The Answer to Combating Illness This Winter

Healthy-life-signWinter will be here soon (although tomorrow December 15, 2015,) is expected to reach 70° Fahrenheit. As the season’s change we begin to see the typical runny noses and scratchy throats. This time of year even has a nickname; Cold Season or Flu Season. We are provided instructions each year to reduce our chances of “catching” these illnesses. We are told to (1) wash our hands regularly (many recommending to use anti microbial soaps,) (2) cover our mouths with our arms if we cough or sneeze, (3) sanitize our office space, (4) carry our own pen to public areas instead of using public pens, (5) place clean towels on public yoga mats before exercising, (6) breathe out if walking past a person sneezing or coughing until 6 to 10 feet beyond the individual, (7) use sanitize wipes on our cell phone throughout the day, (8) get a flu shot.

These tips seem to offer good advice because they reduce the chances of exposing our bodies to germs and appear to protect our bodies if they are exposed. Does this mean the mechanism for becoming sick is germ exposure? The answer may surprise you.

For over 38 years I have been exercising at various health clubs in various states. These gyms are reservoirs for germs. Bodily fluids and sweat produce enough germs to easily infect anyone inside these environments. Why aren’t most members CHRONICALLY SICK? Are they not exposed to countless germs?

As a doctor my job required direct contact with my patients (ex. physical examinations, treatments, etc…) thus placing me in close proximity on a daily basis. I was exposed to sick people regularly and inhaled (breathing normally) all kinds of germs for more than 20 years. I missed 4 days of work during my tenure. (Two episodes of illness that lasted two days each.) Why wasn’t I CHRONICALLY SICK under the circumstances I worked? Was I not exposed to countless germs on a regular basis?

Public bathrooms, public escalators, movie theaters, etc… the list is endless. Are we not exposed DAILY to countless germs?

hand-sanitizer compulsiveRegardless of our attempt to sanitize everything we can, the germs survive AND enter our bodies on a regular basis. If illness was caused merely by exposure to germs, why aren’t we all CHRONICALLY SICK?

ANSWER:

Exposure to germs IN AND OF ITSELF is NOT the cause of disease.

Why is it then that most of us still believe that “germs” make us sick? Is it because we here stories such as e. coli “germs” (bacteria) in food causes illnesses? Is it because when we’re sick our doctors prescribe antibiotics to “kill the germs (bacteria?) that give our illnesses names. Is it because we are told our best defense against illness is to kill ALL GERMS POSSIBLE (a reason for constant sanitizing?)

This model doesn’t make sense. A family that lives in the same house exposed to the same germs will not (in most cases) all get sick. Nor will the intensity or duration of any illness be equal.

THERE IS A MISSING PIECE OF THE PUZZLE THAT EXPLAINS WHY SOME GET SICK AND SOME DO NOT! WHAT IS THIS MISSING PIECE?

ANSWER:  OUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

For the most part, germ exposure is NOT the underlying CAUSE why we become sick. Personal neglect and abuse resulting in a compromised immune system makes us vulnerable to disease and illness. As I have written in the past, HEALTH is the natural state of the body; DISEASE is the end result of a deficient immune system . Those who consciously work on maintaining a strong immune system do not typically experience illnesses that most people do.

When you go to your doctor to prevent winter illnesses, what protective steps are taken by your physician? Do they suggest diligent sanitizing? Do they recommend the flu shot? What other steps do they recommend you take home and implement to protect YOURSELF?

Do they recommend the following:

  1. Drink water approximating half your body weight (in ounces.) Dehydration places stress on all systems of the body reducing the effectiveness of the immune system.

  2. Drink tea (black and green?) Polyphenols in tea are strong anti-oxidants which help boost immune function.

  3.  Eat good healthy sources of protein (an important macronutrient) in a healthy diet. Whey protein, specifically, can help fight off colds and flu because it contains beta-glucans and immunoglobulins, which protect your immune system and support your body’s natural detoxification processes.

  4. Eat fermented foods with prebiotics and probiotics to improve the quality of”gut bacteria?” Pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir are the more popular sources. Others, less popular in the United States include natto, kimchee, miso and tempeh. Over 70% of the immune system is found in the GI tract.

  5. Eat blueberries, raspberries and blackberries which contain powerful phytochemicals, such as anthocyanins that are strong immune boosters?

  6. Get at least 6-8 hours of QUALITY sleep each night to provide adequate time for the body to recover and reproduce new healthy cells to strengthen the immune system in preparation for a new day?

  7. Reduce stress! Since stress increases stress hormones such as Cortisol which weakens immune function, it would be an important component necessary to prevent disease.

  8. Exercise! This helps improve respiratory function and offers the potential benefit of clearing bacteria and other microbes from the lungs. It also increases lymph flow which clears debris from the body. The increase in body temperature during exercise (low to moderate intensity) provides an environment that is hostile to “germs” preventing them from multiplying. Exercise appears to increase the rate of white blood cell circulation (immune cells) potentially making them more efficient at detecting and “killing” invading germs.

These eight steps provide better protection from winter illnesses than ANY other step you can take including sanitizing and vaccinating. Naturally, I encourage good hygiene practices, however, I DISCOURAGE OVER SANITIZING. Constant sanitizing removes protective beneficial bacteria from the hands. As we touch public items, our hand bacteria prevents other forms of germs from infecting us. As we follow these eight steps, we strengthen our immune system which keeps our bodies in their natural state of good health. As you experience these benefits, your fear of “germs” will dissipate.

Whether you choose to vaccinate in addition to the eight steps I’ve discussed is a personal decision. According to the Centers for Disease Control approximately 75%+ who received the flu vaccine for 2015/2016 “will likely get sick anyway if exposed to the virus.” This is because the strain the vaccine was created for was “mismatched” with the strain that actually exists. Each year, a “best guess” approach is used when developing this vaccine.

So, the next time you see a commercial that asks, “have you taken action to prevent getting sick this cold and flu season,” what will your answer be?

  • (A) Yes. I went to ___________ (Walgreen, Doctors Office, Costco, etc…) and got my flu shot.

  • (B) Yes. I learned what it takes to prevent disease and implemented an eight step program to strengthen my immune system to fight off disease and maintain good health the way we are designed to.

  • (C) No. I’ll just hope for the best.

Being armed with the answers for better health is a powerful position to be in. What you choose to do with these answers may determine your future health.

mindful thinking

 

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37 comments

  1. I’ve been doing most of these 8 things most of the time for the past 18 years. I think that’s why I look like I’m in my forties even though I’m in my sixties.

    I have a friend who is 84 years old. Like me, she takes regular long walks around town. She is energetic and in robust health.

    Yesterday I met a woman who is 56 years old. She looks much older than my 84 year old friend. I suspect that the 56 year old is a heavy smoker. I have seen smoking have that effect on people.

    Exercising several times a week, drinking plenty of water every day, eating foods rich in antioxidants — plus I also take an antioxidant supplement, grape seed extract — and not doing dumb things like smoking, makes all the difference in your health, energy level, emotional well-being, and physical appearance.

    Also, keeping an upbeat attitude by looking for the good in life and being thankful for the smallest blessings, causes a glow that makes even the deepest wrinkles look beautiful. I see it in the face of my 84 year old friend. Her life has not been easy. Her husband died years ago, she has outlived her siblings, and most devastating of all, two of her children were killed when they were barely out of their teens. Yet her face shines with a beautiful inner light. She is my role model for the next 20 years. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are my poster child as well as my definition for the concept, AWARENESS. You have been through great difficulties, yet recognize the importance of accepting personal responsibility for your health as well as your outlook on life. Your actions are strategic and purposeful. You are NOT random in your approach. Everything you write about is directed to achieve a better outcome. You look at others and learn from their experiences. You seek goodness, kindness and positive ideas to propel yourself ahead in life. I hope the example you set is emulated by others.

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  2. There are so many reasons I am grateful that my daughter created this blog for me. How else would I have found you? I like your list of 8, no one has recommended it to me. Everyone is always pushing the flu shot and drink plenty of OJ. And I never knew you CAN sanitize too much. Thank you for educating me. I look forward to your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate you and your words very much. I am glad you find value in the articles I write. I hope you are one of many in this world able to use the recommendations you feel appropriate to maximize the quality of your life. It is simple for me to write the words; it is so difficult for many to apply the approach. Life is difficult and challenging, but it is also filled with possibilities and opportunities. Finding motivation to alter one’s behavior is the key to discovering a purposeful life. Thank you for adding quality to mine by simply being a friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Smile. I won’t say applying all of your advice is simple, but I am more mindful of the food choices I make. I consume more than I have ever drank in my life. As you stated in another post, I am making changes gradually. But I know you have me moving in the right direction.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree with you, change is not simple. If it was, nearly everyone would be healthy!
          Each person needs to move at a pace they are comfortable handling. Slow continual change (for most people) is easier to achieve and more likely sustainable over a lifetime. People need to begin thinking LONG TERM.
          I do, however, disagree with you about one thing. I do NOT have you moving in the right direction; YOU have you moving in the right direction. You have made the commitment and deserve ALL THE CREDIT! 🙂 Thank you anyway for the kind thought.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thanks for saying that. But you see I pay attention. The gradual incremental changes that I can sustain in the long run will be benefical. And easier to maintain. Thanks

            Liked by 1 person

  3. But none of your steps involve drugs! Don’t all doctor just push drugs and then call in the next patient? Well, that’s how it seems anyway.

    In all seriousness, if everyone followed your healthy living tips, the pharmaceutical companies would be in big trouble!

    It’s only recently that I’ve gotten my husband on board with my “new” lifestyle, which is going to be very helpful for us both in the long term.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is important that readers understand I believe in western medicine and I believe that pharmaceuticals have a legitimate role in health care. It is also important that they realize the world is not flat and that journeying beyond western medicine and pharmaceuticals will not cause an individual to fall off the earth. Extreme views (ALWAYS or NEVER) in most cases reduce credibility of the person and the cause. I do not want people to view my writings as extreme. I want them to view them as legitimate options available to choose from. Doctors should NOT be making health care decisions for their patients. It is irresponsible and unethical. We need to be more honest and forthcoming with our own limitations and seek answers from other health care professionals that use different approaches to inform our patients of the options truly available to treat their conditions. This, in my opinion, is an important character trait necessary to becoming a quality physician.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think eastern and western medicine both have their place. I also think it’s unfortunate that the “go-to” always seems to be medication. When I went on my thyroid pills, my doctor told me that I’d have to take them forever. I know several people who no longer take their meds and have controlled their thyroid through nutrition. It’s just unfortunate that, like you said, options aren’t provided.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The main reason it’s the “go-to” is because the consumer wants this as their preferred choice. I don’t necessarily believe they like taking pharmaceutical agents, but the effort required to replace the pill isn’t appealing. Your energy and willingness to “dig” to find additional options will help you achieve better health.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Congratulations on getting your husband on board. Once he sees the benefits, a whole new world of opportunity opens up to him. I am so pleased for the two of you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love lists that help me navigate life in more affirming and healthy ways. Thank you for posting this one at the start of flu season. I think I am healthier now than I’ve ever been, thanks to T2D, a disease that got my attention and spawned a new outlook and determination in me for the future. Wish I hadn’t had to go through “this” to get here, but at least I’ve learned from the experience. Before T2D I was doing what I was taught to do, but now I know/do better. Then, I didn’t question patterns of behavior laid down for me. Now, I question. I question A LOT!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish more people recognized “challenging ideas” as a positive concept in search of newer better truths. Instead, it is often viewed as combative and destructive in attitude. People need to be willing to open their eyes to new ideas. How can change ever occur if we always live life exactly the same way. This leaves no room for growth and development. I believe change will become more acceptable as people gain control over their FEARS. This behavior holds more people back from accomplishing more in life than they realize.

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  5. Excellent advise! I don’t always manage all the things on this list but even applying some has great effect. It’s so true about the immune system.
    Growing up with very weak health, having 7 kids in all and reaching 64 you’d think I’d be the first to catch things but I find my daughters and grand kids all tend to get sick so much easier than me.
    I recently got a cold (for two days) I was trying to remember when I last had one but couldn’t. I’m pretty sure it was in China which makes it at least 3 years ago!
    For me faith is also an ingredient in the mixture whether one has faith in prayer or not the body tends to follow the expectations of the mind, if you think you’ll catch it you probably will. That’s maybe not scientifically provable but its true in my experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for your sharing your personal experiences. I agree with your sentiments regarding faith in prayer OR simply the innate intelligence of the body (for those without faith.) The body does tend to follow the mind’s expectations. You stated this very well.

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  7. Sanitising is the way I roll, especially when out in public. I never touch handles or buttons in the Doctors surgery and always have hand sanitiser in the car. I used to think I was obsessed but since doing it, I really have not suffered as much as I used to. Yes there are days but I am also going through a lot of changes at present with the “new body” so that can account for some of it and I honestly think a healthy diet really does make a great deal of difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As you continue to strengthen your system through exercise, nutrition and emotional balance, germs will become less fearful. A healthy body will fend off pathogens (germs) as it was designed to do. Good hygiene is important. Obsessive hygiene makes the individual MORE susceptible to infections by killing important healthy bacteria on our bodies.
      I have no doubt your future health is going to amaze you in a positive way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I shall remember this Doc.Thank you. I suppose I am only at the start of the health kick and have a long way to go. I met get through Christmas without over indulging and developing a chocolate habit as well…. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I have always had good results taking the Chinese herb Astragalus, usually in a capsule but found it in eye dropper form, great immune booster!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Astragalus is a wonderful herb with MANY health benefits. It is used as an immune stimulant as well as adaptagen affecting the liver, gall bladder lungs etc… This is a good product to have in your arsenal of HEALTHY supportive substances.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellent reminders here to stay healthy during the flu season! I do like the idea of kale shots rather than a flue shot 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t mind if people are willing to carry some of these ideas beyond the flu season so they don’t have to worry about future flu seasons. 🙂 The Kale Shots was my subtle attempt at a combination of humor and reality.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re right! Yes, people, heed these excellent points beyond the flu season. 🙂 Bottom’s up (these kale shots are delicious!).

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I break everyone of your rules. I do not get sick hardly ever. I believe people make themselves sick by using all that sanitizing stuff. I tell my kids you are making stuff worse. They are always sick. I do not wash my hands often. No flu shots ever. I touch stuff of all kinds and do not wash my hands much. I really don’t and I feel I am more healthy than all these people who follow all these drs suggestions. I agree with parts of what you say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m very glad for you that you are fortunate enough to experience few sick days.

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      1. I think today’s generation, younger than me, have lost their immunity by trying to rid all germs. Just my opinion, but I am also not sick much. I don’t want to brag and end on death’s row tomorrow.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Your 8 steps here are so spot on! I talk about these things almost daily (which is probably why I don’t write about it as much as I should) I do believe in flu shots, though, because of herd immunity, even though I know how fast those viruses can change… but I’ve done a lot of research on it and have come to that conclusion. I strongly believe in food as medicine – absolutely promote colorful vegetables and fruit for antioxidant properties – I drink matcha tea daily! You are doing a great service to your readers by giving them this information – keep yourself healthy as well during this busy time, okay? All the best to you 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Thank you so much Kelly. I am glad you stated your position on the flu shot, because it’s important for our community (and the world for that matter) to recognize that health care decisions reached by individuals that have taken the time to research the subject are making responsible decisions for themselves. Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals have varying opinions on many health care issues. We need to provide the information we’ve obtained and share our personal views on this information WITHOUT imposing it on one another. It is my opinion that the “right” decision is the one each individual makes for themselves regardless of whether it supports or refutes my opinion. This also opens the door for better communication between doctors and patients because it reduces any intimidation and reinforces the doctor’s respect for the patient’s decision.

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    1. Thank you for offering your opinion. Keep cooking up those fast, healthy recipes so our readers can experience better health AND ENJOY their food choices.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wanted to add that illness is also connected to our spiritual fitness and every day we should strive to live in alignment with our souls.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Frequently I define good health as BALANCE among physical, mental and spiritual awareness. Some people are uncomfortable with the 3rd element, so I will sometimes refer to it as “innate intelligence” within us. These components are essential and improve the quality of our lives.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes. I have also heard of innate health. I didn’t realize it was referring to having a spiritual connection. The truth is, there are so many components that are connected to health and well-being. It is tempting to define things in black and white terms, at least for me. I agree that true health and wellbeing is a combination of balance, resilience and wisdom, in the right measure.

            Liked by 1 person

  13. […] up is the article in which he outlines the 8 things I should do to stop getting sick! His list is easy for me to do and none of those items will cost me more money than I’m […]

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  14. I appreciate your focus on preventative health. You’re in no way replacing medicine, but your perspective is one that is sometimes missing from medical doctors’ recommendations, and could nicely compliment the other, more typical feedback we may receive (i.e. Flu shot, medication).

    As a health psychologist, promoting healthy behavior change is very important to me and it’s always nice to have these discussions with medical providers who are aligned with this view. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your approach to health as well. As well intentioned as many of us are, the willingness to dialogue and share ideas helps open our eyes to new perspectives. This expanded thinking provides great personal value benefiting each of us and the people we hope to inspire.
      I look forward to your future writings.

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