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Must-Know Tips for Weathering Cold & Flu Season

Today’s topic is so important because it is something that we have learned to fear: the flu.

The flu, is a virus, so I want to talk about that. It’s not a bacterial infection. It is a virus. It replicates differently in our body, which means we have more systemic, or system-based, problems. A lot of times, the viruses are in different categories and have different names. There’s flu virus, cold virus, chicken pox, which is a part of herpes virus, and other virus strains. The flu is actually a group, and there are also substrains or different parts of the flu. We all know that our flu season in the united states is in the fall. We want to learn how to avoid getting sick and also avoid doing unnecessary actions out of fear of the flu or a virus.

First of all, I’d like to say that whenever you are feeling kind of down or you’re getting GI changes, fatigue, nasal congestion, headaches, etc. That can often be a virus that is affecting you. Even though the flu season is a time when people have more susceptibility to acquire the flu strain or viruses, it is actually common for people to have viruses throughout other times of the year. It is also common when people are feeling stressed or their immune system is aggravated or overwhelmed. A virus can manifest when there are other health problems going on.

“It’s cold, dreary, and wet outside. If I go outside and play in the cold rain, will I get a cold?”

We had a conversation about this a few weeks ago on facebook, when someone asked this question. It’s kind of a classic “cold” idea. A lot of people say that you can’t get a cold from the rain, which is true. What could happen is that there are a lot of viruses around, that you wouldn’t be so susceptible to if you were dry and warm, but are more susceptible if you’re cold and wet. In this case, your immune system is having to work to make you get dry and warm. Your body is working harder to regulate your temperature and respond to the activity. That takes energy. When your body is using up all of this energy, your immune system doesn’t have as much resistance or a strong enough defense. You can be more susceptible because of environmental factors, like being cold and in the rain for a prolonged amount of time. Those are extra factors that make your body work harder, not allowing for your immune system to have the boost it needs to keep you away from getting a viral infection.

The other part of that is, what is your nutrition like? If people are low in some of the critical nutrition, then they can be more susceptible to viral infections. We think about the flu season as our virus season, but there are a lot of times throughout the year that we are exposed to viruses. It’s important to think about that, because we can feel warned down. Some people get ringing in the ears and they don’t know why. It lasts for a few months and then it goes away. That can be a virus. Some people have changes in digestion, or even liver pain as a GI effect, and that could be viral.

The flu strains are coming from a migration from the west and into Asia. The Chinese flu season is actually in April. A lot of times people ask me if they should get the flu vaccine. I think that people should make really important decisions about what goes into their body. It is helpful, then, to understand the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine, in the U.S., is multiplied strains from the top strains that are happening in China in the springtime. So, let’s say the flu peaks in China in April, we then have six months or less to replicate those strains en masse to create a vaccine. Flu strains can also change as they get into the United States. They replicate and they morph. When they do that, the flu vaccine may actually not be, and in most cases is only about 50% representative of what the flu looks like in our environment in the United States during our fall flu season. A lot of times, people are receiving flu injections that have other strains that are not necessarily in our environment. That is why the flu vaccine is not 100% effective.

How can you avoid sickness during this busy, stressful time of year?

Often times, it’s maintaining a really good quality of self care. It’s the right sleep. When we get into flu season, particularly in Michigan, we get into shorter, colder days, lots of snow, and lots of dehydration in our environment. You might not think it, because Michigan is so warm and moist and fabulous in the summer, but when it gets cold it gets really dry. If you’re like some of my patients this week and you’re experiencing coughing spells or feeling dry, feeling anxious at night, there is a possibility that you are just really dry, and you should engage in a humidifier.

Everyone should have a humidifier, even if it’s on the furnace. You should check it because it could be not the right settings for you, and you might need to add a humidifier by your beside. This is worth the $20, because this alone can help you sleep better and have more moisture in your bronchioles. Obviously, sleep is where we restore and heal ourselves. Second, moisture in the bronchioles reduces inflammation. When tissue is inflamed, it is more susceptible to injury, it doesn’t function as well. When respiratory areas, like the bronchioles, get inflamed, it allows for more viral invasion.

Another component of taking care of yourself is nutrition. Many people state that viral infections are related to nutrition deficiencies, and that is very true. If you look at the research for vitamin D and flu, you’ll know that people who have good levels of D and take D have less flu. We also know that with cold sores. If people are more susceptible to cold sores, and it’s cold (there is the ancient wisdom in the term “cold” sore), your immune system and defense systems are going to need more energy, more nutrition, and more healing time to work well. Cold sores are actually about immune suppression when the weather changes. It is very taxing on our bodies. Barometric changes affect our body. Cold sores are also related to nutrition deficiency, which I will talk about another time.

You want to make sure that your vitamin d levels are in a good range, which is somewhere around 60-80, at least. You do want to work with a professional if you’re trying to raise your values that high, because you want to do it the right way. Supplementing with D is really important, and will help reduce your risk for viral infection, support your immune system, make your body work better, have better defense and repair, so that your body can actually handle a viral attack. Viruses live inside of us, and they live outside of us. They will be there forever. We will always be exposed to viruses. We need to have the defense and repair in our own body so that we can handle always being exposed to viruses and especially highly susceptible to viral strains in flu season.

BOOST! Boost your nutrition, boost your sleep, make sure you’re getting movement and good self care.

What should I do to deal with symptoms if they start?

Start taking care of yourself and recognizing that stress is impactful for inflammation and immune suppression. Start amping up your hydration, your vitamin D is on board, you’re eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and you are absolutely avoiding dairy. Dairy is an immunosuppressant and it also contributes to inflammation. It makes our body have to work harder. We don’t have as good defenses against viruses. It also clogs up the mucus in our bronchioles, and you want to avoid that.

Should I take an antibiotic if I get the cold or a flu?

As I mentioned in the beginning, a virus is the flu, cold sores, a lot of GI symptoms are related to viruses, and that is not a bacteria. It is a whole different grouping of beings. An antibiotic is not at all relevant to a viral infection. Now, sometimes viruses can continue to continue to suppress our immune system and make us susceptible to bacterial overgrowth and bacterial infections. In that case, an antibiotic is warranted. There is no reason to take an antibiotic if you have a virus. You are better off taking hydration, higher doses of vitamin C and D if you’re working with a healthcare professional, and never lose sight of a good, old-fashioned chicken soup. There is a lot of healing in that, and there is actually research to talk about that. There’s also research to talk about how an apple can help you heal. You want to make sure you boost all of those areas so that your body can work better and reduce your susceptibility.

The other thing I have to say, is that we have some really powerful tools in my office, and one of them is Viracid by Ortho Molecular. The flu can get you, through immune suppression or you get a huge whammy of environmental exposure. If it does, consider Viracid. It is an amazing, natural, herbal-based antiviral that is so incredibly powerful that it knocks out some pretty impressive viral infections within the day or a very short amount of time. It’s great for travel and to keep on hand during flu season.

If you’re interested, send an email to hello@drmcswain.com or PM us on social media for information on how to obtain it.

You will not be disappointed to have this incredible tool on hand. It can be the difference between going on a trip or staying home, it can be the difference between enjoying a trip or not. It can be the difference between surviving and thriving during this holiday season.