Advice from the UPS man about colds and the immune system

Yesterday, the UPS man and I got to talking as he delivered a surprise box with treats from my parents. He asked me what I did and I told him I was naturopathic doctor.

He definitely thought natural was better and shared foods and herbs he’d learned could be health-promoting after a few family members had been diagnosed with cancer. While some things were a bit sketch, he did have one spot-on piece of advice.

With the leaves changing color and a slight chill in the air, you will see a lot of information about preventing colds and flus.

But, I like to think of cold and flu season more in the vein of “let’s take measures to make sure we have a robust and appropriate immune response” (I know, sounds catchy, right?!)

Because the one thing the UPS man had very right is that:

The immune system needs to be trained in order to know how to respond. This happens by fighting off a cold once or twice a year.

Let’s break it down.

What is an appropriate immune response?

  • 1 cold in the season that does not last longer than 5-10 days.
  • Mild fever, moderate body aches, runny nose, headache, congestion, sore throat or any combination of those.
  • Complete resolution of symptoms after about a week (give or take a few days)

What may be signs of a not-up-to-par immune response?

  • Colds that linger. You feel crappy a couple of days, then better, then cycle into another cold.
  • Colds that escalate to being serious...bacterial pneumonia, shortness of breath, etc.
  • Never getting sick or when you do get sick it can take 4+ weeks to feel better.

I know feeling sick is no walk in the park. What can we do to help tonify our systems, so that we mount an efficient and effective response?

  • Stay well hydrated.
  • Bulk up on anti-inflammatory foods especially turmeric, ginger, and garlic.
  • Stay away from antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers, but wash your hands regularly (Dr. Bronner’s is my favorite soap)
  • Eat your colors, especially green and yellow/orange: dark leafy greens are full of phytonutrients and anything with a yellow hue (squash, sweet potatoes, carrots) is high in beta carotene and helps immunity.
  • And if you do get a cold, rest, drink lots of water, tea and broth and let it pass. Your immune system is getting a workout.

Of course, how to proceed during a cold and taking precaution for further intervention should be done with a trusted healthcare practitioner.

I just want to plant the seed that a healthy immune system is not one that never gets sick. It’s one that gets sick efficiently and effectively once a year or so.

Now, go make some ginger tea!