Cold and flu season is just around the corner. As the days grow shorter and the temperatures are increasingly cooler, concerns of sickness start to appear. Kids are back in school, and we are all spending less time outside. Whether you have kids or not, germs are being spread among them and the potential to come into contact with those germs increases, especially in public places.
We can come into contact with viruses, bacteria, and fungus (the 3 main organisms responsible for sickness) just about anywhere. Anytime you are around people there is a potential to come into contact with one or more of these 3 organisms. Even without direct contact with another person, viruses, bacteria and fungus have varying lengths of time that they can remain alive on surfaces. Some viruses can live up to 48 hours outside of a host.
Most of the time we tend to think of illnesses such as the flu, the common cold, bronchitis, strep throat, or more serious, but less common, illnesses such as meningitis, encephalitis, staph infections, and venereal diseases.
In recent years, new concerns of viruses has emerged such as West Nile Virus (WNV), Avian Flu (H5N1), and Swine Flu (H1N1). These viruses were thought to only infect animals, but some believe that a mutation of the viruses has caused them to be able to infect humans.
Travel to foreign countries also has the potential to expose you to diseases to which you may be unaware. Even travel in general has risks for exposure.
Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do to decrease the likelihood of getting sick. Start with washing your hands with plain soap and water; wash thoroughly and keep cuticles and fingernails clean. This will help keep bacteria and fungus from collecting there. Keep your hands off your face as much as possible. The eyes, nose and mouth are easy entryways for germs.
Vitamin D is very important in keeping your immune system strong. During the summer months, our body turns the UVB rays from the sun into vitamin D. During the winter months, vitamin D levels in our body drops. You can raise your levels by taking a vitamin D3 supplement; take 4000 – 5000IU per day. In the summer you can take a lower dose of 1000 – 3000IU per day if you are not getting adequate sun exposure.
Getting proper and adequate sleep is critical to keeping an immune system functioning properly. Nighttime sleeping is not just a time for your body to rest; it is the time when your body repairs itself (and when children grow). There are a lot of complicated processes that go on at night while you sleep. Like a skilled orchestra, every instrument has an exact time, place, and rhythm for performing its part to make the entire piece a success; and so it is with your body. Aim for 7 – 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
Eat fresh, whole foods, and avoid junk food. Highly processed foods have additives that impair your immune system and overall health. Sugar, corn syrup, soy, artificial colors, artificial flavors, MSGs, and artificial sweeteners cause blood sugar spikes and neurological damage, resulting in an immune response from your body, which in turn raises inflammation levels. Besides making you feel terrible, this leaves you vulnerable to illness because your immune system is already stressed.
There are a lot of plants that are known to have antiviral, antimicrobial and/or antifungal properties. Cooking with herbs and fresh vegetables is a great way to add these plants to your diet. Drinking tea made with these plants is another great way to boost your immune system.
To avoid pesticides and other toxins (which will decimate your immune system), buy organic whenever possible.
Plants with antiviral properties include: Echinacea, garlic, goldenseal, lemon balm, cat’s claw, oregano, Siberian ginseng, juniper, peppermint, licorice, holy basal, and astragalus.
Plants with antimicrobial/antibacterial properties include: Garlic, ginger, thyme, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, chili peppers (including cayenne), horseradish, cumin, tamarind, sage, oregano, basil, rosemary, lavender, peppermint, bee balm, Echinacea, black elderberry, goldenseal, Oregon grape, barberry, cranberry, and tea tree.
Plants with antifungal properties include: Grapefruit seed, oranges, caraway, bergamot, peppermint, spearmint, tomatoes, olive leaf, garlic, pau d’arco, carrot, goldenseal, oregano, thyme, barberry, Oregon grape, and cloves.
Studying the above list, you will find some plants are included in more than one list; those are especially powerful and healthful plants.
Many of these plants come in capsule form and may be found health food stores. Essential oils made from the plants listed above have been used down through the ages; they were used as medicine before modern medicine became available. Some commonly used oils to fight infection are sandalwood, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus, palmarosa, and lemon balm; but there are many more. Either applied directly to the skin or placed in a diffuser for inhalation, the essential oils have quick and dramatic results for killing germs and boosting the immune system.
Don’t forget to add some form of bodily movement and stress reducing techniques to your routine every day; this is also important for a strong immune system.
Prevention is always the best medicine, but if you take care of yourself and keep your immune system strong, your body can defend you from even the worst bacterial, fungal, and viral infections.
Bresee, J. D. (2010, February 10). 2009 H1N1 Flu (“Swine Flu”) and You. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/qa.htm
Dallin. (2013, April 22). Antibacterial, Antiviral, and Antifungal Herbs. Retrieved from The Herb Master: http://theherbmasters.com/antibacterial-antiviral-and-antifungal-herbs/
Douillard, J. (2013, December 7). Vitamin D3: D is for Deficient. Retrieved from Lifespa: http://lifespa.com/vitamin-d3-d-deficient/
Key Facts About Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Virus. (2010, November 21). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/gen-info/facts.htm
Nicole P. Lindsey, M. J. (2014, June 20). West Nile Virus and Other Arboviral Diseases — United States, 2013. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6324a1.htm