It seemed like it happened every time, and for the longest while I didn’t think I could do anything about it. I’d be going along feeling fine and healthy. Then I’d have a critically ill patient under my care. After a few days of stress and interrupted night’s sleep, WHAM — I’d come down with a heck of a cold.
At first, I didn’t know what specific steps anyone could take to keep their immune function at an optimal level.
As a physician, I was of course aware of the components of the immune system and their functions. However, like many aspects of wellness, traditional medical training doesn’t emphasize how we can support immune function in normal day-to-day life.
When I starting exploring complementary medical treatments, I was surprised at how much research had been done in this area. Once I started applying what I learned, those stress-related colds became a thing of the past. I’d like to share some of what I learned about building up a healthy immune system and fighting off those nasty bugs with you now.
Our immune system is a complex, interacting web of chemical and cellular components that serves to protect us against potential invaders such as bacteria, viruses and cancer cells. Although we often talk about immune “boosting,” what we really want is a perfectly balanced immune system (an overly active immune system can damage the body, but that’s another story).
A healthy lifestyle supports vitality, including immune health. It’s the foundation of any wellness program.
But before we look at how we can strengthen immunity, it’s important to understand the specific factors that affect the immune system. These include nutritional deficiencies, infections, trauma, toxins (all too common in today’s world), radiation exposure, emotional state and, very importantly, stress.
Stress causes an increase in the hormone cortisol. Short term, this can be beneficial, but long term, an elevation of cortisol is a powerful suppressor of immune function. Stress was one factor that weakened my immune system when I was taking care of those critically ill people.
Fortunately, several behavioral interventions counteract the effects of stress on the immune system. You are probably aware of meditation as a stress management tool. Other proven interventions include clinical biofeedback, relaxation techniques, hypnosis, behavior modification, and visualization and imagery techniques. The techniques that I’ve personally found most useful are taught by the Institute of HeartMath.
The main thing is to learn a technique that appeals to you and then use it. Increasing stress is part of today’s world, and if we don’t take steps to counteract it, we’ll pay the price with illnesses.
Another factor that affects immunity is sleep, or rather, the lack of it. Even modest sleep deprivation has a profound effect. For example, a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that people who had less than 7 hours sleep a night were more than three times as likely to come down with a cold during the course of the study, than those who had 8 or more hours of sleep. Not only that, difficulty falling asleep and interruptions in sleep during the night greatly increased the risk of developing a cold.
It’s easy to see why I got sick so easily when I was worrying about a patient and not getting enough sleep. Managing stress and getting enough sleep is a solid start. Here are some other things you can do to keep your immune system functioning at its best.
Get more exercise. Exercise not only strengthens your muscles, it strengthens your immune system. I won’t belabor the point here, but a strengthened immune system is yet another reason to make exercise a regular part of your life.
One point of caution is to keep in mind that exercising steadily for over 90 minutes is counter-productive. At that level of intensity, the exercise itself becomes a type of chronic stress. For most of us this is not an issue, but it certainly is for endurance athletes.
Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet should be part of any wellness program. Any nutrient deficiency suppresses immune function, as does an excess consumption of sugar and refined foods. Emphasize a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and include healthy fats from adequate amounts of lean protein.
Add immune enhancing supplements. Although a healthy diet is the foundation, supplements can be of benefit as well. Taking a high potency multivitamin and mineral supplement is a reasonable first step. Zinc and selenium are two minerals that are particularly important for immune system support. Be sure your supplement includes them.
Perhaps the most important vitamin to be aware of regarding your immune system is vitamin D — it affects the immune system at multiple points and is also deficient in many people.
We need exposure to sunlight to generate our own vitamin D. Most people, especially those in the northern states, don’t get nearly enough exposure.
Fifteen to 20 minutes of exposure to bright sunlight daily is enough to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. Barring that, you should consider taking a supplement. The amount in a typical multivitamin won’t be nearly enough to correct a deficiency. You can have your blood level of vitamin D checked, but it is generally safe to take 1000 to 2000 units a day. Some people require even more.
Keep your digestive system healthy. Many people don’t realize that the gastrointestinal tract plays a very important role in overall immune function. Although research into this area is only just beginning, it is clear already that the type of bacteria residing in our GI tract makes a difference.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to periodically take a course of probiotic (beneficial bacteria) supplements to help maintain a healthy GI floor. This is especially important if you need to take antibiotics for any reason.
You don’t have to be a victim of the latest cold or flu outbreak. If you heed the advice I’ve just given you, you can count on your immune system to keep you healthy and well.
[ Ed. Note: Joseph F. McCaffrey, MD, FACS is a board-certified surgeon with extensive experience in alternative medicine, including certification as a HeartMath Trainer. His areas of expertise include mind-body interaction and cognitive restructuring. Dr. McCaffrey strives to help people attain their optimum level of vitality through attention to all aspects of wellness. For more information, click here.]
Do you take prescription drugs?
There is a way to minimize the damaging side effects of drugs AND wean yourself off them.
James LaValle (known as the “Doctor’s Doctor” for his sold-out speeches teaching other doctors how to marry drugs and vitamins) wrote a report to cover this widely un-researched gray area of medicine.
In this report you’ll discover:
5 natural substances that slay your Metabolic monster! Easy to find but OBLIVIOUS to most doctors, they curb fatigue, inflammation and sickness fast!
Dr. LaValle’s “TOP 5 MOST WANTED” list of extreme fatigue offenders. Lock ‘em up and double or even triple your energy.
WARNING: Vitamin supplementation is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL if you take drugs! Did you know some drugs actually leech vitamins out of your body? Crucial self-defense info…
If you’re interested in discovering how thousands of Dr. LaValle’s patients have boosted their energy and no longer rely on prescription drugs (and if you’re not taking any medication right now), I urge you to click here now.
Inch by Inch … It’s a Cinch! … and Other Keys to Powerful and Lasting Change!
By Dr. David Kamnitzer
My next few articles will be dedicated to sharing the keys that will help you moreeasily make powerful and lasting changes in your life.
Today, I want to share with you the principle of APPROPRIATE GRADIENT. One way to think about gradient is as a challenge or “stretch.” For example, if you already know how to add, learning how to subtract would be a logical next “stretch.” We could say that learning subtraction would be on a workable gradient for a person who has learned how to add.
We build on the success of learning addition to move on to the next step of subtraction. By building on our momentum, success breeds success. Why not put the power of momentum in your favor by generating a series of small successes at the beginning of any new cycle or project? Here are a few examples:
When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself this question five times before you get out of bed: “What is ONE THING I could feel grateful for today?” Just let yourself receive an answer. Breathe and feel the gratitude … and then repeat.
Ask yourself, “What is ONE change I could make in what I eat this week that might be more nurturing to my body?”
Pick ONE person you’ve lost contact with and would like to connect with again … and reach out today.
Select ONE quality (like humility or gratitude, or patience) that you would like to cultivate this week, and look for opportunities to practice.
Ask yourself, “If I were JUST FIVE PERCENT more wise, what might I begin to realize?
These are all powerful and practical examples of the use of taking a LITTLE STEP in a direction you would like to go. It is amazing how one step leads to another; very quickly you develop a POSITIVE MOMENTUM that is far greater than the sum of the little steps you have taken.
Then success begins to become a HABIT. Your subconscious mind begins to “get the idea” that success is normal and natural for you.
Make sure you allow yourself to ENJOY THE JOURNEY! That way, your subconscious mind will realize that you like how you feel as you proceed on your success journey — and that is powerful reinforcement indeed.
Soon SUCCESS will become part of your self-concept, especially if you apply disciplines such as the five I listed above for at least 30 CONSECUTIVE DAYS. May these ideas help you along your Path.
Blessings, Dr. David Kamnitzer
[ Ed Note: David Kamnitzer, D.C. is an expert at helping people achieve high levels of health and well-being -- far beyond what is available simply through drugs and surgery alone. He combines his 20-year clinical experience and extensive knowledge in structural, nutritional, and energetic balancing to offer individuals cutting-edge approaches to healing. To learn more, click here.]
Anti-Aging: Hype or Alien Technology? (Neither…)
Remember the movie “Cocoon”? Where a few senior citizens discover an ‘alien’ swimming pool that makes them feel younger, stronger and happier?
Well, what I’m about to share with you is sort of like that. Just without the alien technology.
You see, Dr. James LaValle (known as the “Doctor’s Doctor” because he lectures to over 200 doctors per month on new breakthroughs in the field of anti-aging) has identified a “key factor” that is present in 80% of disease that at best makes people feel old and at worst leads them to an early grave.
Pan-Roasted Wild Salmon with Kalamata Olives & Basil
By Kelley Herring
Want to prevent macular degeneration? Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and folate. A study funded by the National Eye Institute involved over 5,200 women over the age of 40. 1 After 7 years, the women who took a daily supplement of the three B vitamins enjoyed a 41% reduced risk of macular degeneration, compared to the women in the placebo group. In each serving of this fish dish, you’ll enjoy nearly 90% of the daily requirement for vitamin B12 plus 69% of the daily requirement for vitamin B6. Serve with a side of roasted asparagus — a rich source of folate — to get the sight-saving trio of nutrients and round out the meal.
Time To Table: 15 minutes Serves: 4
The Benefits Excellent Source of: Potassium, Protein, Selenium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Thiamin, Niacin, Riboflavin, ALA Omega-3, EPA/DHA Omega-3 Good Source of: Iron, Magnesium, Folate Preferences: Low Carbohydrate, Gluten Free
Preparation Preheat oven to 400°F. Add butter to a medium oven-proof sauté pan and heat over medium high heat. Rinse salmon, pat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. When butter has melted and pan is hot, add the salmon fillets — skin side up — to the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes. Do not turn. Add the olives to the pan around the fish and stir gently, cooking 2 more minutes. Flip the fish. Place the pan in the oven to complete cooking to desired doneness (2 minutes for medium-rare; 4 minutes for medium-well). Remove from oven, top with fresh basil and serve.
Nutrition Information 278 calories, 15 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 5 g monounsaturated fat, 5 g polyunsaturated fat, 100 mg cholesterol, 344 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 34 g protein
Christen WG, et al. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Feb 23;169(4):335-41.
[ Ed. Note: Kelley Herring is the founder of Healing Gourmet -- the world's leading website on the power of foods to promote health and protect against disease. Her latest work is a revolutionary health transformation program called, Your Plate, Your Fate. In this 7-part program you'll learn how to protect your health and optimize your weight by maximizing the nutrients in your food. Learn more here.]