Meera Dossa ND
With flu season looming, many people are faced with the conundrum of whether or not to have the flu shot administered. According to the CCDR (Canada Communicable Disease Report), the influenza season generally occurs between the months of November and April and will infect up to 25% of the Canadian population each year. Those most likely to succumb to complications from the flu are the elderly and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, which have rendered their immune systems compromised. These populations are encouraged to take the flu shot, but are there alternatives to the flu vaccine?
The integrity of the immune system, our body’s line of defense against numerous pathogens such as bacteria, fungus and viruses, is the main determinant of an individual’s susceptibility to the cold and flu. Thus, building and strengthening the body’s immune system is the key to preventing invasion by foreign intruders.
Keeping things simple, the first and best strategy for disease prevention is hand washing. Thorough and frequent scrubbing of the hands for at least 15 seconds can go a long way in preventing the spread of infections.
Nutrient deficiencies are among the most frequent causes of depressed immune function. In terms of immune function, the most useful nutrients are ACES (vitamins A, C, E and selenium), the B vitamins, iron and zinc. Therefore, including dietary sources rich in these nutrients, such as plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, combined with the addition of a good multivitamin, would provide a solid base on which to continue building a healthy immune system. Individuals with weaker constitutions (prone to contracting the cold and flu more frequently), or those who are simply looking to arm their arsenal to a greater degree, can also consider the use of intravenous injections of vitamins and minerals. This is commonly known as the Myer’s Cocktail and it serves to support the immune system as well as speed the recovery process if symptoms of the cold or flu are already in full swing!
Avoiding sugar is the next most vital step in ensuring healthy immune function. Unbeknownst to many, the immunosuppressive effects of sugar are quite dramatic, resulting in decreased WBC (white blood cell) function for a few hours after ingestion! Without our defenders in place to fend off unwanted germs, it’s no surprise that those who consume sweets in excess tend to be the same ones who are constantly down and out with the cold or flu!
Further, keep in mind that the integrity of the immune system is not solely reliant on physical health. Mental and psychological health are also major players. So, in addition to following all of the aforementioned recommendations, it is also just as important to ensure that stress levels are kept in check, regular exercise is carried out and that adequate sleep is obtained. Keeping these things in check, allows our bodies to rejuvenate and repair from the perils that we are faced with on a daily basis, living in a cosmopolitan city!
Finally, remember that getting sick every once in a while is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is important for our immune system to be activated now and then so it remembers (builds antibodies) how to function! If you follow the suggestions above, you will be able to get through your next bout of the cold or flu with more ease and speed!
In order to get your immune system in gear for the next flu season, book your appointment with a naturopathic doctor.
Checklist for Enhanced Immune Health
_ Thorough and frequent hand washing for at least 15 seconds
_ Plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains
_ Good multivitamin
_ Watch your sugar intake (this includes pastries, desserts, soft drinks and juices)
_ Get a little (lot!) of rest and relaxation
_ Get moving!
_ Catch some ZZZ’s (adequate sleep)
_ Visit naturopath to get in gear
Meera Dossa, ND is a licensed naturopathic doctor at The Pacific Wellness Institute. She is certified and licensed to perform vitamin injection therapy in the province of Ontario. To book an appointment for dietary assessment, intravenous therapy and naturopathic treatment with Dr. Dossa, please contact The Pacific Wellness Institute at 416-929-6958.