“I caught a cold.” “I came down with the flu.” These common expressions are heard often this time of year. It’s no surprise that cold and flu season has arrived. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Each and every person is exposed to bacteria and viruses on a regular basis, but we don’t spend most of our time in bed with a fever. The reason is that these tiny bugs are no match to a properly functioning immune system. It’s time to give our bodies and immune systems the credit they deserve and to take responsibility for our own health. Our immune defense mechanism will protect our health unless we create an environment that allows these diseases to take hold. Three forms of stress can weaken our immune systems including:

Emotional Stress Stress releases hormones in the body which switch its gears from growth and repair into defense. When these hormones are circulating, a person is more likely to succumb to the common cold.

Physical Stress Failing to get proper sleep decreases your ability to heal and repair. Also, irritation of the spine decreases the nervous system’s ability to coordinate a proper immune response. A very direct example of physical stress contributing to illness is the fact that one in 7 marathon runners have a respiratory infection in the weeks following a competition, compared to one in 50 of noncompeting runners.

Chemical Stress Toxins such as food additives, cigarette smoke, caffeine, and alcohol tax our cleansing organs including lungs, liver, and kidneys. This leads to less focus on a normal immune response to bacteria and viruses. Also, poor dietary choices leave a body without the tools it needs to defend itself.

This information puts you in the driver’s seat. You no longer have to think of yourself as a victim who will automatically become sick if you have a chance meeting with a bacteria or virus. With a properly functioning immune system, these tiny organisms won’t have a chance to negatively affect your health. Here are some tips on keeping you and your family healthy this cold and flu season:

Rest Sleep is an important time of cellular repair and regeneration. Skip your “shut eye” and expect a mandatory shutdown from your body in the form of aches and fevers. If you aren’t giving your body the rest it needs, it will demand it.

Eat Right Decrease sugar intake, which causes increased inflammatory reactions. Fill your plate with wholesome fruits and vegetables, and well-sourced proteins like grass-fed beef, organic chicken, or wild salmon. Drink plenty of water. Stay away from foods that are created in a laboratory and are not something your great grandmother would recognize as food.

Get Adjusted Chiropractic care has shown in studies to influence T and B lymphocyte numbers, N K cell numbers, antibody levels, phagocytic activity, and plasma beta-endorphin levels. In layman’s terms, chiropractic care increases activity of the cells that are responsible for immune response.

Supplement Vitamin D The newest research on vitamin D suggests that cold and flu season occurring during winter months is no coincidence. Vitamin D is created in the skin after sun exposure and when our exposure is limited with sunscreens and cold weather, our health is diminished.

Be Active Exercise increases circulation, combats stress, boosts your mood, and stimulates the immune response on a cellular level. It’s time to take responsibility for your health. Set yourself up for success before the stress that accompanies the holiday season begins. The people who seem to go through the winter months without a sick day are not lucky; they have made the choice to put their health first. •

Jessica Bohl, DC is a chiropractor with First State Health and Wellness. As a member of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, she has advanced training in the care of pregnant women and children. She can be contacted at jbohl@firststatehealth.com or visit her website at firststatehealth.com.

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