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Stay on Top of Your Health

Mary Kay

Fall is officially over, and it seems the cold/flu season has started. I’ve already had friends develop sinus infections, strep throat, stomach flu and walking pneumonia…no kidding. And while many believe it’s normal to get a cold or cough at least once a year, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, if you believe your body is capable of protecting itself all year long and wondering, “What does it take to have ‘super hero’ immunity,” I have the prescription for you.

First, a quick briefing on the immune system. T and B cells, made by the immune system, are the foremost soldiers of our immune system, and our gut flora is the headquarters sending out ‘troops’ to keep the home front protected. Specifically, T cells detect invading organisms and trigger B cells to produce antibodies to fight bacteria, call in phagocytes to gobble up damaging microbes and activate other T cells to fight off viruses.  The problem is if the gut becomes overwhelmed by too many food or chemical irritants, it can’t communicate properly with T and B cells. In short, there’s no one to coordinate the fight.  Hence, here are some tips to create your own ‘super-hero’ immunity army.

Tip #1: Increase Your Intake of Phytonutrients. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of the book Super Immunity, says you can stay healthy simply by eating near-vegan (with 50% raw) and concentrating on foods high in phytonutrients all year round. This means eating garlic, mushrooms, beans, seeds and lots of leafy greens and multi-colored fruits and vegetables (5-7 servings a day) as these foods contain thousands of natural chemicals that protect the body from germs, fungi, bugs and other threats.

Tip #2: Support Your “Super Strong” Gut Flora.  The fight against foreign invaders starts in the gut, and while one third of our gut microbiota is common to most people, two-thirds is specific to each one of us.  It’s like an individual identity card.  In fact, within our unique gut biome are super-strong, incredibly resilient good bacteria that can withstand inflammation and fight off a myriad of threats.  Now, while probiotics help introduce good bacteria into the gut, prebiotics act as a fertilizer…feeding the good bacteria that’s already there, including your unique ‘super soldier’ microbes.  So, to optimize your unique gut biome, add probiotic foods (aka kefire, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, cultured foods, etc.), eliminate sugar, and eat prebiotic foods such as raw chicory root, raw jicama, raw garlic, raw dandelion greens, under-ripe bananas and cooked and cooled potatoes, rice and beans (aka think cold potato salad, cold rice salad and re-heated beans).

Tip #3: Get Your Zzzz’s.   While it’s true, some people do fine with less sleep, there are numerous studies that show that T-cell production goes down when we are sleep deprived, and according to Dr. Diwakar Balachandran, Director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas, “Inflammatory cytokines go up…potentially leading to a greater risk of developing a cold or flu.”  In other words, there may be some truth to the old wives’ tale that inadequate rest can make you prone to illness.  Hence, keep sleep at the top of your self-care routine...aiming for 7-9 hours a night.

Tip #4: Attack a Cold or Flu Early.  The key to shortening an illness is to knock it down before it has a chance to wreak havoc on your body. The problem is some bodies rebound easily with minimal intervention, while others need more help.  Things that are most helpful are:

  • Zinc– I love zinc! Not only is it used in over 25 different enzymatic functions in the body, it’s part of the enzymes that allow the body to produce collagen (keeps our skin soft, supple and youthful looking), provides immune response to cold and flu viruses, supports joint and tissue repair and cell growth, as well as aids in the healing of scars, wounds and intestinal disorders.  The best and least expensive way to get 15 mg of zinc a day is through food (e.g., meats, poultry, shellfish, legumes, grains as well as raw pumpkin, sunflower and hemp seeds, raw pecans, cashews and macadamia nuts and raw organic spinach.)  I’m a plant girl, so I like to add spinach and hemp seeds into my morning smoothie and eat handfuls of nuts throughout the day.  But you can also add a 15 mg zinc tablet at the start of symptoms (and continue for 5 days) to give your immune system a boost.
  • Black Elderberry Extract– Black elderberry juice is widely used to treat colds and the flu across the world.  In fact, it was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995.  How does it work?  The main flavonoids present in elderberries (aka anthocyanins cyanidin 3-glucoside and cyanidin 3-sambubioside) have been identified to increase monocyte activity against viral infected cells, and more interestingly, elderberry has been demonstrated to inhibit the adhesion of a virus to cell receptors.  When the virus is inhibited from entering cells, guess what?  It cannot replicate itself which lessens the seriousness of the infection. Another thing to note is this supplement seems to have no side effects with the exception of those who have an allergy to elder pollen, nor does it destroy beneficial intestinal bacteria.(Hint: If you’ve been exposed to a bad virus or flu…the kind that seems to knock people out for weeks at a time, consider taking 1-2 teaspoons daily for 5 days to give your body a little extra protection.)
  • Colloidal Silver– Colloidal silver has been used to treat viral, fungal and bacterial infections for over 100 years.  The way it works is it blocks and suffocates the enzyme that bacteria, viruses and fungi need for their oxygen metabolism.  In fact, numerous lab reports and research studies have documented that silver can destroy 99.9% of all bacteria, viruses, mold, fungus and other pathogens within the first 15 seconds of application.  Both topical and oral silver is considered quite safe.  However, quality is extremely important.  Stick with those labeled true colloidal silver or silver and avoid silver protein formulas as they can cause argyria (aka turns skin a blue-gray color).  True silver colloids do not cause argyria.  (Hint: Colloidal silver needs to be applied differently for each condition.  For nasal infections, put 5 sprays into each nostril with your head tilted back.  Try to hold in the sinus cavities for 30 seconds before swallowing.  Repeat 3-4x a day for 5-7 days.  For colds, flu and strep throat, put 7-10 sprays in the back of the mouth/throat and hold for 30 seconds before swallowing.  Repeat 3-4x a day for 5-7 days. For children, use ½ the dose.)  Having said that, since this is a powerful anti-bacterial agent, consider adding a probiotic at the same time to maintain gut flora.)
  • NutriWest Total VR-X – Speaking from experience, it can take years to build up your immune system.  This is where supplements that combine several phytochemicals can be helpful.  What I like about this one is it contains nutrients that support increased antioxidant levels (aka Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Zinc and Selenium) and a number of immune-building herbal ingredients such as olive leaf, elderberry, echinacea, goldenseal and astragalus.  (Hint: Whenever my throat feels scratchy, my body achy and my glands tightening, I turn to this product.  Simply take 2 tablets immediately with the onset of symptoms, followed by 1 tablet 3x times a day for 5-7 days or until you start to feel better.)

Tip #5: Lay Down and Rest – It may sound like common sense, but when you get sick, you need to stop working on the “to do” list and let the immune system do its job.  That means resting, sipping water all day (as opposed to guzzling a lot all at once) and eating light food…mostly fruits, salads and clear, organic broths.  Anorexia of infection (loss of appetite) is one way the body activates a more powerful immune response.  So, don’t overwork the body by making it digest heavy meals or recover from hard exercise.

I love the body and worship the forces that nurture, create and strengthen it.  And I’m constantly in awe of its complexity and the interconnectedness of functions.  Think about it.  There are literally 10,000s of biochemical functions that rebuild tissue and fight off invaders going on every day without us having to think about it.  In fact, some experts estimate that you develop detectable cancer 4x in a lifetime, on average, but you don’t know it because your immune system takes care of it.  Amazing!  So, please love and nurture your body, and in addition to eating well, make sure you add these things to your medicine cabinet:  Zinc,Black Elderberry Extract,Colloidal Silver and Total VR-X so that you can begin taking them the moment you feel symptoms coming on.  All of these items can be purchased from Amazon or Vitacost.  Just click on the product above for more information. (Reminder:  if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking prescription drugs, please check with your doctor about taking any of these or other supplements FIRST to prevent any adverse reactions.)

Until next time, seek strength!

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