From the common cold to the flu, we all deal with viruses, those small infectious agents that can enter the body and spread. While viruses can cause illness and disease in humans, our immune systems generally eliminate them. However, when our immune system is weakened, viruses can take hold and cause infection. There are many ways to be a bad host for infections, reducing risk for illness.
Wash Your Hands
It is still the number one way to protect yourself. According to the Centers for Disease Control, regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. Hand sanitizers can help, but as a secondary measure to hand washing.
Destress & Rest
Poor sleeping habits and excess stress have been shown to suppress immune function. Stress reduction techniques, consistent exercise, and getting enough restorative sleep are ways to help your body handle stress and help keep your immune system functioning well.
Nourish & Hydrate the Body
An overall theme in fighting viruses is nourishment – making sure the body has all the nutrients it needs to naturally fight infection. Choosing less processed, organic and raw foods will provide the antioxidants to bolster the immune system, and avoiding allergens and excess sugar will help keep mucus under control. While adding certain foods to the diet can naturally boost the immune system, the amount that would have to be eaten can be too much to consume on a daily basis, so concentrated liquid or supplement forms may be best to really fight infection.
Probiotics are important in the fight against bacteria and viruses. These good bacteria help to support immunity but also keep bacteria and viruses in check in the intestinal tract. Food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and other cultured foods.
Beta-glucans are good for deep immunity, enhancing natural killer cell activity in the immune system. This activity helps fight viruses and bacteria. Oats, barley and mushrooms are food sources of beta-glucans. Supplements of medicinal mushrooms like reishi, shiitake and maitake can be taken daily to help boost deep immune health.
And critical to fighting any illness, bacterial or viral, is maintaining hydration. Consume plenty of alkaline water, herbal teas and bone broth to help keep the body hydrated.
Boost Defense with Essential Nutrients As mentioned previously, the need for nourishment is critical for maintaining a strong immune system. Deficiencies of vitamins and minerals can disrupt normal immune response, increasing risk for infections.
Vitamin A is best known for its benefits to eyes and skin, but its benefits go beyond. Clinical studies have shown that a deficiency of vitamin A can impair the body’s ability to respond normally to viruses. Vitamin A enhances white blood cell function, and promotes the health of the skin and mucus membranes, critical in defense against viruses.
Vitamin C is not only essential for white blood cell function in the immune system, it also has antiviral activity and may help reduce risk for viral infections. Studies have found that vitamin C can help reduce the severity and duration of an infection like the common cold. Food sources of vitamin C include berries, bell peppers and citrus fruits.
Vitamin D plays an important role in strengthening your defense system to fight any invading viruses and bacteria. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk of viral infection, and cell culture studies support the idea that vitamin D may have direct antiviral activity. Foods like fatty fish, cod liver oil and egg yolks supply some vitamin D, but research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is still common in the United States.
Selenium and vitamin E help protect against oxidative stresses in the body. Research has suggested that a deficiency of Selenium results in increased viral pathogenicity and altered immune response. In addition, deficiencies in either of these nutrients could result in viral mutations that can make the effect of a virus even worse. Brazil nuts, seafood and organ meats supply selenium, while wheat germ, nuts and seeds are the best sources for vitamin E.
Zinc lozenges are a popular approach for colds because they can actually help shorten the duration of the cold virus. Studies on zinc have indeed shown that it has antiviral properties. As a bonus, zinc lozenges usually contain ingredients that also help soothe dry scratchy throats. Be careful not to overdue it with zinc as too much zinc can actually depress the immune response. So be sure to follow product label dosing recommendations.
Add Natural Support Herbs & Nutrients
Colloidal silver was used like an antibiotic during the 1920’s and 30’s, but use declined as new antibiotics were introduced. Silver is a known antiseptic and can fight numerous pathogens. Many people use colloidal silver to help improve their immune system’s ability to fight against viruses like colds and flu.
Olive leaf, Elderberry and Garlic are popular herbs used during cold and flu season. Science has confirmed allicin in garlic and oleuropein in olive leaf have potent antimicrobial activity, showing activity against bacteria, viruses and fungi. Historically, olive leaf was also used as a fever reducer, which often accompanies infections. Black Elderberry has been clinically shown to have activity against viruses, particularly various influenza strains.
Monolaurin from coconut oil is a novel antiviral compound that has been used in people with herpes viruses, as well as other types of viral infections. It is thought to work by fluidizing the fatty coating around viruses, preventing the virus from attaching to other cells and potentially reducing the virus’ activity.
Proteolytic enzymes are often thought of for digestive troubles, but they work between meals too. These specific enzymes, when taken on an empty stomach, support healthy immune function by helping the body break down the protein coating around viruses, and by cleaning up cellular debris.
While these approaches do not guarantee you will not get sick, they can cut down your chances that viruses talk hold in the body, reducing risk for illness.