I am writing this as I get over a really bad flu that has knocked me out for the past four days, while being on holiday no less.
This time of year people all around us are starting to get sick. It sounds like it is inevitable; the colds, flus and all this talk about shots and ‘flu season’. I have to say that, I do not agree on the whole concept of a ‘flu season’ – I think that is a load of bunk. Let me tell you why.
There are factors in place right now, that can lead to a cold, but they can also be totally avoided. Let’s look at what causes folks to get sick in general, but specifically more than usual this time of year.
In my opinion, the biggest one is: lack of sun exposure. That is huge in our part of the world.
We have had a fair bit of rain, cooler temperatures and soon it will be too cold to go outside with any exposed skin for any length of time. That means our natural vitamin D creation organ, our skin, has not been able to supply us with this powerful vitamin. Vitamin D does all sorts of amazing stuff in the body including keeping our immune system strong. The two main gifts that vitamin D gives us is to aid in absorption of Calcium and Phosphorous – essential for our bones – and to help with cell to cell communication. That last bit is key. Without it our immune system can’t talk to all of it’s different parts.
Picture a virus entering your body. One part of your immune system, which is just a certain type of cell, starts screaming.
“Hey! there’s a virus here!”
What’s supposed to happen, is that message (a ‘cell’ phone call if you will) is supposed to be send to other parts of your immune system, such as killer T cells or macrophages. Then they come zipping over and deal with the virus or infected cells and you’re just fine. You don’t get sick. You don’t even know this happens on a daily basis. However, if your vitamin D levels are down and cellular communication is not working, then the message is not heard until the virus replicates, invades and is so strong that the message finally gets through and your entire system has to shut down for a few days while your body fights a war.
The list of other things that Vitamin D does for us is massive and vitamin D is free. All you need is sunlight. Oh wait, that’s right – it’s going to be winter in Canada soon. So you can either fly south for a vacation, where ironically you will spend hours in a plane, surrounded by viruses or you can also spend a bit of time in a tanning bed. Not a lot, you don’t need to even change colour, just a short tan of 5-6 minutes twice a week will do it! Five minutes in a booth is the same 15 minutes out in the sun and that isn’t going to harm anyone. The concerns over indoor tanning come in where people tan for more than the recommended exposure every day, all year. That’s just too much.
Another way to up your levels is by buying vitamin D at the health food store. It’s not expensive and so easy to add to your day. Certain foods in Canada have vitamin D added as well. Vitamin D deficiency is totally avoidable if you pay attention and totally worth it.
So how did I get a full blown flu that knocked me down for four days? Simple. Working too hard, for too many weeks, with too little sleep makes your body run on stress hormones. They defend you more efficiently from colds and flu’s but only for a limited time. The second you slow down and the pressure is off, like me on vacation – boom, sick. We can’t run at full speed all the time. I keep re-learning this lesson I guess.
What else can you do to get through this time of less sunlight less local fresh veggies and being cooped up with others who are sick? Research says that garlic in your food can help and colourful spices are loaded with cold fighting anti-oxidants which are also good. Make sure you get lots of fruits and veggies. Try to get outside and get some fresh air too. Exercise and movement are also major defenses against colds and the flu. If you do feel something coming on, ginseng products like Cold F/X can also be very helpful. Hope that helps you stay strong!