With the news out that this winter that the flu vaccine only prevented flu in 18 percent of the inoculated population, it’s time to see what measures we can take to protect ourselves in a better way.
Every winter, it seems that most people are going to get a cold or two and up to 20 percent of the population will get the flu. Because we feel so miserable and have a hard time functions, we make things even worse by spending more than 10 billion dollars each year trying to treat flu symptoms (U.S. statistics). This all begs the question: If 20 people are sitting in a room, and someone is spreading cold or flu germs, why are some people’s immune system letting them down and they ultimately catch a cold, and why are many of the others sitting in that same room not going to catch something easily contagious?
The key here is taking care of one’s immune system along with proper hygiene.
The immune system is a system of biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease. To function properly, an immune system must detect a wide variety of agents, known as pathogens, from viruses to parasitic worms, and distinguish them from the organism’s own healthy tissue. That is to say, that when our immune systems are working well, it will fight off disease and illness. What can we do in order to boost our immune system?
Hygiene is so simple, yet it is also something we take for granted. An interesting study done in the American military recruits were told to wash their hands at least five times a day. After two years, the hand-washing team reported 45 percent fewer cases of respiratory ailments than recruits from the year before, who did not participate in the program.
Here are the basics if you want to minimize your risk of infection and also enhance your overall health:
- Bathe regularly. Wash your body and your hair often. “I’m not saying that you need to shower or bathe every day,” remarks Dr. Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician in Park Ridge, Illinois. “But you should clean your body and shampoo your hair at regular intervals that work for you.”
- Trim your nails-take care of your feet. Keeping your finger and toenails trimmed and in good shape will prevent problems such as hang nails and infected nail beds. Feet that are clean and dry are less likely to contract athlete’s foot, Dr. Novey says.
- Brush and floss. Ideally, you should brush your teeth after every meal. At the very least, brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. Brushing minimizes the accumulation of bacteria in your mouth, which can cause tooth decay and gum disease. To maintain a healthy smile, visit the dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.
- Wash your hands. Washing your hands properly (front and back and up to the wrist) before preparing or eating food, after going to the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing, and after handling garbage, goes a long way toward preventing the spread of bacteria and viruses. Keep a hygiene product, like an alcohol-based sanitizing gel, handy for when soap and water isn’t available.
One study found that the frequency of colds in people who exercised five or more days a week was up to 46 percent less than in those who exercised only one day or less during a week.
Regular exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases. It helps maintain a healthy immune system and can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
Immune system warriors need good, regular nourishment. Scientists have long recognized that people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. We do think that vitamins A, B2, B6, C, D, E., selenium and zinc are all vital to upkeep for our immune system. It is always best to get these vitamins and minerals via food as opposed to supplements.
Modern medicine has come to understand the closely linked relationship of mind and body. A wide variety of sicknesses, including stomach upset, hives, and even heart disease, are linked to the effects of emotional stress.
The relationship between stress and immune function is being studied by a number of different types of scientists. On the basis of such experiments, some published studies have made the following claims:
- Experimentally created “stressful” situations delayed the production of antibodies in mice infected with influenza virus and suppressed the activity of T-cells (the ones that provide immunity) in animals inoculated with herpes simplex virus.
- Social stress can be very damaging. For example, some mice were put into a cage with a highly aggressive mouse two hours a day for six days and repeatedly threatened, but not injured, by the aggressive mouse—a “social stress.” Other mice were kept in tiny cages without food and water for long periods—a “physical stress.” Both groups of mice were exposed to a bacterial toxin, and the socially stressed animals were twice as likely to die.
- Isolation can also suppress immune function. Infant monkeys separated from their mothers, especially if they are caged alone rather than in groups, generate fewer antibodies in response to viruses.
In addition to reducing stress, exercising and eating well, and practicing good hygiene, the Harvard School of Public Medicine suggests:
- Don’t smoke.
- Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Control your blood pressure.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Get adequate sleep (7-9 hours per night).
- Get regular medical screening tests for people in your age group and risk category.
Approximately 99 percent of us are born with a healthy body and a powerful immune system. But how we take care of it will determine how efficient it will function and how powerful it will be in helping us ward off illness and disease. Taking care of your immune system will, “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at email@example.com Check out the his web site –www.alanfitness.com US Line: 516-568-5027.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.