The most wonderful time of the year is upon us. The least wonderful part of this time of year: cold and flu season. Contrary to the old wives tale colder temperatures, or going in the cold with wet hair, or no coat, aren’t causes for falling ill to colds and the flu. Cold and flu occurrence has more to do with the suppression of our immune systems, and sharing close quarters in warm environments with others.
But first things first-the flu. With the introduction of cooler temperatures also comes our inundation with the flu shot frenzy. There is much debate as to whether or not the flu vaccine is actually effective, an argument I will not get into, however it is important to know what you are putting into your bodies.
First, flu related death statistics are exaggerated. The CDC combines pneumonia and flu stats that, if separated, go from 36,000 per year to 1,800 per year(CDC also fails to mention additional complications associated with flu related deaths). Around January of each year health officials travel to Asia to research active flu strains. Working on the assumption these same strains will make their way over to the U.S., the strains are then matured in chick embryos before they are killed or “inactivated” with formaldehyde then preserved with thimerosal(49% mercury by weight-and in which studies have directly linked to autism). Only multi-dose units contain thimerosal. If you are an avid believer in vaccination, requesting a single dose unit, or the weakened nasal version that will not contain this mercury-based agent may be a good idea.
For those of us looking for alternatives to vaccinations, there are healthy and natural ways to beef up your immune system to help prevent cold and flu.
Zinc, an essential mineral, is a component of hundreds of enzymes in our bodies needed for immunity, wound healing, protein synthesis, cell reproduction, protection against free radicals, and many other functions. Studies show zinc helps to prevent and treat the common cold. Sources of zinc include oysters, meat, eggs, seafood, black-eyed peas, tofu, and wheat germ, and fortified foods.
Probiotics anyone? Studies show this helpful bacteria living in our intestines aids in the immune response. You can find them in yogurt and other cultured milk products.
Eat your greens! Phytochemicals(phyto meaning plants) have protective properties acting as antioxidants and have an antibacterial effect. Good sources include whole grains, vegetables, beans, fruit, and herbs.
Make sure overall you are eating a healthy, wholesome diet. Any nutritional deficiency can suppress the immune system. Remember to also stay hydrated, minimize smoking and alcohol consumption, wash your hands, keep your stress in check, do your cardio, and avoid touching your face.
Whatever your method of choice, take care of yourself this cold and flu season. It’s the hap-happiest season of all, as long as you take care and make sure to not share germs with loved ones you’re near, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Happy Holidays!
~Beth Harris, CSCS, HFS