The secret to a healthy winter is a pampered immune system. Traditionally, it was believed a deficient immune system was at fault with most illnesses but recent research suggests you are more likely to succumb from a failing overworked immune system.

Immunity has an innate genetic “first responder” component dormant but which vigorously responds to perceived threats– slowing them or even destroying them while buying the body’s adaptive immune system time to generate threat specific antibodies. That is how the system is supposed to work.

Do you get more than three colds a year?

Do you have a runny nose most of the winter?

Does your skin stay dry and red and itchy this season?

Do you have trouble sleeping?

Does your stomach hurt after certain foods?

Yes answers likely indicate your immune system is compromised. BUT…if you smoke, you might as well stop reading now. As smoke is inhaled into the lungs it damages the ciliary apparatus paralyzing its ability to sweep bacteria and viruses and other debris from your air passages. You cannot smoke and be healthy.

Sleep is a cure. Insufficient sleep causes an increase in inflammatory cytokines and reduces T cell defense production. Six hours is insufficient and not enough sleep is a precursor to many chronic inflammatory diseases. Assessment of your sleep hygiene issues with a sleep specialist will provide the necessary personal requirement.

Exercise in moderation is an essential promoter of immune function by increasing the number of white blood cells in the circulation. These are the first responder sentries. Yoga is proven to elicit the relaxation response in the nervous system while reducing inflammatory cytokines and C reactive protein production Alcohol in moderation is a good thing. Ethanol and its metabolites soak in to immune cells effectively impacting on cellular protein production. HEAVY Alcohol consumption has the opposite effect.

Long term stress from unresolved life issues negatively impacts the immune response through excess circulating cortisol suppressing immune responses.

North American food intake typically contains over 30 percent fats known to reduce immune cell responses.

The attentive reader will have noted I have not mentioned medications. Vitamins and healthy food groupings are beneficial but the majority of winter afflictions are viral and antibiotics have no role and in fact are counter productive by destroying the symbiotic role of gut probiotics in stimulating the immune system.

And finally, the “why now?” question. Science has known for many years that viruses replicate more easily in the cooler reaches of the human nostril especially in colder weather but equally important, those innate immune defenses are suppressed by that same reduced temperature. Obviously a face scarf for rebreathing is a more cost effective prevent defense than a questionably effective antibiotic script.

Your wellness this winter is a reflection of how you live.

Dr. David Carl

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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