There are two schools of thought when it comes to viruses and bacteria and how to fight them.
The first school of thought is that viruses and bacteria infect us and there's nothing we can do about it except wash our hands, avoid people when they are sick, and avoid touching our eyes, nose, and mouth after touching public surfaces, etc.
The second school of thought is that we have always been surrounded by viruses and bacteria throughout human history, and how we get sick or not is a matter of how strong our immune system is, and that we can achieve optimal health and strenghten our immune system to the point where we never get sick. This second school of thought is not stressed enough by the media and by conventional doctors! On The Doctors show on Monday, they did mention to "eat a healthy diet," when discussing the flu, but it was said quickly in the middle of a sentence without really delving into the importance in greater detail.
I believe that it's not either/or, but that both schools of thought MUST be considered equally. I used to get sick all the time, in fact, I used to say that I just had a weak immunity and there was nothing I could do about it. I didn't know that my poor diet was the cause of all my illnesses. Not until I actually made some changes and started to get sick less and less. I haven't been sick in THREE YEARS! Not one bacterial infection and not one viral infection! My diet really improved within the past year, but I attribute not getting sick in the previous two years because I was eating fruits and veggies and consistently taking a modest dose of Vitamin C and zinc, plus a probiotic (but I was still eating a lot of junk food!)
Western medicine focuses on treating the symptoms after falling ill, and making it seem that we're all prey to viruses and bacteria, we're all potential victims, when that's just not the case, especially when it comes to the philosophy of Eastern medicine or naturopathic medicine. They believe that WE can take control of our health, and that proper diet and nutrition can lead us toward optimal health. When optimal health is achieved, one rarely gets sick, if ever, and if they do, the symptoms are mild and the infection goes away very quickly. Also, with optimal health, one is less likely to develop the big illnesses plaguing our country--obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer...instead, living a long and vibrant life into old age!
How can we achieve optimal health and never get sick again? Here's my comprehensive list that not only includes nutrition, but a wide range of things (always consult with your physician or nutritionist...don't just listen to me, a layperson, do your own research into your health and how you can optimize it):
1) Eat a diet rich in whole grains (this does not include boxed, processed, sugary cereal that claims that it's whole grain!) like brown rice, quinoa (more like a seed), millet, bulgur, and buckwheat. Of course, as with anything else, don't go overboard. Stick to 2-6 servings depending on your caloric needs.
2) Eat a diet high in vegetables and fruit (preferably more veggies than fruit!). Choose a rainbow of colors, especially dark leafy greens. Go above and beyond the USDA's recommendations!
3) Eliminate refined sugar and other processed foods. Sugar is an immunosuppressant!
4) Eliminate fatty meats. Stick with lean chicken or fish if you must have animal protein. If you feel that you don't need animal protein after doing your homework on how to be vegetarian or vegan, eat a lot of beans, nuts, and seeds for protein. Even if you don't wish to become vegetarian, still incorporate lots and lots of beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds into your diet!
5) Eat a diet rich in good fats, especially Omega 3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory. Reduce your intake of saturated fats...and ELIMINATE all trans fats. Get your good fat from nuts, seeds like chia seeds and ground flaxseeds, avocados, and yes, vegetables have a small amount of good fats! Eat your healthy fats, and try to consume less cooking oil like vegetable, soy, or corn oil, which can be inflammatory...instead, use a couple tablespoons of orange juice to make your stir-fry!
6) Drink filtered water daily, approximately 8-12 cups depending on your weight, amount you sweat based on your activities, and how much fiber you eat (more fiber, more water!).
7) Eliminate or reduce all the things you know are bad for you! Soda, diet soda, fast food, restaurant food, chips, ice cream, milk chocolates, cigarettes, excessive alcohol, recreational drugs, over-the-counter meds, etc!
8) Re-examine your philosophy on eating. Change the way you view food. Think of food as fuel, as a life force that is supplying you with energy, and think of junk food and sugar as the enemy that is going to derail you on your journey to optimal health. Read books by Dr. Joel Furhman (MD), Dr. Mark Hyman (MD), Dr. Daniel Amen (neuroscientist), Michael Pollan, and Kathy Freston (vegan). My faves are Dr. Joel Furhman's Eat to Live and Super Immunity.
9) This point goes along with re-examining how you view food. Excessive inflammatory foods (fatty or smoked meats, sugar, vegetable oil, trans fats) as well as inflammatory lifestyle choices (smoking, stress, etc) are bad for your body and can cause everything from colds and flus to heart disease and cancer. Consume more anti-inflammatory foods for optimal health: fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts. Find out if these typical culprits of food insensitivities is giving you problems by eliminating them from your diet for a while and seeing how you feel: cow's milk, soy, corn, peanuts, wheat/wheat gluten. I've discovered that I am lactose intolerant and have a gluten sensitivity--those foods were inflammatory for ME, but may not be for others. Dr. Mark Hyman's books delve more into this.
10) Avoid cow's milk and meat from factory farms. The animals are pumped full of hormones, drugs, and antibiotics, it can't be good for your immunity. I need to do more research to see if there is any evidence of this, but it just makes sense to me that we are what we eat.
11) Exercise moderately. Exercise can boost immunity. But beware, excessive and vigorous exercise can depress immunity. So strike a good balance. Just staying active and walking more can be of great benefit.
12) Have sex! Safe and responsibly with a partner of course! Having sex also boosts immunity!
13) Reduce your exposure to chemicals from cleaning products and personal care products. These chemicals, sometimes referred to as xenoestrogens, can wreak havoc on your hormones and affect your immunity as well, because you are taxing your body. Look for natural products instead. Does your home cleaning or personal care product list the word "fragrance" in its ingredient list? You may want to think about tossing it...it contains chemicals that companies are not required to list. Look for products that say "essential oils," or better yet, use lemons, limes, coconut oil (I used this as a moisturizer) vinegar (for home cleaning), etc, whenever possible!
14) De-stress! Excessive stress, worry, and anxiety can weaken your immunity, leaving you vulnerable to illness.
15) Don't shy away from supplements. Just don't overdo them as well. Certain supplements can boost your immunity, especially vitamin C and zinc. If you want to just eat your vitamin C and zinc through foods, do your research on which foods contain the most of those nutrients, and eat those foods on a daily basis. Read my previous blogs for more information. Here's just a couple:
16) Eat your probiotics or take probiotic supplements daily.
17) Here are two supplements that even doctors don't know about when it comes to preventing the flu and other viruses that have been PROVEN to be very effective at boosting immunity and fighting the flu naturally BASED ON MULTIPLE STUDIES (Plus I'll use my husband as proof--he's been taking both of these for years and hasn't gotten sick ONCE, just like me...I don't take those, but I DO take probiotics, vitamin C and zinc)...both elderberry extract and N acetyl cysteine are both relatively inexpensive...plus what is expense when it comes to your health?
N ACETYL CYSTEINE (NAC)