We’re in the thick of cold and flu season and immunity is, perhaps, more in the spotlight than usual these days. The common cold and the flu can be caused by exposure to and susceptibility to a variety of viruses. Not everyone who is exposed to these viruses, however, catches a cold or the flu—and it may have something to do with the immune health of the host.
The late Emanuel Cheraskin, M.D., D.M.D., made a great point about the role of a strong immune system. He said, “Three healthy people can breathe the same germs at the same moment. One may develop pneumonia, another sniffle his way through a cold, and the third goes unscathed. After all, in most epidemics, those people who succumb represent only a fraction of the number of people exposed.”
This suggests an ebb and flow in immune levels in each individual, dependent on stress, diet, amount of rest and other factors, say the editors of Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. A variation in any of these can result in one’s susceptibility to such invaders as cold and flu viruses. For this reason, many experts emphasize supporting a strong immune system for overall health.
Cheraskin is one of those who advocated maintaining a strong immune system. Cheraskin, who devoted more than 50 years of his life to natural health practice, research and education, said, “It is time to put to rest the notion that germs jump into people and cause unhealth. The evidence is adequate that microbes challenge an internal milieu. The end result depends upon the organism’s ability to resist by means of its army of defense systems.”
That means it’s possible that the host with the most immune health may fare better than those whose immune systems may be lacking. So, just what can be done to support a healthy immune system? Glad you asked.
John Hibbs, N.D., of Seattle, Washington, recommends avoiding junk foods, sugary foods and conventionally-made foods that contain pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, artificial colors and flavors or preservatives—to name a few. Like others, Hibbs, believes that sugar can suppress a healthy immune system.
Likewise, Michael T. Murray, N.D. says to avoid sugars, to get adequate rest, to ingest plenty of pure water, vegetable juices and herb teas and soups. Additionally, he suggests taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement and to wash your hands frequently to avoid the spread of infection—especially from hands to eyes, nose and mouth.
Regular walking—a 45-minute walk five times a week—may be helpful, too, according to Alice Domar, Ph.D., assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Walking increases natural killer (NK) cells that fight infections and may diminish “down time,” since exercise helps move lymph fluid and white blood cells through the body.
Managing stress is important, too, since stress causes hormones to be released that can adversely affect the thymus gland, reducing immune activity. Taking time for yourself, having a strong support group or friendship network and loving relationships, as well as a purposeful life, can all play positively into your health.
This season you can be the “host with the most” in more ways than one, starting with strong immune health.