4 Steps to Beating Spring Colds and Flu
Boosting your immunity is as easy as 1-2-3-4
Sam Rose, CN MS
It’s cold and
flu season again, that time of year when many of us are going to do battle
with a bug. In December and January a particularly powerful virus swept through
California knocking many of us off our feet for up to 3 weeks. This spring
we could be in for more of the same. In fact, every year nearly half the United
States population will catch a cold and 40% of us will develop influenza (the
Some of us seem
to suffer an endless string of illnesses from November to April while others
sail through these rough waters completely unscathed. The degree to which we
become sick can also vary from person to person. Expose three people to the
same set of germs. One develops pneumonia, one experiences a mild cold and the
third won’t be bothered at all. Why is that?
There is little
doubt that viruses are responsible for colds and flus. Although western medicine
has been unable to effect a cure, alternative health-care practitioners now
believe that once you’re exposed to a virus the end result (whether you get
sick and how sick you get) will depend upon your body’s ability to defend
itself. In other words, the strength of your immune system
determines the severity of your cold or flu.
system, more than any other part of the body, dictates your state of health.
The bone marrow, spleen, liver, thymus, lymph nodes and white blood cells are
its main players, but every part of your body gets into the act to keep your
In seven years of
practice I have observed that immune response is influenced more by the quality
of diet and the stresses and strains of lifestyle than by any other factor. Put
the following four steps together and be one of the few left standing the next
time everyone else is dropping like flies.
Step #1: Feed Your Immune
The standard American
diet is overly processed, refined and overcooked. As a result, it lacks many
of the nutrients we need to maintain a healthy immune response. For example,
vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene and the mineral zinc, all vital nutrients
for a strong defense, are in short supply in the average American’s diet.
Low protein intake and deficiencies in essential fatty acids (found in nuts
and seeds), B-vitamins and the mineral selenium also contribute to suppressing
your immune system. Eating a diet high in “live” foods, fruits and vegetables,
whole grains, pure water and a modest amount of animal or vegetable protein
there are many more factors that suppress immune function than enhance it. One
of the most powerful of these is sugar. Each year at Halloween, my daughter
eats some of the candy she has collected and each year she catches a cold
within 24 hours. This is not, as she would like to believe, a coincidence. Nor
is it a coincidence that the cold and flu season follows on the heels of two
months of holiday parties and their requisite sugary food intake. Increased
consumption of sugar, including “natural” sugars like honey and concentrated
fruit sugar as well as the sugars in alcohol, wallops our immune response.
with vitamin C for transport into our white blood cells, weakening the white
blood cells’ ability to fight infection. A sugar sweetened soda or piece of
cake you nibble at the office party can stun your immune system into inactivity
for as long as five hours. Even orange juice, long venerated for its
health-giving properties, can be a problem. The concentrated sugar in quarts of
this fruit juice consumed during a cold can have the same immune-suppressing
effect as eating table sugar right out of the bowl.
Foods that cause
difficulty in digestion can also put a stress on your immune response. The
digestive and immune systems share a common source of energy and enzyme
reserve. Proper food combining frees up a tremendous amount of energy your body
can use to defend you. Separate animal proteins (chicken, meat, turkey, fish,
eggs, etc.) and starchy foods (breads, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc.), because
they do not digest easily together.
Meats and animal
products in general are notoriously difficult to digest and should be reduced
this time of year. During cold and flu season, try to limit your intake of
animal foods to three or four times a week. Poultry is better than red meat,
and fish is best of all. Whenever possible, purchase “clean” meats at a health
food store. Animal products sold in other stores may contain bacteria, hormones,
pesticides and antibiotics that put an extra strain on your immune system.
additives such as synthetic colors, synthetic sweeteners, flavorings,
preservatives and synthetic oils such as margarine can stress your digestive
and filtering organs and hamper immune response as well. Do your best to
eliminate them from your diet.
and sensitivities also seem to have an effect on our tendency to catch a cold
or flu. Chronic congestion in mucous membranes is a breeding ground for the
viruses that are responsible for upper respiratory infections. Alternative
practitioners have linked two of the most common food allergens, wheat and
dairy, to increased mucous production. Whether this increase
is a direct result of eating these foods or our body’s response to them is
debatable, but either way the result is increased susceptibility to viral
During cold and
flu season, try reducing or, better yet, eliminating wheat and dairy from your
diet. Make a list of all the things you eat on a daily basis that contain
wheat, dairy or their derivatives. You’ll be shocked at the amount of this
stuff you put into your body.
Step #2: Improve your
When you ask a
medical doctor, “How long can I expect to be sick with this cold?” he or she is
likely to say the following: “If you don’t take care of it, it’s going to last
seven days. If you do take care of it, it will last a week”!
Although the western
medical establishment takes a relatively fatalistic view of colds and flu,
many natural health care providers believe that catching a cold is one of
the ways the body does its housecleaning. This line of thinking holds that
when the body is laboring under the weight of its own debris, or toxins, it
will actually attract a virus to create the cleansing effect of a cold or
flu. In my observations, the level of toxicity a person carries has a profound
effect on the frequency and length of time he or she is sick. Most of my clients
who have been through a cleansing process get sick no more than once a year
and remain sick for three or four days. Compare this to the seven to 21 days
many Americans are down with a bug and the value of
internal detoxification becomes clear.
meaning two to three bowel movements daily, is one of the most powerful indicators
of a person’s overall state of health. Pathogenic bacteria and viruses are
attracted to standing waste in the body. Years ago, one of the first things
a mother would do for a sick child was give him or her a cleansing enema.
Like magic, the fever and symptoms would improve
To boost your
immunity, put yourself on a good internal detoxification program. After you’ve
“cleaned house,” stay away from foods that are clogging and congesting such as
white flour products, dairy (especially cheese) and high-fat foods.
Step #3: Manage Your
Have you ever
noticed how after a particularly stressful event, such as moving or changing
jobs, your resistance is diminished? During stressful times, hormones are
released by the body that can shrink the thymus gland, weakening your immune
response. The more stress you are under, the greater your chance of viral
In one study, 420
people were rated for stressful occurrences over the course of a year. The
group was then exposed to one of five cold viruses and tested for antibodies in
30 days. Ninety percent of those under the greatest amount of stress became
infected, as compared to 74% of those under the least stress. In another study
of 100 people, those who experienced high levels of anger and tension were four
times as likely to develop a viral or bacterial infection as those who did not
feel these emotions.
Step #4: Get Enough Rest
Sleep is one
nutrient for which there is no replacement. Nor is there a supplement that will
make up for a lack of it. The immune system functions best when the
parasympathetic nervous system is dominant. This happens when you are relaxed,
resting, meditating and especially when you are sleeping. There is a natural
ebb and flow of energy in the body’s organs and systems over the course of a
day. The immune system gathers strength during the dark hours when we are at
rest. When you are ill, the biggest regeneration of viral-damaged cells occurs
between midnight and 4:00am.
Most of us
require between six and eight hours sleep a day. If you’re not getting this
much or if you rely on an alarm to wake you, there is a good chance you are
sleep deprived. To make sure you are giving your body the amount of sleep it
needs, try going to bed five minutes earlier each night until you are able to
wake up before the alarm goes off.
Safeguard Your Health With “Bodyguard” Nutrients
The following nutrients can
help you boost your immune function:
Vitamin C. This enhances white
blood cell function and increases interferon production (proteins released by
white blood cells that fight viruses).
Vitamin A and Zinc. These help
strengthen the immune system and speed tissue healing. They kill viruses directly
and help heal mucous membranes that get inflamed with a cold. They increase
T-cell activity and the function of white blood cells. Along with vitamin
C, they activate the thymus gland.
Vitamin E and Selenium. They
improve antibody production and response and cell membrane integrity.
Echinacea. This mobilizes the
lymph system, the source of much of our immune response. It reduces
inflammation anywhere in the body. Use it for short periods of time and don’t
use it with HIV or with auto-immune disorders.
Astragalus. This is toning to the
immune system. It balances the energy of all the internal organs and combats
fatigue by nourishing the adrenal glands. It can be alternated with Echinacea.
B Vitamins. These counteract the
effects of stress on the central nervous system, which is essential to the
Free-form amino acids. The
sulfur-containing amino acids, L-cysteine and methionine are free radical
trappers. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant and immune system enhancer. Taurine
is used as a shield by white blood cells when they go into battle. Ninety
percent of all the taurine in the body is in the white blood cells.
Magnesium. This increases the
number of white blood cells, especially T-cells.
Garlic. This possesses strong anti-microbial and antiviral activity. Allicin, the active element in garlic, is deactivated in heat. Garlic should be eaten raw or in deodorized capsule form.
Sam Rose, CN MS is a licensed and certified nutritionist
and owner of Rose Nutrition Center in West Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-473-8835.