Avoiding Flu & Cold This Season; A Functional Medicine Approach

Uncategorized Jan 15, 2018
 

Hi everyone.

        Alright, so today, no papers. I'm not going over an article today. Today we're talking about not getting sick during cold and flu season. In Houston right now we are kind of in the throws of cold and flu season. School districts are starting to send out notices to parents, keep your kids home if they any signs of having the flu, if they've got fever or chills or nausea, keep 'em home, don't send 'em to school. There's always that temptation to send them because otherwise you've got to arrange child care and you've got to take the day off.

         Once you see those notices coming out, you know that the school districts are seeing significant numbers of kids having the flu, or being absent, whichever. That's going on here where several of the districts around here have noticed that. So we're starting to see people in here, I'm starting to get the emails and the phone calls, "How in the world can I not get the flu?" "What do I need to do to not get sick, not get the flu, not get a cold?" "How do I get my immune system stronger?" "How to I become more resistant?" They're all the same questions basically.

          There are three ways of looking at this problem. First of all there is the, don't get exposed approach, where you wash your hands, you wash everybody else's hands, you wipe off all the doorknobs, you don't talk to people, you stay home, you hide in the basement, whatever, you live in a bubble. And there's some value to that, the less you get exposed, the less likely you are to get sick. But you're gonna be exposed and there's just no way around it, you will run into some exposures and in many cases your health, personally, your ability to defend yourself is more of a factor in whether or not you get sick than getting exposed.

        We are exposed to stuff all the time. And yes these can be, what we call, very virulent, meaning they tend to spread and dig in and do their thing. But the stronger your natural defenses are, the less likely you are to succumb to that. Now, you know, you don't want someone to cough on your hand and then you rub it all over your face, that's obviously asking for trouble. But, you're gonna touch doorknobs and desks and countertops and trays and whatever else that other people have handled, no way around it. So minimize it, wash your hands, be sensible about it, and if you're in a place where you can't wash your hands, the major exposure from getting it on your hands is not through your hands, it's that you get your hands contaminated and then you rub your eyes or you're scratching your nose or you're touching food that goes in your mouth. You're putting those microbes into you through those areas. Even if you do get exposed on your hands or on your arm, of whatever, as long as you're not smearing that on your face, there's a good chance you're not gonna get sick.

        The next obvious way that everybody's hearing about this time of year is the flu shot. This is not a full on discussion of the flu shot. I am not saying you should get it, I'm not saying you shouldn't get it. But, I'm saying where it fits in, in the paradigm of protection. The idea of the flu shot is they expose you to what are called, surface antigens, on each virus, there are little contours so to speak, on the surface. Think of it like a fingerprint, and some of those can be sent to your immune system and our immune system will make cells that fit like puzzle pieces with those surface antigens, or those surface proteins.

       The idea of a flu shot, in the old days they would literally give you the flu, and your body would see a little bit of it, build some antibodies, and then when it saw a lot of it, it was ready to go. Well, now what they do is, they break it up and just give you those surface antigens or they kill the virus and give you a dead version of it. But you can still see the surface antigens on there, your antibodies can form specific to those antigens. Then you've got some of those floating around already and if you come in contact with that same virus with those same surface antigens, that same fingerprint if you will, your immune system is ready to jump in and attack it. You don't have to wait, I don't know, five to 11 days or something like that, to create the first set of those antibodies, that's already happened, you can immediately start going after it.

        That's a great theory and I think in some applications that works, but, viruses mutate frequently. If the mutation involves a change in the surface antigens, the antibodies you just created are worthless at this point. Some people argue that as long as the surface antigens are close, even though they're not exact, you'll still have some protection, but not complete. I think all of that's pretty fuzzy. They say that like it's very carved in stone, I don't think it's that definite. I don't think they can quantify how much change in the surface antigen can you have and the antibodies you built are still active against it, I think that gets pretty fuzzy. It's easy to say, it's not easy to prove.

        Viruses mutate all the time, they generally will ... they have to decide each year what surface antigens to put in the flu shot basically, or what virus to mimic in the flu shot. There's this general sense that it starts somewhere over in China, Asia area, and works its way all the way around the globe and at some point gets to us. If we watch where it starts and we see what they're seeing, we try to make the vaccine to deal with that and hope that it doesn't change too much by the time it gets to us.

          When I look at the numbers each year, the CDC actually puts out numbers, if you can trust 'em, that say 15% effective last year, 20% effective, 30% effective last year. You don't generally see many numbers above 20 or 30% effective, and let's face it, the CDC is in the vaccine business, they own patents on a lot of vaccines, so they kind of have an interest in the vaccine industry doing well. I don't know if they fudge the numbers or not but, marketing seems to work it's way into science all over the place, this wouldn't be a surprising exception. So anyway, the idea of the flu shot is, get you a look at it ahead of time so that when it shows up you're prepared. Okay, different kind of immunity.

       Then the third kind of immunity comes from our natural defenses that we call natural killer cells. Those are our front line defenses, they work differently than the antibodies we just talked about, the natural killer cells kill anything that's not you. They're not very specific, they just gobble up things that are not you, that's their job. So if you have a strong enough frontline defense, if you got a robust amount of natural killer cells out there ready to do their job, you can handle an exposure, even if it's not something you've seen before.

         Now, can you handle exposure, after exposure, after exposure, after exposure. It can get overwhelming, you've only got so may natural killer cells that can only ... like the California wild fires, they can only go after so many fires at once. Some of them, they just have to leave alone. Now you're looking at getting sick, that's kind of where the amount of exposure may come into play. Do you just flat overwhelm your bodies ability to react? But as long as you stay out of that category and you keep your natural killer cells healthy and there are plenty of 'em, you should be able to defend yourself. There are several medical people, decades and centuries ago that basically said, "The host is the most important thing." Yes you can get sick from microbes getting in your body, but it has a lot more to do with the hosts defenses, with my defenses than it does with what I'm exposed to. 'Cause I'm exposed to things all the time, we all are, it's out there around us.

      So what do you do to keep your natural killer cells healthy and reactive and ready to go. Sleep is one of the most important things. You have to get enough sleep, your body ... let me put it this way, our nervous system has two modes, sympathetic mode is your flight or fight, parasympathetic mode is your after Thanksgiving dinner mode, you're fully fed, you're in a safe place, you curl up comfortably and sleep. While you're sleeping, while you're in that parasympathetic mode, your body is making hormones and repairing tissue, building the immune system, cleaning things up, it's doing all of that daily to do list. You don't get enough sleep, you don't have enough time to get that stuff done. So things like making natural killer cells doesn't happen very well while you're in stress response mode. You can't live all day long in stress mode and expect to have good defenses, it doesn't work that way, so sleep is very important.

         Light exposure, in this office, these are all LED lights, they took out our fluorescent lights, changed them out for LED's. It's really kind of crap lighting, it's cheap because it doesn't use a ton of electricity, so the building manager likes it, but, it's not good for our bodies, it's not good for our eyes, it's horrible for our mitochondrial, which are the part of the cells that create energy, so it's not good for us. If you're exposed to LED lights or staring at a computer screen, you've got one of those desks with the two great big monitors glaring in your face all day. Not good at all for your immune system, not good for your sleep at night, not good for much of anything. So be aware of that, either get filters on the screens or get some of the true dark glasses that will block that blue light that comes out of the LEDs. But be aware that, that's not great for you. Alright, light exposure isn't great.

         Clean foods. You need to eat, fasting can have some interesting effects on your immune system. Initially you get more natural killer cells, later on they can dwindle a little bit, so I normally tell people, this may not be the best time to do a fast, but, eat cleanly. Sugar is one of the worst things you can do. Sugar actually gets in the blood and coats those natural killer cells and renders them unable to their job. So, you don't want to do that, all this other stuff you're doing to build natural killer cells, you each a bunch of refined sugar, it just coats 'em all in sugar and they can't do their jobs. So be aware of that, watch out for sugar consumption.

          I don't know, not the time to take up smoking. Don't drink too much alcohol, all the regular stuff. Go semi-paleo, clean it up, eat what you feel you need to eat volume wise, but make sure its good food, fruits, vegetables, meats, fresh whole fruits and vegetables. Don't over cook things. Just nourish your body, be sensible about it.

         Exercise, normally great, and still pretty good, just don't over exercise. This is not the time to do over-training. We've all had that experience where we go to the gym, it's been a few months, we get back in, we're motivated, we work really hard for the first week or so and the next thing you know, we have a throat infection and we're out for a week. That's because you created too much stress with the kind of exercise you were doing. You need to ramp that up if you're new at it, or just keep it at a steady level right now. Don't over do it. I watch heart rate variability, depending on what kind of ... I don't even have mine on today ... what kind of wearable you use, I use BioStrap, but, I think even FitBit and Apple Watch now, if you get the higher end ones. They will look at something called heart rate variability.

      If you get up in the morning and your heart rate variability is in the 40's or 50's or 60's, go kill it with a heavy workout, it's not a big deal. You get up in the morning, your heart rate variability is down in the 30's, 20's or teens, don't work out, or do something really relaxing or just take a day and meditate during your exercise time. But that says you haven't fully recovered yet from the previous workout. If you start stacking two or three of those days on top of each other, your immune systems not gonna work well. You're also not gonna repair muscle, that's a whole different video. So don't over exercise, don't over do the intensity of your exercise.

        Supplements, things like echinacea, andrographis complex, certain colostrum preparations, getting enough good quality whey protein, or bone broth protein, those are also good choices, you need those proteins to build the antibodies and the cells you need to handle this. We have a product for the kids called Immuno Berry Liquid, which is an immune support product, you take that before you get exposed or before you get sick and it helps your immune system have the raw materials it needs to do its job, to fulfill its responsibilities. You're not treating an illness with it, you're preparing the body, you're getting the body to function appropriately so it's less likely to fall into a pattern of getting sick.

          Anyway, there are lost of different supplements out there, Vitamin C doesn't really work as well as it's advertised to use as a preventative, it does some good once you're sick to support your immune system, but I think there are better ways to go about it. Homeopathics work fairly well, if you know someone that deals with homeopathics. But, start availing yourself of some of those things during this flu and cold season that we have to nourish and support your immune system.

        Vitamin D, very important to the immune system, your vitamin D levels on blood work, for any of you, should be pretty much be over 55, the sweet spot, especially if you've already go a pre-existing issue, like cancer, autoimmune diseases, anything inflammatory. 70 to 90 on your blood work is the right the place to be, so make sure you get some good quality D3, make sure it's got a little bit of Vitamin K in it so it's work well, and get that on board, try to get your blood levels up to where they're supposed to be and again, that allows your body to properly defend itself. You're not leaving it with one flat tire, so to speak, but you start putting low Vitamin D together with not the right kind of sleep, together with too much stress while you're tired and you're eating too much sugar, you've got three or four flat tires on that car. You're not gonna be able to defend yourself.

        So I wanted to throw this out here, feel free to pass it around, everybody's dealing with flu season right now. Ask the questions if you have 'em, put 'em in the comments and I'll answer your ... PM me if it's a more personal question, but let's try to get people protected so you don't have to avoid all your friends and family for the next month or so, you can still interact with people, but you do it sensibly and you're fairly well defended, you're well protected.

       That's it for today, sorry there was no research article, it's just me. I'll get back onto research stuff in the next couple of days or so alright. So until I talk to you next time, try not to get sick. Take good care of yourselves. Eat for your health. Train for performance, and I always say, live the life you love today.

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