Cold and Flu vs Your Immunity
The Cold and Flu season is fast approaching and some of us have already succumbed to becoming ill.
Patients often ask us…
“What is the best pill or supplement I can take so I don’t get sick?”
Perhaps a better strategy is to ask…
“What is taxing my immune system and what can I do to keep it strong?”
There are times when we just can’t let the world go by while we rest and recover, and if that’s you – the best strategy is a strong immune system!
So what is the difference between the Common Cold and The Flu?
Why is it that some people get sick and others do not?
9 ways to Build a Strong Immune System and KICK a Colds Butt Before It Kicks Yours!
What is the difference between the Common Cold and The Flu?
The ‘Flu’ and a ‘Cold’ are NOT synonymous terms! People will often call a severe common cold, ‘The Flu’, when they are quite different illnesses. Understanding the differences and how you contract them will help you in your quest to prevent yourself succumbing to either a cold or flu and what is the best way to help your body deal with them and recover rapidly.
The ‘Common Cold’ is a group of symptoms in the upper respiratory tract caused by a virus (commonly, a strain of the Rhinovirus). Symptoms of a cold may include coughing, sneezing or sniffling, a runny or stuffy nose, mild throat irritation, mild fever and mild body aches.
‘The Flu’ is caused by one of many strands of the Influenza virus. The Flu is more serious illness. Symptoms of the flu usually start suddenly with a high fever and may include dry cough, shivering, sweating and severe whole muscle aches.
Why do some people get sick and others do not?
If you’re one of the many thousands of people who get sick without fail, every Autumn and Winter, then this article is for you!
Getting sick is not an inevitable part of the change in seasons. You surely know of a handful of people who almost never get sick? Maybe people you work with, or others in your home. These people are able to avoid illness not because they aren’t exposed to germs, but because their immune system is strong enough to keep them healthy.
You don’t get sick just because you’re exposed to germs!
(and why you shouldn’t blame the lady in the supermarket line who coughed
in your direction for making you sick!)
There is a common misconception that if you get the Flu, you were exposed to the virus, whereas if your colleague across the petition in the office does not get sick, he wasn’t exposed. The reality is, germs are literally everywhere, and whilst taking common sense measures like washing your hands regularly is smart, it is naive to think you can avoid germs entirely.
If you’re healthy, the lady coughing in your direction in the supermarket line isn’t at all a big deal! Your body is built to deal with these pathogen exposures and will keep you from getting sick as long as your immune system is strong.
New research in PLoS Genetics revealed that when 17 healthy people were exposed to a Flu virus, only half of them got sick. All of them had an active immune response, but the responses yielded different outcomes, with some avoiding illness altogether, and others manifesting symptoms like sniffles, sneezing and high fever. The researchers therefore concluded that your immune system’s response to the Flu virus is an important factor in whether or not you get sick, likely an even more important factor than the virus exposure.
Q: What can we do to boost our immune system in time for winter?
A : PLENTY!
9 ways to Build a Strong Immune System and KICK a Colds Butt Before It KICKS Yours!
1. Listen to your body!
You know that feeling just before you get a cold? Pay attention! Take some time-out and heed some of the advice below. If you wait, it will just get worse!
2. Avoid/Minimise Sugar
This includes refined carbohydrates (White breads, White rice etc) and alcohol.
Consuming too much sugar suppresses the function of T-cells (infection-fighting white blood cells that are key to your immune system function), for up to 5 hours after ingestion.
For more information on the harmful effects of sugar, see our previous Sugar article in Health News
3. Get Quality Sleep.
A lack of sleep will weaken your immune system. Research shows your risk of illness rises significantly if you sleep less than seven hours per night. Hours of quality sleep doesn’t include sitting on the couch watching TV or checking emails on your iPad!
Get into bed and close your eyes - your body cannot fight an infection if it’s running on an orange light.
4 Keep your Fluids Up.
Drink plenty of filtered water. Adequate hydration is vital for recovery.
5. Good Nutrition.
A diet rich in antioxidants is one of the best ways to curb free-radical damage in your body while optimising your immune system function. Ideally, try to include a wide range of vegetables and fruits in your diet, preferably lightly steamed or raw.
Research shows that people who exercise regularly at a moderate intensity, are about half as likely to catch a cold as those who do not, and even if they do catch a cold,
their symptoms tend to be much less severe. However, if you find yourself fighting an infection, it’s best to keep your exercise light (for example, a 15 minute walk in fresh air). Pushing through and working-out at maximum effort will just place additional stress your body - remember it needs energy for healing and repair.
7. Maintain healthy Vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D helps activate your immune system.Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with higher risk of respiratory infections. Vitamin D can be obtained from safe sun exposure, fortified foods and/or supplementation.
8. Wash your hands!
Regular hand-washing will decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or other people.
9. Keeping Stress in Check
Possibly the biggest factor affecting immune system function!
Chronic stress impacts your body’s ability to fight infection in a number of ways, including altering the number ofT-cells* that regulate an immune response and greatly reducing the effectiveness of your immune system.
When you’re under stress, you’re also more likely to sleep poorly, and resort to unhealthy behaviours, like eating junk and drinking excess alcohol, which can all further dampen your immune response.
Cell-generated/related immunity actually increases with a person’s level of optimism, so its essential that you have a handful of tricks up your sleeve for when you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed or generally under the pump, to ensure you keep your stress levels under control rather than waiting until you reach burn-out!
Some ideas may include a weekly yoga class, meditation, prayer, regular walks with a friend, pottering in the back shed etc. You know better than anyone else what makes you feel good, so make time to do those things!