Colds, Flus and Allergies: What you should know

Colds, Flus and AllergiesIt’s that time of year again, Back to School and Back to Colds, Flus and Allergies.  It is the time of year some of us dread.  How do you know if you are experiencing a cold, the flu or just seasonal allergies?  Understanding the major differences in each of these conditions will help us understand what to do to begin to feel like our “well” selves once again.  Although prevention is the key to lowering our risks for infection, looking at our lifestyle, our nutrition and vitamin needs will give us a better chance to fight what is ailing us and WIN.

The Cold:

Colds are viruses.  There are over 100 different types of viruses that cause the common cold.  Symptoms may vary but usually include a runny or stuffed up nose, sore throat, and a cough.  Colds pass through the air from contact (like touch), from a sneeze or a cough.  The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease believes that on average a cold will last from seven to 10 days.  Colds can happen at any time of the year.

 The Flu:

The flu usually begins with a high fever (higher than 102 degrees) and can also include vomiting, body aches and chills, dizziness, flushing, headaches, nasal discharge and a loss of energy.  The fever can last for a day or two or it may last up to a week.  The flu is also a virus and usually affects the whole body.  The flu virus however can settle in any area of the body which could produce the same symptoms experienced with a cold, like a sore throat or it may cause bronchitis, an ear infection or turn into pneumonia if it settles in the respiratory tract.  The flu can last anywhere between four to seven day.

An Allergy:

Allergies usually occur when the body’s defense system has an adverse reaction to a certain substance which acts like a trigger.  These triggers cause the body to release chemicals called histamines which are intended to help the body fight off an intruder.  The histamine actually causes common allergy symptoms. Allergy trigger may be seasonal or year round.  Common allergens are grasses and weeds, dust, mold, pollen, soy, wheat, dairy, milk and nuts.  Symptoms of allergies include watery, itchy eyes, congestion, runny nose, coughing, sore/scratchy throat and sneezing.  Rashes are also a symptom of allergies.

Supplements that may help:

Although there is no way to completely protect ourselves from experiencing any of the above conditions, lifestyle changes and supplementation may aid in strengthening our body’s defense system.  Finding a balance between a supplement program, regular exercise and a healthy diet may aid our body in dealing with infection.

Vitamin A:

This fat soluble vitamin helps maintain healthy tissues, especially the mucous membranes, which line all entrances to the body including the respiratory tract linings, and the skin.  This antioxidant also promotes a healthy thymus function which supports the body’s defense system.

Vitamin C:

Vitamin C, is essential for the needs of the body’s immune system.  That body itself cannot manufacture this water soluble supplement so it is necessary for the body to obtain this nutrient from supplementation or from the diet.  Stress, inflammation and large amounts of sugar easily deplete this important antioxidant.  Although Vitamin C, which is highly concentrated in the immune cells, may not prevent a cold or flu it seems that Vitamin C is beneficial in reducing the duration of the symptoms associated with these viruses.

Astragalus:

Astragalus is a deep stimulating immune boosting herb found in Mongolia and China.  This herb has been known to boost white blood cell count, supporting immunity and stimulating antibody growth.  It also may help strengthen the body’s resistance to viruses and bacteria.

Vitamin D:

An important nutrient for overall health, this vitamin may be needed, especially during the winter months, when sunlight exposure is limited.  Vitamin D affects almost 2,000 different human genes and almost every type of human cell has been found to respond to Vitamin D.  Vitamin D supports the body’s ability to fight infections since it produces over 200 various peptides that affect the body’s ability to fight colds.  Vitamin D also produces small proteins, cytokines, which deal with immune response.

Probiotics:

Approximately 80% of our body’s defense system is located in the gut, which means when supplementing with a high quality probiotic the body’s immune system can be strengthened all year long.  With increased levels of friendly bacteria in the digestive tract the immune system can be developed to protect the body against the overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria.

Zinc:

Essential for supporting the cells of the immune system, Zinc, which acts like an antioxidant in the body, helps to support immunity and the ability of the T-cells to function correctly.  Zinc is responsible for over 300 enzymatic processes in the body which involves growth and development, antioxidant protection and immune response.

Goldenseal:

Seasonal allergies may be supported with this beneficial herb which supports the immune system and allergic symptoms.  Goldenseal may also help soothe irritated and swollen tissues.  Berberine, a key phyto-nutrient in Goldenseal is also known for killing bacteria.

Other herbs like Stinging Nettle and Butterbur may help the body by inhibiting histamine production.  Butterbur, a member of the ragweed family should be avoided by those allergic to chrysanthemums, daisies, marigolds and ragweed.

Don’t forget the importance of getting a good night’s rest to help support the body’s defense system.  When the body does not get adequate rest certain white blood cells called T-cells decrease.  T-cells are important to help increase the body’s immune system.  Melatonin, a hormone, acts like an antioxidant in the body and also works to activate T-helper cells and natural killer cells.

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Could Probiotics Restore Microbiome Imbalance Linked to Auto-Immune Disorder?

Probiotics and ImmuneA new study finds that probiotics may aid in restoring imbalances in gut bacterial in patients with the auto-immune disorder systemic sclerosis.  Systemic sclerosis affects connective tissue in the body.  It is not a common condition, but results in the skin thickening and becoming hard.  Occasionally this condition creates problems with blood vessels and internal organs.

17 adults with systemic sclerosis from UCLA, 17 adults with systemic sclerosis from Oslo University Hospital and 17 healthy adults participated in this trial.  Stool specimens were used to determine the amount and types of bacteria present.  Participants with systemic sclerosis had significantly lower amounts of gut bacteria believed to protect against inflammation like Bacteroides.  Additionally the participants with systemic sclerosis were found to have higher amounts of bacteria, like Fusobacterium, which actually promote inflammation when compared to those without this auto-immune disorder.

Researchers believe that probiotics are helpful in restoring the bacterial balance in the gut in individuals suffering from systemic sclerosis and play a role in improving these patients quality of life.

Further testing is planned using larger patient groups.

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