I like reading your articles, so thank you. I was wondering if you know of anything that actually works for cold prevention and if there is anything else I can do for cold and flu season preparedness because we have a daughter with compromised immunity due to splenectomy. She has ITP (auto-immune disorder). What do you advise?
Iâ€™m sorry to hear of your daughterâ€™s health problems; my heart goes out to parents with sick children. You can call me anytime you want direction in holistic treatments as an adjunct to her medical therapies. It would be my pleasure to help you. Standard medical/ allopathic ITP treatments are not yet able to offer stellar outcomes for auto-immune disorders and carry dangerous side effects, so many have turned to integrative therapies, with preliminary data showing better scores in global health.Â
Your question is well timed for everyone, as we enter the season of sniffles, but will especially help those with compromised/hypervigilant immune systems. I do have suggestions Iâ€™ve tested and found to be of clinical value.Â
First and foremost, I strongly suggest you get a humidifier for every room of your home if you donâ€™t have a built in humidifier. Silent, cool mist humidifiers with a good capacity are best because they pose no burn risk, but ensure they are scrubbed out with mild detergent weekly, to avoid bacterial / fungal growth. They are relatively inexpensive now, and easy to operate. You basically fill them and switch them on. For more on how to measure humidity and care for humidifiers, go here.Â
In addition, I recommend diffusers running in each bedroom with a few drops of 4 thieves essential oil blend in cold season. Diffusers can be inexpensive and easy to operate, but if you want to get scientifical about which is best, you can read more here. They do not get hot and they create particulate that is very small for greater inhalation. The anti-microbial properties of essential oils are well documented, but this blend in particular contains oils that have been shown to be protective against pathogenic bacterial growth. There is even data demonstrating this blend of oils is toxic to specific breast cancer cells.Â
We tend to think of anything natural as benign and less effective than â€śpharmaceuticalâ€ť products, but in this case, the data seems to point to the contrary.Â
Thieves essential oil blend can also be added to liquid hand soaps (Dr. Bonners or other natural product is best) and a spray bottle to disinfect hands and surfaces. For even more ways to use it, go here. And for a recipe of the blend to make it yourself more economically, go here.Â
The next thing I recommend for immunocompromised individuals is to ensure you are getting a variety of home fermented foods regularly. We are just beginning to unpack the role the gut biome plays in immunity, but the current data supports a strong link. You can read more here and here.
The fermented foods I most recommend are easy to make or can be ordered through health stores or a local nutritionist. My friend Kimberly Schaumberg is a master fermenter and has great products for sale if you want to reach out to her to place an order. I particularly like her unsweetened coconut kefir. I teach classes but donâ€™t sell product.Â
I suggest coconut water kefir, goat milk kefir, coconut yogurt, unpasteurized sauerkraut, kombucha, miso, and natto – at least threeÂ sources daily. This, in addition to a sugar free (and artificial sweetener free) diet will help tremendously in building an immune system that is both stronger and better regulated.Â
For additional help regulating immunity I also recommend a group of herbs called adaptogens. They are uniquely able to help the immune and nervous systems mount healthy responses to stressors and then calm back down in interval states. In short, they help the body adapt! A blend of these together is most potent, preferably in a tincture form that can be dropped into water 2-3x a day in season.Â
The herbs that are most beneficial depends on the specific needs of the person, so I prefer to make custom blends for clients. But I generally like Astragalus, which has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine to support immunity and for liver disease and to build healthy blood. Itâ€™s now being used as an adjuvant to chemotherapy for cancer, because of its effect on the immune system and it has been associated with significantly increased rates of survival.Â
Other adaptogens I like include the little known jiaogulan (now being researched for many health conditions, including anti-cancer effects) and medicinal mushrooms, like reishi. Licorice is a great choice when there are also digestive upsets, especially if paired with herbs that amplify those characteristics. You see, with herbs the final product is more than the sum of the parts because they work synergistically. This is why custom compounding is of such value for specific issues.Â
I also suggest supplementing with cod liver oil. The health benefits of essential fatty acids are well documented (omegas), but cod liver oil is unique in that it also possesses the converted form of vitamin A – which is the most potent antiviral of all the vitamins, and vitamin D, which we now know plays an integral role in immunity. There is even research suggesting it is the interplay and ratio of these 2 that is most important in immune responses.
Many people turn to vitamin C as their go-to antiviral and antioxidant for cold season (thanks to the work of Linus Pauling – the father of the term Orthomolecular!) but the advantage of vitamin A and D over C is that it takes copious vitamin C – taken in divided doses – to do what vitamin A and D can. Why? Vitamin C is water soluble and excreted by the body whenever the level gets high. Unless you are doing lipid C or intravenous, this makes it hard to get to and stay at therapeutic levels. Whereas Vitamin A and D in their natural (oil) form are not so easily excreted, so they continue to circulate around the body doing their work, and itâ€™s easier to get to and maintain a therapeutic level when itâ€™s needed. For this reason it is essential to work with a knowledgeable practitioner if you are going to take any more than the recommended dosage and absolutely do not exceed that dose during pregnancy or if there is any risk of pregnancy.
To quote one study, â€śVitamins A and D have received particular attention in recent years as these vitamins have been shown to have an unexpected and crucial effect on the immune response. We present and discuss our current understanding of the essential roles of vitamins in modulating a broad range of immune processes, such as lymphocyte activation and proliferation, T-helper-cell differentiation, tissue-specific lymphocyte homing, the production of specific antibody isotypes and regulation of the immune response. Finally, we discuss the clinical potential of vitamin A and D metabolites for modulating tissue-specific immune responses and for preventing and/or treating inflammation and autoimmunity.â€ťÂ
In fact, vitamin A is essential in healthy immunity and â€śhas demonstrated a therapeutic effect in the treatment of various infectious diseasesâ€ť. Many of us may not get enough of it, especially the more potent, fat soluble form found in cod liver oil. This form is also found in liver and eggs. (Superfoods!) As a supplement, I suggest getting EVCLO from Rosita because itâ€™s currently regarded as the industry leader in safety and purity. My recommendations are based on client needs and include close supervision, because RDIs are, in my professional opinion, outdated and arbitrary.Â
In addition, I recommend raising vitamin D3 to optimal levels, as monitored by your healthcare practitioner through a blood test. The data on the health impacts of vitamin D keep pouring in, but I donâ€™t feel supplementing with vitamin D orally has the same impact as suntanning. I canâ€™t recommend people fly to Florida or use tanning booths to get their vitamin D 3x a week for short intervals, but that is my preference and I have seen better outcomes with it than with oral supplementation. There is now data to support this.Â
My dietary recommendation is for an ancestral diet that does not contain refined foods and seriously limits grains, as these are particularly excitatory and inflammatory to the immune system. This diet focuses on nutrient density of foods, as opposed to food trends, and I always advocate food intolerance testing when the immune system is hyper activated. There is almost always a strong link.Â
I know itâ€™s a learning curve to change to this diet, but, as with any diet, once you have 10 good recipes under your belt you are really well on your way. And 10 is a very doable number if you have help in the early stages of transition. Hacks from a pro make the going so much easier. I offer family health subscription plans that make this very doable for regular folk. It costs less than most families spend on take out and convenience food per month.Â
Last, but not least, I advocate that everyone with compromised immunity do seasonal parasite cleanses, as well as explore the therapeutic application of anti-inflammatory herbs like CBD (with professional guidance), and work closely with a licensed homeopath, which is more powerful for correcting immune derangement than any medicine I have tried. There are a number of other things you can do when a cold is first contracted, but these are my recommendations for cold and flu (and other disease) prevention for the immuno-compromised.Â
Thank you again for your great question, Hannah. If readers have their own questions, I invite them to contact me via email.
Nonie De Long is a registered orthomolecular nutritionist with a clinic in Bradford West Gwillimbury, where she offers holistic, integrative health care for physical and mental health issues. Check out her website here.
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