Think You’re Done with Cold & Flu Season? Not so fast

Close-up of ill woman in bed holding thermometer

Credit: iStock Photo

While you are more susceptible to getting a cold or flu during the peak months (December – March), a weakened immune system can and does happen year round. Common causes of catching a cold or flu include:

  • Through your mouth, eyes or nose, since the virus can spread through droplets in the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks.
  • Hand-to-hand contact with someone who has a cold
  • Sharing contaminated objects, such as phones, utensils, towels, or toys
  • Touching your eyes, nose or mouth after such contact or exposure

Don’t let prevention be put on the back burner simply because you’re not sick. When you are sick you do everything you can to try to get better, but the easiest way to get better is not get sick!

For many their prevention plan consists of any or all of:

  • A trendy shortcut, such as Emergen-C or Airborne
  • A remedy that treats the symptoms but not the cause, such as over-the-counter cold medicines
  • Overloading on the good stuff, such as bingeing on healthy foods to circumvent getting sick

This is flawed thinking, and in the case of some “remedies,” borderline irresponsible marketing. A deeper look into various biomarkers reveals that our immune system is exactly that – a system. Your immunity is a system of many parts working together, not a button you push by slamming your body with vitamin c gummies. Prevention is most effective when proactively and consistently maintaining healthy practices across multiple aspects of your overall health and wellness.

8 Tips for Immunity All Year Long

  1. Wash Your Hands. Wash your hands – early and often, and with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, Dr. Jeffrey Edman, a WellnessFX practitioner, recommends “regular application of hand sanitizer. I don’t touch public restroom faucets and door handles after washing my hands. Seriously. Door handles and faucets have been shown to be highly contaminated.” A few times to be mindful of where hand washing should be a best practice include after contacting people, going to the bathroom, and before meals.  For tips on how to make hand washing a habit, try this recent blog post.
  2. Eat toward health. Some foods can move you closer to your goals and others will move you away. If you’re considering that you can just wait until you’re sick to eat healthy foods, there’s evidence against that. Munch to manage from the inside out by eating foods rich in vitamin A, D and C. Red/orange vegetables and fruits are all rich in vitamin A and C – think sweet red peppers, carrots, spinach and broccoli. Vitamin D-rich foods include eggs, and fatty fish such as sockeye salmon, mackerel, sardines, and grass-fed, fortified dairy, such as milk and yogurt
  3. Practice good gut health. Almost 70 percent of the immune system is regulated in your gut. When the small intestine lining is compromised, via an imbalance of that good and bad bacteria, the non-nutritive materials can slip into your bloodstream. The end result of this is your immune system launches a response, resulting in inflammation. Inflammation also is the underlying theme in preventable chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart diseases, and autoimmune diseases. Go here to learn what else your gut is connected to.

  4. Avoid sugar. Avoid sugar. WellnessFX practitioners Karen Graham and Dr. Ross Pelton both warn that a moderate dose of sugar suppresses the immune system for 5-6 hours, lowering the body’s ability to fight off infection. Are you aware of where sugar is hiding in your food?

  5. Exercise. Our medical director Dr. Murdoc Khaleghi believes that “the single most effective thing you can do for your immune system is engage in various types of regular exercise. This stimulates expression of various immune factors and can substantially decrease your risk of all types of infections.” Whether it’s a workout DVD, a group fitness class or just a few extra laps around the block, every little bit helps.

  6. Relax. Even those who have nutrition, exercise, and supplementation under control can suffer from increased long-term health risks due to chronic stress. Resting is part of the overall picture of wellness, your cortisol depends on it. We wrote about six ways to relax — no matter how busy you are — here.

  7. Drink water. A healthy body leads a healthy immune system. Water consumption is an important part of overall health. Your body relies on it. While water is most often highlighted as a weight loss tip, here are some additional key highlights of why water is vital for your body: 

    1. Water is instrumental in healthy organ function. Dr. Khaleghi even says that the key reason that dehydration is so bad for your health is that your body needs to get rid of waste in the blood, but your kidneys can only filter from the blood volume when there’s enough water to replace it.
    2. Water helps you absorb nutrients. Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and vitamin B12,dissolve in water. These vitamins are carried to the body’s tissues –  but are not stored in the body – and are found in plant and animal foods or dietary supplements; They must be taken in daily, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). (Need more? See “The Best Way to Eat Your Vitamins”)
  8. Supplement. According to Dr. Khaleghi’s book, The Everything Guide to Boosting Your Immunity, “the supplement gaining the most popularity for increasing your immune defense is probiotics, which is increasingly supported in the literature and people’s experiences. These bacteria stimulate the lymphoid (immune tissue) in your gut, where actually a majority of this immune tissue resides in your body.”  Additional benefits of a probiotic-rich diet are that “it can protect from colon cancer, relieve inflammatory bowel disease and lactose intolerance, improve oral health, and increase bioavailability of vitamins, nutrients and minerals in food,” according to Ben Greenfield. Learn more about fermented foods here.

What to Track and Monitor

In addition to the immunity management tips, we advocate testing. Regularly testing your biomarkers — even if you think you’re healthy — can catch a health risk before it becomes a problem, rather than waiting to get sick. For an individual, this could be the difference between Prevention vs. Disease management.

WellnessFX believes there are specific biomarkers you could track that are related to your immune system:

  • Cortisol: A stress hormone that reduces the immune response, leaving your body vulnerable to invading pathogens that can make you sick. If your cortisol number is out of range when you get your results (>23 mcg/dL), stress reduction may be in order. Want to read more about cortisol? Check out the blog post “Stress by the Numbers—What High Cortisol Levels Mean to Your Health”
  • Vitamin D: One of the easiest ways to boost immunity is manage your Vitamin D levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, the RDA of vitamin D is 600 IU for those 1-70 years of age and pregnant or breastfeeding women, and 800 IU for those over 71 years of age. Stay on top of supplementation and sunshine – both are important. It is important for us to mention that in a Vitamin D discussion we’ve held before, with Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof Executive, and WellnessFX founder Jim Kean, we talked about how it is important to be aware that too much Vitamin D may actually be bad. According to a study done by Johns Hopkins University, too much vitamin D can actually contribute to inflammation.  Find your own Vitamin D set point with periodic testing of the biomarker mentioned next, hsCRP.
  • hsCRP (High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein): A marker for the overall amount of inflammation in the body can be an indicator for health and a general marker for chronic disease, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, diabetes II, arthritis, and alzheimer’s. Why does hsCRP matter? Because if your body’s inflammatory mediators are chronically busy, they have a harder time stepping in to prevent and fight acute illness. While there are a few ways to test for inflammation, it turns out that hsCRP is the one of the best indicators currently known.
  • WBC (White blood cell count): White blood cells defend the body against disease and are a major component of the body’s immune system. The normal number of WBCs in the blood is 4,500-10,000 white blood cells per microliter (mcL).

How WellnessFX Can Help

To test for the first time (or to retest) these levels, a WellnessFX Baseline or Performance package will tell you where you stand, how to act on the results, and help you to stay out of the flu’s destruction path, any time of the year.

You can even book a one-on-one telehealth appointment with one of our practitioners, like Dr. Edman, Karen Graham, or Dr. Ross Pelton, for in-depth breakdown of the information and recommendations tailored to your unique biochemistry.

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The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.