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Colds and flus – keep those pesky viruses at bay

My boyfriend once said while sick, “I like my fever, I feel like my body is at least not being a bitch and is fighting back”. Well what can I say, he has a way with words….But he also has a point. This article is about is letting immune system do it’s job, the job it was built to do….to love and protect you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. We still have a little ways to go with respect to cold and flu season, so let’s focus on a couple ways of preventing upper respiratory tract infections and having them GTFO of your body asap.

1. Stay warm!

Did you know that you are literally more likely to catch a cold in colder temperatures? So back in the day, before we understood viruses and bacteria, anatomy and physiology people believed that cold weather could cause illnesses. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, things like “cold”, “wind”, “dampness” etc. remain pathogenic (disease causing) factors. In fact, the Chinese also believed the “wind gate” or area behind the neck was particularly susceptible and therefore important to cover up when out in the winter weather.

Well today we understand that the rhinovirus (virus most commonly responsible for the common cold) actually replicates more effectively in colder temperatures AND our immune system is less effective at fighting it off. So bundle up and don’t forget your scarf.

2. Get your probiotics

There’s no end to the benefits of adding more probiotics or “good” bacteria to your life. Consume more fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi or consider adding a probiotic supplement to your daily routine. A recent Cochrane review demonstrated that regular consumption of probiotics reduced the chance of developing an upper respiratory tract infection and reduced the duration of the infection, if individuals were to get sick.

3. Don’t fear the fever

Elevated temperatures allow for optimal functioning of certain immune cells. So jumping for the Aspirin might mean prolonging your infection.

4. Meditate

In a randomized controlled trial, 8 weeks of meditation improved the antibody response to an influenza vaccination in those who meditated vs. those who didn’t. A second study followed a group of cancer patients following an 8 week mindfulness based stress reduction program. At 6 and 12 months there was a significant improvement in stress and immune markers.

Stay healthy! ;)

Dr. Natalie

Carlson LE, Speca M, Faris P, Patel KD. (2007) One year pre-post intervention follow-up of psychological, immune, endocrine and blood pressure outcomes of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in breast and prostate cancer outpatients. Brain Behav Immun. 21(8):1038-49.

(2015) Probiotics (live micro‐organisms) to prevent upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) (for example, the common cold). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet].

Davidson RJ, Kabat-Zinn J, Schumacher J, Rosenkranz M, Muller D, Santorelli SF, Urbanowski F, Harrington A, Bonus K, Sheridan JF. (2003) Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosom Med. Jul-Aug;65(4):564-70.

Foxman EF, Storer JA, Fitzgerald ME, Wasik BR, Hou L, Zhao H, Turner PE, Pyle AM, Iwasaki A. (2015) Temperature-dependent innate defense against the common cold virus limits viral replication at warm temperature in mouse airway cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.20;112(3):827-32. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1411030112.

Mace TA, Zhong L, Kilpatrick C, Zynda E, Lee CT, Capitano M, Minderman H, Repasky EA.
(2011J Differentiation of CD8+ T cells into effector cells is enhanced by physiological range hyperthermia. Leukoc Biol. 90(5):951-62. doi: 10.1189/jlb.0511229.

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