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San Clemente Journal

Keeping Healthy in the Winter Months

Aug 05, 2004 07:22PM ● By Don Kindred
by Dr. Bradley Shapero

    Have you ever wondered why colds, flus and other illnesses seem more prevalent in wintertime?
    The information written here is for those that are too busy to get sick and for the person who, despite the typical precautions, seems to spend several days in bed anyway.
    Before launching into the difference between the two and the absolute best way to minimize your risk factors, let’s separate the facts from the myths. One aspect lacking when it comes to the common flu or cold is “common knowledge”.
POPULAR MYTH #1: One can catch a cold by exposure to cold weather or not wearing enough warm clothing.
This has no basis whatsoever. Going into cold weather bare foot, jumping into mud puddles, or not having that sweater on does not pose any greater risk for catching a cold.
POPULAR MYTH #2: If you catch a cold or flu antibiotics are the remedies of choice.
This common misconception has caused an enormous over use of these drugs. Antibiotics are only useful in situations in which the body is unable to handle a bacterial infection. The majority of colds are due to viral infection. Taking antibiotics disrupts the body’s defense by breaking down and killing the normal flora. This in turn often leads to yeast infection or secondary bacterial infections.
    The term cold actually is an acronym for “chronic obstructive lung disease” and over time has been attached to the common symptoms such as slow onset, runny nose, sneezing with mild fatigue. A cough and chest discomfort is common although a fever is rare.
In contrast the term flu is short for “influenza” which is the name of the virus often associated with this malady. Flu commonly has a swift onset accompanied by fever, chills and sweating. Coughing and sore throat are common and fatigue is often extreme.
POPULAR MYTH #3: Cold and Flu vaccines are safe and offer good prevention.
Viruses mutate quite rapidly, within days. On the other hand it takes several months to formulate and prepare a vaccine for use. The manufacturers must guess which strain of the virus will be most prevalent in the upcoming year. Dr. Michael Decker, head of scientific affairs at Aventis, one of the three U.S. vaccine makers, describes the creation of flu vaccines by saying: "By the time you know what's the right strain, you can't do anything about it." Dr. Theodore Eickhoff of the University of Colorado added, "For the first time in many years of participating in these deliberations, I must add I am very uncomfortable with the recommendations."
    According to a number of studies published in a variety of medical journals and the physician’s desk reference flu vaccines are not without risks. In fact the most common include fever, muscle aches and fatigue (sounds a bit like the flu to me). Several articles sited also noted nerve paralysis, Guillain-Barré Syndrome in addition to swelling of the brain and spinal cord according to the Archives of Neurology.
    Now that we have covered that, let’s take a look at keeping ourselves healthy. You or someone you know is “under the weather”. What are they doing under there in the first place and how did they get there? The actual reason that one contracts the common cold or flu is really quite simple. It has every thing to do with resistance and the state of your immune system. If your resistance is higher than the stress you are exposed to you will not get sick, even if that special someone, who has a cold, smooches you under the mistletoe. Likewise if your resistance is lowered the likely hood of catching a cold is quite high even if you wear mom’s special scarf outside, wash your hands and wear a plastic bag over your head to keep out those “germs”.
    If you want to keep your immune system in tiptop shape follow these simple tips. (As you read on just picture the difference between the holiday season and the rest of the year and it will soon become quite evident as to why we see more colds and flus this time of year.)
Prolonged sleep insufficiency will certainly run you down. Be sure to get adequate sleep which for most people is between 7-9 hours a night. Plan your holiday so that despite the holiday parties, extra running around and longer hours at the office, you can still give your body enough sleep.
    Excess sugar intake affects the body adversely in a number of ways. High sugary foods or candy will cause a spike in insulin which will in turn create a stress reaction in the body. Repeated reactions such as this will greatly lower your resistance. If you know you are going to have additional sweets then be sure to have more protein and have a couple of protein snacks available to help offset this. Eating more protein will have two important effects first it will help balance out the high sugar content and it will also help to reduce your overall consumption.
    How about the system that monitors the stress your body is under, the nerve system. Your immune system and nervous system are closely related. You will not affect one without the other. When you are under stress your system can react to cause irritations along the nerve paths. This is where chiropractic can help you keep your immune system in top shape.
    Holidays bring in quite an array of emotions that are different for each of us. There can be stress with getting together or not getting together. We can have stress over loved ones we have lost or those who may be ill. Stress of getting just the right gift or making sure we get that special card in the mail on time, the stress of shopping in crowded places or traveling in extra congested highways. Hundreds of things can add to the stress of this very active, dynamic time. These can all take a toll on our immune system.
    Other ways to reduce the stress and tension are keeping your exercise regime or if you have not been exercising this is a great time to start by simply taking a walk every day. Drink plenty of water. Your body needs this vital fluid all year long. Have a massage. Some nutritional tips would include taking additional vitamins and herbs such as Echinacea, Vitamin C to name a couple. Just a quick note on Vitamin C, which is erroneously thought of as ascorbic acid, these are not the same. In fact excess intake of ascorbic acid can lower your immune system. 
    In conclusion the best way to stay healthy in the wintertime, throughout the year and times of excess stress is to follow this simple guideline.
1) Get adequate rest.
2) Eat a balanced diet.
3) Keep your nerve system balanced (see your chiropractor).
4) Reduce stress with regular exercise and treat yourself to a massage now and then.
5) Keep Smiling