For strong immune support take 2-3 grams of Vitamin C per day.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D activates the immune system and is essential for signaling T cells to take action. Increased levels of vitamin D will help protect your body from colds, flus, and upper respiratory tract infections. Vitamin D will also boost your mood during the winter months, helping you stay active, happy and healthy.
Vitamin E: This vitamin is of particular importance to the elderly as most are deficient. Vitamin E reduces infections and helps the body heal more quickly. Vitamin E works even more efficiently when taken with selenium, a powerful antioxidant mineral. A deficiency in selenium permits viruses to mutate into more dangerous pathogens.
Chromium: This mineral optimizes the ability of macrophages and white blood cells to respond to infections and invaders. It is also crucial to cytokine production. Chromium also helps to suppress your immune system when it becomes hypersensitive or over-responsive.
Zinc: Zinc is essential for optimal T cell and natural killer cell function and is needed by the lymph system to properly rid the body of invading organisms. Zinc is directly involved in antibody production so you can fight infection. Taking more than 15-25 mg of zinc per day can inhibit the function of the immune system. Zinc lozenges reduce the duration and severity of the common cold.
Herbs & Phytonutrients
Mushrooms: One of the most studied foods for its health benefits, mushrooms are extremely beneficial to health, protecting your body from viruses, bacteria, pollution, chemicals, mold, and all toxins. They contain beta glucans, immunomodulator agents that activate and regulate the immune system making it more efficient. Mushrooms stimulate macrophages and lymphocytes, and are able to fight antibiotics resistant bacteria and viruses, and the aggressive viruses that cause upper respiratory infections. Mushrooms significantly alleviate symptoms of the common cold. Mushrooms have potent antiviral, anticancer, antitumor, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Probiotics: About 60% of your immune system is located in your digestive system; so maintaining a healthy environment for your immune system to thrive is critical. The healthy bacteria or microbiota living in your gut are responsible for helping you absorb and utilize vitamins, minerals and other nutrients essential to immune health. They aid in the breakdown of toxins and keep bad bacteria at levels your body can fight off. Microbiota help create the mucous that lines your digestive tract that captures foreign invaders. They also aid in the production of antibodies.
Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE): Societies from South America, Europe and Asia have traditionally used Grapefruit Seed Extract for its immensely powerful antiviral and antibacterial components. It is rich in disease fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients like hesperidin, a well-studied natural immune system booster. A recent study from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported that GSE was effective at killing over 800 bacterial and viral strains, 100 strains of fungus, and a large number of single and multi-celled parasites. It is believed there is no other naturally occurring anti-microbial that compares. Research microbiologists from the University of Georgia found GSE was vastly effective as a non-toxic disinfectant and potent enough to use as pre-surgical soap. GSE promotes wound and scar tissue healing and topical skin infections.
Elderberry: Used for centuries to treat respiratory illnesses, elderberry also reduces swelling of the mucous membranes and sinuses relieving congestion. Elderberry has been shown to reduce the severity and length of influenza. Elderberry acts as an antiviral by attaching itself to the tiny protein spikes on the surface of a virus, preventing it from being able to penetrate healthy cells. It has also been shown to be effective against antibiotic resistant viruses.
Elderflower: Elderflower contains compelling antibacterial properties that have been shown to be the most effective way to combat pathogens like antibiotic resistant MRSA. It is also an antiviral, anticancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Elderflower is excellent for treating colds, flus, sinus infections and respiratory troubles. Dried Elderflower can be made into a tea, however the leaves, twigs and roots are toxic.
Monolauric Acid: It was originally discovered in human breast milk as researchers were looking for the antiviral properties that protect infants from infections. Viruses avoid detection from the immune system by hiding in body fat. Monolauric acid is able to burn the fat surrounding the virus away so your immune system can find and destroy them. It also has been shown to enhance all immune responses to fungus and viruses
Olive Leaf: The active ingredient in olive leaf, oleuropein, eliminates viruses, fungi, bacteria, and parasites that cause disease. It helps to alleviate symptoms of the common cold, sore throats, chronic sinusitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia. People with respiratory tract infections who take Olive Leaf extract can help prevent infection spreading expect a rapid recovery and prevent the infection from
Garlic: A potent antiobiotic containing 100 sulfuric compounds that are powerful enough to wipe out bacteria, parasites and infection. Garlic is excellent for reducing the time and severity of the common cold. Heating garlic destroys the sulfuric compounds that make it a potent immune booster so juice it! Aged garlic also lacks allicin, the most significant antiviral and healing component of garlic.
Astragalus: Long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this incredible antiviral strengthens and regulates the immune system to prevent upper respiratory infections and the common cold and flu. Astragalus encourages an increase in the production, activity and function of immune cells, often triggering them from a resting state. Astragalus supports the health of the lungs and lessens asthmatic symptoms and seasonal allergies. Astragalus is an adaptogen, helping to boost energy and protecting your body from the destructive side effects of stress.
Oregano: This commanding herb has antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiparasitic properties. It effectively treats upper respiratory infections. Oregano easily fight salmonella, E. coli and other harmful organisms found in undercooked meat or contaminated water. It also kills organisms that cause skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis and can be used directly on the skin to speed healing.
Echinacea: Taking Echinacea at the first signs of a cold or flu optimize its benefits to shorten the severity and duration of illness. It is commonly taken in Europe to prevent illness. Always take Echinacea containing both root and flowering parts as they work synergistically to support the immune system.
Cats Claw: This rainforest plant gets its antiviral and immune boosting powers from its root. The roots contain medicinal compounds called pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids (POAs). POAs directly interact with white blood cells and support macrophages to work faster and engulf more bacteria and disease causing microbes. Cats Claw increases the production of interleukin, a chemical protein secreted by macrophages that stimulates dormant white blood cells into action. POAs also help increase the number of white blood cells that make antibodies, and the number of T cells including Killer T cells that destroy cancer cells.
Osha Root: A powerful herb used traditionally by Native Americans and the Pueblo and Taos living in New Mexico to treat upper respiratory and sinus infections. Native Americans also have relied on Osha Root to increase endurance and energy. Osha Root has antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties and helps to significantly reduce inflammation in the bronchial tubes. Osha root encourages your body to sweat, helping reduce fevers and detoxing your body of the flus, coughs, colds and other viral infections before symptoms worsen. The tubular end of Osha root can be chewed on by themselves in small pieces or cut and added to honey to make a cough syrup. The upper parts of the root are used to make teas or tinctures. Simmer Osha root for at least 30 minutes when making a tea, but is optimal was simmered on a low heat for 5-6 hours.
Yarrow: Scientific studies have shown yarrow to provide benefits to nearly every organ in the body. Yarrow is an excellent decongestant and expectorant. It helps your body to sweat out infections from flu, colds and fevers.
Yerba Santa: This herb works incredibly well at opening the lungs and sinuses to dissolve and remove accumulated phlegm. Yerba Santa supports your body against coughs, colds, flus, pneumonia, and chest congestion. Breathing in the smoke or steam from Yerba Santa leaves is particularly beneficial to those with asthma.
Baptisia: Baptisia is an antioxidant with powerful anti-inflammatory components that support the immune system by fighting infections in the mouth, gums and throat. Those with a weak immune system or are frequently ill experience major benefits from Baptisia, becoming better protected against colds, flus and respiratory illnesses.
Goldenseal: This herb has built a reputation as an herbal antibiotic and immune system booster. It has been used by Native Americans to treat whooping cough, respiratory infections, fever, and pneumonia. Goldenseal also has anti-inflammatory and astringent properties that soothe irritated mucous membranes around the eyes, ears, nose and throat. The alkaloid Berberine is found in Goldenseal and is effective against bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and Streptococci. Clinical studies have shown it to treat diarrhea caused by E.coli, giardia and salmonella.
Black & Green Tea: Rich in L-Theanine, these teas increase the antivirus properties of blood.
Oats & Barley: A good source of beta glucans.
Chicken Soup: Cooking chicken releases the amino acid cysteine, which helps to fight infection and inflammation in your bronchial tubes.
Fish: Rich in selenium and Omega 3 fatty acids that help protect your lungs from colds and respiratory infections.
Organic Grass Fed Beef: Contains ideal amounts of zinc and Omega 3 fatty acids.
Orange Fruits & Vegetables: Any orange fruit or vegetable (sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash, carrots, cantaloupe) contains high levels of Vitamin A.
Citrus Fruits and Red Bell Peppers: Rich in Vitamin C.
Fermented Foods: Sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, and kombucha are a great way to get probiotics.
Coconut Oil: Rich in lauric acid which converts to monolaurin in your body. The medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil actually disrupt the lipid membranes of offending organisms, making them easier to be attacked or ingested by killer cells and macrophages.
Chlorella: A freshwater algae that is super efficient at detoxifying the body and increasing oxygen in your blood so you can heal and recover more quickly.