Cold and Flu Season:

Woman in jacket preparing to run

In our last blog post, we saw that the influenza vaccination appears to be an immunological crapshoot, one with some potentially nasty side effects.  So how does one avoid the crud?  Understanding the battlefield helps you prepare for the fight.

Why is the fall and winter so ho-ho-horrible?
 It’s cold and dry…like my humor

Studies have shown that the 200+ viruses that cause colds, influenza, and influenza-like illnesses survive better and are more easily spread in the cold and dry weather found during this time of year.   Breathing in cold air can constrict the blood vessels in our nose and throat, reducing access of our white blood cells to these areas, which are the main portals of viral entry. Central heating tends to dry things out even more.   This, coupled with the propensity for folks to stay inside, provides a target rich environment for these little spreaders of holiday fear.1

 Too many of Granny’s cookies

For many, the sweet holiday treats are too much of a temptation and our intake of baked goods and candies skyrockets. It starts with Halloween and doesn’t end until after New Years.  These processed, simple carbohydrates increase inflammation and paralyze our immune system for hours after ingestion.2   Some popular headlines will lead you to believe that sugar isn’t bad, but if you dig a little deeper, they are really talking about glucose, the primary fuel source for parts of the immune system.3   Whether you get that glucose from an orange that has vitamin C and other phytonutrients or from that tin of cookies, makes a huge difference.

 Most get an F on their D status

Vitamin D uber important when it comes to your immune system.4   Deficiency is rampant, with over 42% percent of the adult population low in this crucial nutrient.  This number is markedly higher in folks with darker skin, 82% for African Americans and 70% for Hispanics.5   Our main source of vitamin D comes from its production in our skin in response to sun exposure.  During this time of year, the sun is lower in the sky, folks are staying inside, and if they are outside, they are bundled up making it nigh on impossible to make vitamin D.

Stress the souls with loads and folly…Fa la la la la, la la la la

The holidays can be a super stressful time for folks.  Some of the stress is beyond their control as death or distance (physical and/or emotional) separate them from loved ones during this sentimental time of the year.  Some end up having to be too close to that in-law or cousin that jumps up and down on their last nerve; wearing out their welcome from the moment they’ve walked through the door.  Some go into debt trying to meet perceived and unrealistic gift expectations or buying the latest and greatest Game-Station-Xbox-thingy that will just rot their kid’s brain anyways.  Stress, from whatever source, can suppress your immune system.6

Bullets for the battle

Some things you can do to avoid getting and spreading this gruesome gift:

·         Consider using a humidifier if your environment is dry.1

·         Employ frequent hand washing.

·         Avoid crowded and enclosed areas.

·         Don’t smoke.

·         Reduce alcohol consumption.

·         Avoid extra stress.  Employ stress reduction techniques if you run into it.

·         Get 7-9 hours of sleep nightly.

·         Stay hydrated…with water.

·         Take a probiotic.7

·         Get regular exercise.8

·         Step away from the sweets.

·         Eat a nutrient-dense diet with adequate protein and micronutrients (particularly zinc and vitamins A, D, E, B6 and B12).8

·         Get your vitamin D level checked and supplement as necessary.

 

Stay tuned for our next blog post where we’ll teach you a little more about viruses and if you get the crud, how to fight it.

Blessings,

Jason

 

References:

1.        www.bbc.com/future/story/20151016-the-real-reason-germs-spread-in-the-winter

2.        https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/26/11/1180/4732762

3.        www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/09/glucose-inflammation/498965/

4.        https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

5.        www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21310306

6.        www.apa.org/research/action/immune.aspx

7.        www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/bifidobacterium-bifidum-r0071-results-in-a-greater-proportion-of-healthy-days-and-a-lower-percentage-of-academically-stressed-students-reporting-a-day-of-coldflu-a-          randomised-doubleblind-placebocontrolled-study/897D9E0E486BB1F3BAF3A0786AF2CCBE

8.        www.gssiweb.org/en/sports-science-exchange/article/sse-151-effects-of-exercise-on-immune-function

About the Author

Jason Gourlas, MPAS PA-C

For as long as he could remember, Jason has wanted to be a detective.  While serving as an Army medic, Jason realized that medicine combined detective work with his other love, science. He went through the Army PA program at Fort Sam while serving as a member of the Texas Army National Guard.  During his 22 + years in medicine, he has had a wide variety of experience in family practice, emergency medicine, neurotology (hearing and balance specialty), and surgical/trauma critical care.  For the last several years he has been studying and practicing functional and integrative medicine. He maintains certification in functional medicine through the American Academy of Anti-aging Medicine. 

About the Author

Jason Gourlas, MPAS PA-C

For as long as he could remember, Jason has wanted to be a detective.  While serving as an Army medic, Jason realized that medicine combined detective work with his other love, science.

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