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Get a Better Immune System: Fight Colds and Flus Naturally

Get a Better Immune System

When my own children were getting sick over and over again one flu and cold season and our western doctors didn’t seem to know what to do to help, I turned to my husband’s friend, Nicholas Collins, who is a Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture practitioner in Berkeley, near Alta Bates.  After a visit where he gave me some herbs and probiotics for my daughters, they were so much healthier. I was amazed and grateful.  I asked him to recommend some ways that parents can boost their own and their children’s immunity naturally.

Here are five of his suggestions to naturally boost your family’s immunity:

1) Vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids.  Vitamin D also activates the body’s immune system and can protect against colds and flus.  Part of the reason that people may get more sick in the winter months is reduced sunlight exposure.  And while Nick says the sun is the cheapest way to get Vitamin D, there are others:

  • Supplements: these can be great but most supplements are synthetic that do not assimilate or metabolize properly.  If you buy supplements, buy a natural D3 supplement.
  • Button mushrooms contain vitamin D.
  • Cod liver oil is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids and D and E. Omega 3 fatty acids are also a very important anti-inflammatory and one that can protect the heart and brain from cardiovascular disease and strokes.

Unfortunately, Omega 3s are also volatile and must be refrigerated. The best Omega 3s are those that are protected from light and heat by natural preservatives such as Vitamin E also found in Cod Liver Oil.

2) Avoid stress, simple carbohydrates and sugars. This includes alcohol, most processed foods and anything with corn syrup. Processed sugars and simple carbohydrates like bread and white rice can stress the body because they cause waves of increased blood sugar followed crashes. This can tax the pancreas and the adrenals.  Stress also weakens them adrenals by increasing the release of Cortisol.  While cortisol is useful for acute emergencies, over the long term it further increases blood sugar and weakens the immune system leaving us open to infection and colds.

3) In the winter months, our bodies are actually evolutionarily programmed to sleep more.  Don’t feel bad if you sleep an extra hour a day, or if your kids do.  Recent and long standing sleep studies, including one published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicate that sleep boosts immunity, and that even the flu vaccine is more effective in people who get more sleep.

4) According to Nick, one of the most important ways to boost immunity is to eat whole foods and keep the intestines healthy.  Much of our immune system lives in our guts in the form of healthy bacteria or “intestinal flora”. These bacteria protect against ingested pathogens including fungi, viruses and bacteria. Often, we damage our naturally occurring flora after taking antibiotics or eating foods laden with antibiotics. Organic foods that free of these drugs and fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, kimchee, and sauerkraut can support and even build our gut bacteria. Whole foods also provide us with the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals we need for healthy living.

Some examples of whole foods and intestinal boosting bacteria supplements are:

  • Sea Salt instead of iodized salt and or bone soups (it’s true-chicken soup can make you better-if you make it with the bones!) help to provide adequate mineral levels
  • Probiotics, which can be found as over the counter supplements, or fermented foods
  • Ginger can support digestion, reduce coughing and even reduce blood cholesterol.
  • Garlic and green onion raise the body temperature making it inhospitable to viral and bacterial invaders.

5) Last but not least the old stand by, Vitamin C, is a free radical scavenger that should be taken daily as it is water soluble and does not store well in our body.  It helps protect the integrity of our vessels, protecting us against chronic illness including heart disease.

The funniest part of posting this article now is that it’s almost two in the morning.  So much for the getting more sleep part…