Janine came in to our office walkin hours for a respiratory illness. She sat in the exam room blowing her nose, eyes watering. “Ughh…what can I do to stop getting sick all the time?” she gasped between coughs. After discussing her symptoms and figuring out the proper treatment for her acute sinus infection, Janine and I talked about some ways that she can prevent getting sick over and over.
Here in the Chicago area, we are blessed with very distinct seasons. Sometimes they are distinctly miserable. The changing weather seems to be accompanied by widespread sniffling, coughing and weather. So what can we do to prevent or reduce the symptoms of the common cold and the sinus infections or bronchitis which emerge from it? It turns out that there are some simple things one can do to avoid getting sick all the time.
Some of the simplest ways to avoid illness include the basics of germ theory– hand washing ( and we mean really washing, the old fashioned way with soap and water– reserve chemical filled hand sanitizers for times when one can’t wash with soap and warm water) is key. In addition to hand washing another time tested method is getting the flu shot. Shrouded by misinformation and public confusion the flu shot is actually a safe, effective and proven measure (and the shot is not a live virus, by the way, so you can not actually get the flu from it– you can however get a mild reaction to it which is short-lived and waaaaaay better then getting the flu). We know there are skeptics on this one, but any legitimate medical organization and trained physician will tell you that the benefits of the shot far outweigh the risks. The flu is a serious illness folks, not just a cold and it is responsible for somewhere upwards of 30,000 deaths per year. Once you’ve seen a few of these or a few previously healthy young adults with a month long ICU stay on a ventilator from the flu, you do not walk but you run to get the shot. Of note, this year is predicted to be a particularly bad flu season based on the flu patterns seen in the Southern hemisphere. Likewise make sure you are up to date with the TDP or tetanus, diptheria, pertussis vaccine. It’s given once every 10 years in adults and the pertussis component protects against the whooping cough– also not a walk in the park and life threatening in certain populations.
“So what else can I take to prevent getting sick again,” Janine asked? It turns out there are some great vitamins you can take to prevent getting sick. Taking the right combination of vitamins can be essential to your immune system working properly. Vitamin D, for example (more here on how much is recommended) is an important vitamin to help boost immunity. In addition the classic vitamin C is in fact important for both preventing and treating colds and other illnesses. However taking a safe and proper amount is important based on your own diet and lifestyle. Other components of a personalized multivitamin(take our personalized vitamin quiz) can also be useful in immune support. Some suggest a role for magnesium, certain B vitamins and iron in disease prevention. It makes sense that supporting many of your body’s cellular functions can also prevent getting sick.
In summary vitamins to help stop getting sick may include:
- Vitamin D- This vitamin is proving to be an important element of immune health. White blood cells in fact have vitamin D receptors, highlighting the role of this important vitamin.
- Vitamin C- Vitamin C has long been touted to support immune health. There is valid evidence to this effect. However, the key is taking the optimal amount and not taking excessive amounts.
- Zinc-Has been shown to shorten the duration of respiratory illnesses. It should be taken during times of illness but not necessarily year round.
- Vitamin A- Is an important vitamin for immune health. However, most people do not need to take vitamin A in the form of a supplement. Most Americans are not vitamin A deficient and taking large doses of supplements has been associated with osteoporosis and cancer.
- Magnesium-This key electrolyte plays a useful role in almost every body system including immunity and is a key element of hydration, which is an important element of fighting disease.
- B vitamins-Different B vitamins are useful for immune support. The best way to determine all of your vitamin needs is to take a personalized vitamin quiz and get a custom daily vitamin that meets your individual needs.
In addition to taking the right vitamins for preventing illness, lifestyle can play an important role in stopping colds and flu. And you knew that no health blog would be complete without a recommendation to…drum roll…hydrate!!! Of course you cary around your S’well bottle filled with ionized filtered spring water imported from Switzerland. But that’s not all that we mean. Yes you need lots of water to keep your cells nice and juicy and functioning optimally. However, this also means getting plenty of electrolytes to help hold on to that water. Grandma’s chicken soup? That works, or you can get an ideal blend of electrolytes from our Power Up™. Hydration is essential. Having enough fluid circulation in your blood stream and lymphatic channels helps remove germs and toxins and helps your white blood cells do their work. So plenty of water and electrolytes is important.
Another good habit to help prevent getting sick is getting enough sleep. Always easier said then done, getting 7-10 hours of sleep is optimal for most people. Sleep serves as valuable recovery time for your body and is when many bodily systems fortify themselves. While life gets busy and it’s often easy to skimp on the Zz’s, doing so has major consequences. Going without sleep is a set up for getting sick.
What else can you actually do to prevent getting sick? Turns out that good old exercise, which has so very many benefits, also can help with illness prevention. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the chance of contracting a respiratory illness (cold, bronchitis, sinus infection, etc). That being said, when under the weather, overexertion may prolong the illness (especially if it’s out in the cold weather– This is not a wive’s tale!).
And when a cold or other respiratory illness is on the horizon, there is also good data to suggest a role for zinc in cutting in short. When we created our Immune Blast™Situational Supplement we were sure to include an ideal amount of zinc to be taken when you feel run down or cold symptoms have started.
Janine heeded these suggestions and ended up having a much better year. So if you are starting to feel sniffly or are surrounded by others coughing, sneezing and the like, it’s time to gear up for cold and flu season. A healthy lifestyle that includes all the usuals– sleep, exercise, hydration and the right personalized multivitamin-– is a great foundation. However don’t forget to be extra cautious with hand washing, getting a flu shot and keeping Immune Blast™ on hand in your purse or pocket.
Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health. She is a mother of three teen agers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients. After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take, Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin survey now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.
The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.