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The Four Pillars of Great Health - Your Key to a Healthy Immune System
by Dave Foreman
The beginning of the winter season also marks the beginning of cold and flu season. What's a person to do? Fortunately, there are some easy steps we can all take to help maintain optimal health during the season.
The “Four Pillars of Great Health,” as I like to call them, play a huge role in your immune health, regardless of the season or exposure. These “pillars” include:
These are truly the four keys to staying healthy throughout the holiday season – and all year long.
Take a walk into any local full service health food store and you’ll find a huge area of natural products for immune support. Where should you begin? You need to first understand what these supplements will be doing for your immune system. There are supplements for the immediate relief of immune system compromise; and others that can be used for prevention over the long term.Herbal Relief
Echinacea has gained worldwide acknowledgement for its immune-stimulating properties. Echinacea is also effective in reducing the duration and severity of symptoms of the common cold, and may be beneficial for upper respiratory infections in the elderly (Phytomedicine. 1999 Mar; 6(1):1-6; J Fam Pract. 1999 Aug; 48(8):628-35). I must add that taking Echinacea to “prevent” the common cold has not been proven and therefore is only recommended for the first onset of cold and flu symptoms. Vitamin C(ascorbic acid) may help to improve immune function and relieve cold and flu symptoms. Researchers found that high doses of vitamin C decreased cold symptoms, compared to those who only took pain relievers and decongestants. (J Clin Epidemiol. 1996 Oct; 49(10):1079-84). Zinc Gluconateis another outstanding supplement for acute cold symptoms. Clinical research has shown that using Zinc Gluconate lozenges produces a reduction in the duration of cold symptoms. (Ann Intern Med. 1996 Jul 15; 125(2):81-8). People generally experience fewer days of coughing, headache, hoarseness, nasal congestion, nasal drainage, and sore throat. Esberitox® is an herbal blend containing two types of Echinacea, Thuja and Wild Indigo, which synergistically stimulate the immune system. This product has over 30 clinical studies supporting its health benefits and safety. Lastly, Black Elderberryhas shown to have antiviral properties against several different strains of the influenza virus in canine kidney cells. (J Altern Complement Med. 1995 Winter; 1(4):361-9). Black Elderberry has shown to reduce the duration of influenza-like symptoms on average of four days earlier than placebo. (J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr; 32(2):132-40).Support for the Long Haul
There are many different supplements that can help you maintain a healthy immune system. Some work directly with the immune system, adding support; while others work indirectly, helping the body adapt (adaptogenic herbs) to the daily stresses it’s placed under. Beta Glucanexists in nature in the cell wall of Brewer’s yeast (WGP®) or from medicinal mushrooms (Maitake D-fraction). Beta glucans have powerful immune boosting properties. WGP® Beta Glucan is in the purified form and has shown to positively impact the immune system over long periods of time without harm. Beta-glucans in general have been useful in modulating (not stimulating) the body’s natural immune defenses . Lastly, Probiotics have demonstrated immune-stimulating effects. Probiotics are known as the “friendly” bacteria or “flora” found in your digestive system (primarily the small and large intestine). Lactobacillus acidophilus is perhaps the probiotic that most people are familiar with, yet there are many other types of probiotics now on the market.A Note of Caution
A word of precaution for those with autoimmune diseases: many of the supplements used for immune support are not recommended for those with autoimmune conditions. Your immune system is already hyperactive. Adding an immune stimulating supplement to your daily regimen would be adding fuel to the fire. Please consult with a qualified health care provider before using any natural health supplement.DIET
Consider your diet, or eating habits. A lcohol consumption has been shown to compromise the proper function of the immune system (Alcohol and Alcoholism Vol. 34, No. 6, pp. 830-841, 1999). Start with some simple behavior modification to stay healthier. Instead of consuming sweets and drinks at parties and gatherings, try just sampling the good things. If you feel like you are “coming down with something,” then avoid alcohol completely.EXERCISE
Around the holidays, we often have less time for proper rest and exercise. Hectic schedules and traveling can take you out of your routine as far as an exercise regimen. The new year can bring resolutions and new commitments to exercise. But colder weather often results in a lower level of activity, too, since we don’t get outside as much. Try to take advantage of the benefits of moderate exercise on immune function -but be careful about prolonged or intense exercise, which can temporarily increase your risk of infection. Just maintaining an increased activity level for 30 minutes a day can help.MENTAL HEALTH
The holidays often bring increased stress, as we are forced to deal more with things like family visits, travel and financial concerns. These stress factors place even more pressure on your already weakened immune system, even after the holidays are over. While it may be impossible to factor stress out of your life, do try to take time for yourself. Meditate, pray, talk with friends, walk in the woods or do whatever serves to support your well-being. In the long run, it will serve your immune system, too.
The answer to long term immune health and wellness revolves around the four pillars of great health. Without any one of the four pillars, you potentially open yourself up to a season of sniffles, coughs and misery.