Get your body flu-season ready
By Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin
Have you ever wondered why some people get hit with colds and flus and some people don’t? Or why someone might have it worse than others, or why some people can’t seem to shake the cold for a couple weeks? The reasons for everyone’s individual experience are complex, but, in the simplest terms, it comes down to our own unique internal environments.
In the context of viral protection, there aren’t many tools in the conventional realm. There’s good news though. In integrative medicine, viral support is a field that has been around with success for many decades.
It starts with ensuring that the immune system is supported through our diet and our lifestyle habits. Then, we can help strengthen this foundation with certain antiviral nutrients that help protect the body against infection.
Set up your internal environment for success
We are exposed to an exponential number of viruses every day that our immune system fights off. For context, 1ml of water from the ocean can house up to 10,000 viruses. Viruses are also found in the air and the in the soil.
Both beneficial and harmful viruses exist, and generally our immune system is able to get rid of harmful viruses before they cause trouble. We become more susceptible to viruses when our immune system is overburdened or run down. (PS. You can assess your immune system here). In the meantime, these science-backed tips can set our body up to be resilient to viruses!
- Get adequate sleep
Immune cells are created when we sleep. When we are able to sink into the proper rhymical cycle of sleep, the immune system is given the space to rejuvenate. On the contrary, when we get low quality sleep, the immune system cannot prepare itself, nor can it create the necessary immune cells to block incoming viruses.
When hydration is lacking, the membranes in our mouth and nose become dry. Often times, this change is subtle and we aren’t aware of it.
While the feeling is subtle, the consequences are not! The lining of our nose and mouth is actually the first defense against viruses. When viruses come into contact with these membranes, they get trapped and then immune cells and mediators attack them. However, when the membranes are dehydrated, viruses can permeate the membranes and enter the body to replicate and cause symptoms.
- Find your flow
Stress plays a huge role in the dysregulation of the immune system. When we do things we enjoy and get into the flow state, stress hormones dissipate and our immune system is fortified.
Find what gets you in that space! Maybe it’s making art, playing with your kids, enjoying a game of pool, scrap booking. Basically, find something that inspires joy and your body will become more resilient to viral infections- we promise this is backed by research!
4. Use antiviral nutrients
Next, supporting with antiviral nutrients is helpful to prevent viral infections and to reduce symptoms when a viral infection does occur!
A key player, Vitamin C has antiviral properties by supporting the function and creation of immune cells involved in defending against viruses. Vitamin C also has over 20 functions in the immune system and protects the body against stress, therefore exerting both direct and indirect protective effects on the immune system.
Pro Tip: Research shows that taking Vitamin C daily can help reduce the number and duration of colds and flus each year.
A foundational molecule in the immune system, like Vitamin C, Vitamin D is needed to regulate immune function. Vitamin D positively impacts the immune system while having direct antiviral activity by coding for proteins that inhibit viral replication. Bonus: it also helps fight bacterial and fungal infections!
Several studies show that Quercetin can help prevent viruses from entering cells, therefore stopping viral replication. Quercetin also enhances the antiviral activity of vitamin C and Zinc. In addition, it is used to regulate TH1/TH2 immunity, stabilizing the immune system to be able to withstand incoming pathogens.
NAC is a potent antioxidant that has an affinity for the respiratory system and therefore is beneficial in supporting healthy lung tissue. It is able to inhibit replication of several viruses and supports cell-mediated immunity which is a critical component of eradicating viruses. NAC has been used clinically to reduce the incidence and severity in influenza viruses with bountiful research behind it!
Zinc is a required nutrient for adequate immune function, most importantly it is a necessary component of our antiviral immunity. Research shows that lower zinc levels coincide with increased susceptibility to all types of viral infections.
Garlic is a potent antimicrobial that can be used to prevent and manage viral infections. Garlic has been used worldwide in everything from the common cold/flu to dengue virus. Due to the organosulfur constituents, garlic has been widely researched for its role in the prevention and eradication of several viruses.
When it comes to keeping the body resilient to viruses, the best thing we can do is to create an environment that the immune system can thrive in, while providing nutrients that nourish the immune system and increases our body’s own innate viral defences!
Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin, is a certified nutritional practitioner.