By Bill Kalman, Pharmacist/Owner Essential Wellness Pharmacy
Cases of influenza are on the rise. Temperatures are falling. Fall allergies season is here. These can all lead to increased illness and time away from work or school. With children in school, colds and illnesses are passed more easily. Now is the time to boost your (and your children’s) immune system before you get sick. The best way to prepare is to incorporate both nutritional changes and lifestyle and hygiene changes into your daily routine.
Vitamins and supplements can naturally boost our immune system. Some of the supplements for immune boosting are Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, zinc, mushroom extracts containing beta-glucans, quercetin, and probiotics. Vitamin D regulates the expression of genes that influence our immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses and it stimulates the production of cathelicidin, a protein with natural antibiotic properties. Vitamin A influences the activity of the T and B lymphocytes (white blood cells) to prevent and fight off infections. Zinc is also important in the development and activation of T lymphocytes. Beta-glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides generally derived from mushrooms. These substances increase the immune defense by enhancing macrophages and natural killer cell function which kill virus-infected cells. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant and helps improve T-lymphocyte balance as well as blocking the viruses from entering our cells preventing the virus from replicating and making the condition worse. Probiotics are good bacteria within our gastro-intestinal (GI) system. Much of our exposure to bacteria and viruses is through our GI system. About 70 percent of our immune system lies within the GI tract and its tissues. Taking probiotics increases the number of good bacteria in our GI tract which decreases the ability of an infectious bacteria or virus to replicate. The body can then fight off the invasive bacteria or virus preventing it from creating a cold, flu, or other infection.
Next, increase healthy living practices into your daily routine. Healthy living habits can boost your immune system. Getting run down and tired can make your immune system weak. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fresh foods and healthy proteins—lean meat, chicken, and fish. Get 4 to 6 servings of vegetables and 1 to 2 servings of fruit daily. Stay hydrated with water. Get regular exercise and get a good night’s sleep. For adults, that means getting 7 to 8 hours a day and children need more. Lack of sleep causes stress on the body and the adrenal glands and lowers the body’s immune response.
Finally, basic hygiene practices can tremendously reduce the incidence and spread of colds and flu. Washing your hands with soap and water, or your child’s hands, especially after blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing will reduce spreading germs to other surfaces and other people. Anti-bacterial soaps are generally not necessary and may increase the resistance to antibiotic by bacteria. Also, be sure to cough or sneeze into your elbow instead of your hand and teach your kids to do the same.
If you have any questions regarding boosting your immune system, our staff is highly knowledgeable and available to discuss your health concerns. Consultations over this, or other conditions are available with our pharmacist by scheduling an appointment. Remember to prepare now for the cold and flu season and have a healthy and safe holiday season.
If you are interested in learning more about boosting your immune system and implementing healthy lifestyle changes or any other health issues, please feel free to contact Essential Wellness Pharmacy, located at 4625 N. University Street in Peoria, at 309-681-8850 to set up a personal, one-on-one consultation with one of our pharmacists. We look forward to serving you and your family and assisting with all your health needs.