• Win the Cold War

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    Unless you
    live in a plastic bubble, you can’t seal yourself away from
    all germs in life. They’re everywhere – especially this
    time of year. Your best bet to stay healthy is to strengthen your
    immune system so it can defeat any microscopic invaders before they
    lay siege.

    But if you
    took all the immune boosters recommended by magazines, books, and
    Mom, you’d not only empty your pocketbook, but you’d likely
    harm your health too. “Don’t get trapped into thinking
    you want to boost your immunity as much as possible,” says
    Mark Moyad, MD, director of preventive and alternative medicine
    at the University of Michigan Medical Center. “Allergies and
    autoimmune diseases are examples of a hyperreactive immune system.”
    Moyad suggests taking most immune-bolstering supplements during
    cold season but then scaling back for the rest of the year (with
    the exception of multivitamins and vitamin D3).

    But the question
    remains: Which of the myriad supplements and strategies out there
    really work? We asked our experts, and you’ll be surprised
    at how simple and effective their top picks are.

    Shore up
    your defenses.
    “Lifestyle is the best tool,” says
    Mary Saunders, LAc, founder of Boulder Community Acupuncture in
    Boulder, Colorado. You’ve heard this a million times, but for
    good reason. Getting eight hours of sleep a night, reducing stress,
    exercising, staying hydrated, and eating mostly produce, whole grains,
    unsaturated fats, and lean protein gives your body the raw nutrients
    and energy it needs to manufacture immune cells. These healthy habits
    also decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol – which
    can suppress immunity in high amounts – and balance the body’s
    alkalinity ratio.

    “Pathogens
    thrive in acidic environments,” says Saunders. “If you
    keep your body alkaline, you’re more resistant to infection.”
    Coffee, alcohol, sugar, and hard cheeses increase acidity, so limit
    your intake. For extra help getting your fruits and veggies, Saunders
    recommends green drinks – specifically Designs for Health’s
    PaleoGreens (available only through health practitioners), ProGreens
    by the Allergy Research Group, and New Chapter’s Berry Green
    – that contain at least four servings of vegetables.

    Lose an
    inch.
    Along with lowering your risk of heart disease, “losing
    just one inch from around your waist boosts immunity tremendously,”
    Moyad says. It does this partly by decreasing inflammation. Normally,
    during an acute illness or infection, white blood cells release
    inflammatory chemicals that fight bacteria and viruses. In this
    case, inflammation is a good thing. But excess belly fat triggers
    the release of those inflammatory compounds even in the absence
    of a threat. This chronic, low-level inflammation “throws off
    the immune system, so it starts treating the body itself as a problem,”
    Moyad says. This raises the risk of everything from diabetes to
    the common cold. A good trick for dropping the spare tire: Buy a
    pedometer, and take at least 10,000 steps a day.

    Rinse, gargle,
    repeat.
    Rinsing your nasal passages and throat with saline water
    is so simple you may say “duh,” but in reality, this is
    one of the most powerful – and overlooked – actions out
    there. Since pathogens enter through the nose, mouth, and eyes,
    saline rinses wash away the li’l buggers before they can infect
    other tissues. What’s more, in a 2005 Japanese study, people
    who gargled daily even with just plain water had significantly fewer
    respiratory infections. Moyad recommends rinsing your nose with
    a neti pot and gargling with salt water once a day. If you feel
    a cold sneaking up, increase that to three times daily. Simply Saline
    makes super-convenient gargle packets and nasal sprays.

    Embrace
    probiotics.
    “Most people don’t connect their GI tract
    with immune health, but in fact, it plays a major role in protecting
    our bodies from infection,” says Jeffrey Bland, PhD, cofounder
    of Bastyr University and the Institute for Functional Medicine.
    The good bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and
    Bifidobacterium lactis, in probiotics balance out the bad,
    illness-causing bacteria in your gut, decreasing the chance of infection.
    You can get probiotics through supplements (follow the label’s
    recommended dosage) or by eating foods with live and active cultures:
    yogurt, raw sauerkraut, kefir, and fermented soy foods.

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    the rest of the article

    November
    5, 2009

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