13 January 2013

Influenza Blues? Seven Tips to Prevent Infection...

Cold and flu season are in full swing.  I frequently get asked if I recommend the flu vaccine.  My answer is simple...  a healthy immune system is the best defense against colds and flu.  If you have an immune deficiency or other serious illness it may be appropriate.  However, for the rest of us, strengthening your innate immunity is the key!  Besides, who willingly has formaldehyde, aluminum, MSG, or thimerosal injected into the body, anyway?

Seven Tips for Preventing and Treating Viral Infections:
  1. Basic Immune Nutrients - Make sure you are getting adequate immune supporting vitamins.  I recommend Vitamin D3, Vitamin C, Zinc, Omega-3 Fish Oil and high potency probiotics as some of the basics
  2. Hydration & Sleep - Often overlooked but essential!  Drink plenty of fluids and avoid sticky and sweet soda or fruit juice.  Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.  It is no coincidence that we often get a cold or the flu after activities like the holidays or travel, when we return to high stress and fail to get adequate sleep.
  3. Homeopathic Medicines - One of my very favorite homeopathic flu remedies is Boiron Oscillococcinum.  I am never without this helpful cure!  It comes in adult or kid friendly versions.  Take 1 vial weekly for prevention of flu. My husband & I do this all through the winter months or when flying.  Upon the first sign of sore throat, fever or myalgias, take one vial up to 3X daily for acute illness.  It's safe at any age and has been shown to limit the severity and duration of the flu symptoms.  For best results, take at the very beginning of symptoms.  Some of my other favorites by Boiron are ColdCalm for cold symptoms and Sinusalia for sinus symptoms.
  4. Elderberry - Elderberry syrup (such as Sambucol) is a great alternative to anti-viral medication.  Take one tablespooon 4X daily for up to 3 days when symptoms begin.  One study suggested that using a standardized elderberry extract, Sambucol, could shorten the duration of flu by about 3 days.
  5. Avoid sugar - Perhaps the most important thing you can do to boost your immune strength is get rid of the sweets!  Avoid all sugar and highly processed foods.  Even small amounts of sugar can significantly impair the immune system, making one more susceptible to a flu infection.  One classic study showed that sugar decreased neutrophil activity (your cells that fight infection) for hours after sugar ingestion.
  6. Functional Foods - Many foods are helpful to boost immunity.  Drink organic green tea, eat garlic raw or cooked, use fresh oregano and thyme to spice your foods, and enjoy fresh ginger in cooking or smoothies or make a cup of honey ginger tea.  Cruciferous veggies and certain mushrooms are also loaded with immune boosting properties.  Both garlic and onions contain compounds that rev up the activity of immune-system cells called natural killer cells and T-helper cells.
  7. And don't forget to wash your hands... a simple but effective way to wash away the viruses that cause cold and flu.  Use plain soap and water (NOT the anti-bacterial soaps which contain the toxin, Triclosan)  Make your own hand sanitizer with the following simple recipe.
    • Fill 4oz glass spray bottle with sterile water
    • Add 1 tsp aloe vera gel
    • Add 5 drops each of the following essential oils:  cinnamon, clove, rosemary, eucalyptus
    • Mix 10 drops of lemon or wild orange essential oil
    • Shake gently and use 2-3 sprays on your hands as needed.
Take to heart these simple tips and you should be WELL on your way to a healthy, happy, virus-fighting immune system this flu season!

03 January 2013

Healthy Gut = Healthy You!

There is a microbial zoo living inside you, literally trillions of microscopic organisms―more than 10,000 different kinds of them―all co-existing with each other and you.

In fact they outnumber you ten to one and ninety percent of the genetic material, (DNA and RNA) in your body is not yours, it belongs to the bacteria that is located mostly in your gut, but some also live on your skin and even in your nose.

Exactly what those different life forms do has been the subject of some exciting research in recent years, and while a few of these organisms can sometimes wreak havoc with your system, the majority of these little "bugs" are good, helping you digest your food, stay protected from infections, and even keeping your immune system properly regulated to fend off autoimmune diseases like asthma, allergies, and diabetes.

The community of microbes living on and in your body is unique to you – like your fingerprints – and is now being regarded as a key contributor to your overall health.

More and more, science is finding that teeny tiny creatures living in your gut are there for a definite purpose. Known as your microbiome, about 100 trillion of these cells populate your body, particularly your intestines and other parts of your digestive system.

Although some of these bacteria can make you sick, the majority are good, and they work together as to aid your digestive system and keep you well. Beneficial bacteria, better known as probiotics, along with a host of other microorganisms, are so crucial to your health that researchers have compared them to "a newly recognized organ." We now know that your microflora influence your:
  • Immune system function
  • Brain development, mental health, and memory
  • Obesity
  • Genetic expression 
  • Risk of diseases, including autoimmune disease, cancer, diabetes, and autism
According to the featured article in Time Magazine:
"Our surprisingly complex internal ecology has been a hot topic in medicine lately. Initiatives such as the Human Microbiome Project, an extension of the Human Genome Project, have been working tirelessly to probe potential links between the human microbiota and human health, and to construct strategies for manipulating the bacteria so that they work with us rather than against us.

...They've been linked to a range of nasty conditions, including obesity, arthritis, and high cholesterol. Now, two newer areas of research are pushing the field even further, looking at the possible gut bug link to a pair of very different conditions: autism and irritable bowel disease."
Most people, including many physicians, do not realize that 80 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive tract, making a healthy gut a major focal point in your efforts to achieve optimal health. In fact, the root of many health problems is related to an imbalance of intestinal bacteria.  

The beneficial bacteria in your gut has actually been found to help prevent allergies by training your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens and respond appropriately – and this may be one reason why they also appear so beneficial in conditions like allergies, asthma, and eczema

 Like it or not, the bugs in your gut have a lot to say about your health!  This is why I frequently test patients gut function for common complaints such as fatigue, migraines, mood disorders, depression, anxiety or insomnia, ecezma, allergies, asthma, autism, and even trouble with concentration & memory.  Getting the gut bugs back into proper balance is critical to your overall health and especially the health of your immune system.  The simplest way to jump start your overall health is pay attention to the gut...  Eliminate sugar and refined flours from your diet and add a high dose probiotic to you regimen.  You'll be well on your way to a happy and helpful intestinal "zoo"!