This winter is one for the books. The exposure to RSV, Influenza A and COVID also known as the “triple-demic of 2022” is unparalleled and taking many peoples immune systems to the cleaners.
Given the serious nature of the sicknesses of the season, I am sharing some strategies to boost your immune system.
It is important to understand that the different flus and upper respiratory illnesses set into the body in different ways.
While RSV and COVID, symptoms tend to be more gradual and last longer, the flu tends to hit harder quickly yet resolves faster as well.
As a Functional Diagnostic nutrition practitioner and a student of chinese medicine, I would recommend two steps. First and foremost I would recommend using functional nutrition to support your system to prevent sickness from developing in the first place. This involves putting in place nutritive support to keep your system strong and resilient.
Second, if you have been exposed and are experiencing symptoms, I would recommend altering your supportive treatments specific for your needs. TCM can be an incredible tool to help you with this.
When applying Chinese medicine principles to healing, keep in mind, chinese medicine always advocates for striving for balance in the system.
This means you may want to attend to a cold or infection in a more specific way based on your constitution.
Treating wind cold symptoms with TCM
Medicinal TCM "wind cold" symptoms are more common in someone that runs cold by nature. Symptoms may be exhibited as feeling cold, slight stiffness in neck, and or sneezing. With these symptoms TCM would advocate putting in place warming support such as garlic, ginger and green onion to warm the body and help prevent sickness. A versatile TCM formula used to offset cold and flus is called Gui Shi Tang and uses warming herbs to support wind cold conditions.
Tools that warm the body to offset wind cold conditions
Additional tools used to warm the body include the use of infrared sauna therapy which can be an extremely helpful tool when working to "kick a cold out of the body". The sauna works by heating the core of the body and induces an artificial fever which stimulates the immune system to kick into gear. The simple act of sweating helps to detoxify the liver and kidneys and support the removal of toxins and heavy metals from the body. Infrared toxins also stimulate the immune system to remove pathogens from the body.
Other ways to induce sweating involve taking hot baths which can also precipitate the act of sweating.
Wind heat symptoms
On the other hand, if you are dealing with heated symptoms such as sore throat, more fever than chills, thirst, nasal congestion with yellow phlegm and coughing up yellow mucous, these symptoms denote a wind heat pathogen. Cooling herbs such as peppermint tea and herbs specific for wind heat such as the formula "Yin Qiao" contains cooling herbs such as forsythia and honeysuckle are commonly used to shift the body back into balance.
Foundational supplements support immune system function
Medicinal mushrooms are a personal favorite for building the immune system. Medicinal mushrooms have long been revered in Chinese medicine as strong qi tonics. In Western terms, they contain concentrated amounts of polysaccharides, which have been shown to boost t-cell populations. They can be used both for immune system support, long-term and also for acute situations. I usually advocate clients to put this in place if you have been exposed and or caring for others that are sick. I often recommend formulas that contain, reishi, chaga and cordyceps. It is also worth noting that cordyceps is very protective of lung tissue.
Zinc is especially important for immunity and helps the body fight against infections. Studies show low zinc status in the body can increase the risk for pneumonia. Zinc acetate and zinc gluconate lozenges have been shown to inhibit cold viruses from latching onto the cells and shorten the duration of the flu . Lozenges are recommended only in the early stages of infection.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to recycle oxidized glutathione back into active glutathione Based on a large meta-analysis, regular intake of vitamin C has not been shown to prevent colds but is shown to shorten the duration of colds (by 8 % in adults and 14 % in children) with slightly less severe symptoms.
Glutathione is the body’s main antioxidant defense mechanism produced in the liver. It protects against free radicals and helps to eliminate lipid peroxides as well as toxins. This master antioxidant is something to put in place when exposed to any virus that causes inflammatory cascades in the body. One way to increase glutathione levels is by eating sulfur rich food like eggs, beef and dark leafy greens.Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, are also beneficial sources of sulfur.If your antioxidant defense system clearly needs help and your gut may not be in the best condition, then using liposomal glutathione is the best option.
Olive leaf is a potent antiviral to put in place after exposure. Oleuropein is the main active constituent of the plant responsible for its antiviral activity. The plant has shown significant and potent antiviral activity on many viruses such as mononucleosis, hepatitis virus, rotavirus and RSV to name a few. I particularly like the combination of olive leaf with garlic( allium) as a potent antiviral strategy.
At the end of the day, protecting yourself from sickness involves strategies that will support your immune system on different levels. Restful sleep, eating a whole food diet, exercise and implementing stress management tools will help the body maintain homeostasis and balance.
Wishing you a radiant reality!