Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why do we cough, sneeze and experience other symptoms?

Did you know that coughing, sneezing, runny nose and eyes, diarrhea and fever are natural responses to bacteria, viruses and allergens? Your body knows to do these things to rid itself of invading organisms. Of course, many of us find these symptoms bothersome and difficult to deal with. Before you reach for that bottle of fever reducer or cold medicine, you should think about how your body functions.

The symptoms that your body exhibits when you have a cold or flu are actually an immune response. Your body coughs to clear out the lungs, sneezes & sniffles to rid the sinus passages of dirt and germs, watery eyes cleanse the soft tissue of the eye, fever is to make the body less habitable for organisms, and diarrhea is to rid the intestines of unwanted organisms.

When you look at it this way, it makes less sense to run right to the medicine cabinet and reach for an over the counter relief product, doesn't it? Your body has an innate ability to heal itself, when it is provided with proper nutrition and rest. Why would you want to stop your body from doing what it does best? Taking medicines to reduce the normal symptoms of a cold or flu can actually prolong the duration of an illness, because the body can not expel the invading organisms like it needs to. Of course, we all have responsibilities and things to do, but if we take the time to rest and allow our body to heal itself we would be healthy, and back on course much sooner.

Natural Solutions

Prevention is key, but even the most healthy person gets a bug occasionally. Maintaining a strong immune system is vital to avoiding the seasonal viruses that seem to run rampant through schools and work places. Below are some great ways to help boost your body's natural response and immunity.

Vitamin A - Vitamin A is often overlooked, but its role in immune health is not to be undersold. Vitamin A is depleted when the immune system is in high gear and fighting off bugs. Replacing this vitamin is very important for children and adults alike. Supplementation is available, and eating foods such as; carrots, spinach, apricots, cantalope, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, and other orange colored vegetables can increase your vitamin A levels over time. It is important to make sure your diet contains these foods regularly.

Vitamin C - This vitamin can not be made by the human body. It is very important to cell growth, immune health, cancer prevention and other body functions. Eating citrus fruits frequently and taking a good vitamin C supplement is necessary for a healthy immune system.

Vitamin D - This nutrient is key in immune health and almost all Americans are low on vitamin D. This vitamin is not taken in by eating foods, it is metabolized by the body when exposed to the sun. Even in the summer time we do not absorb enough of the suns rays to metabolize adequate levels of this important vitamin. Before you take a D supplement you should have your levels checked, and your physician should monitor your levels to ensure they are in optimal range. Vitamin D not only helps fight depression, autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia, it is known to reduce the risks of certain kinds of cancer, too.

Vitamin E - An antioxidant, helps the body reduce free radicals and is an essential nutrient for immune health. It is known to prevent certain types of cancer, heart disease, eye disorders and mental disorders.

In addition to the nutrients listed above there are many other nutrients that are required for a healthy body. Some of these include, zinc, iron, iodine and essential fatty acids. If you are concerned about managing a healthy immune system, feel free to stop in and talk to our staff about what you can do to increase your odds of staying healthy.

Reducing Allergic Reactions

For those of us that have seasonal allergies, immune health is very important. Allergies are a sign that the immune system is not opperating at its optimum level. Along with supporting the immune system allergy sufferers must take an active role in preparing their bodies to deal with the symptoms of allergies.

Symtom prevention - We use a product in our office which contains Quercitin, a powerful flavonoid, which helps to stabilize mast cells. Mast cells are the cells responsible for releasing histamine and other symptom producing chemicals into your blood stream. Quercitin strengthens mast cells and helps to prevent histamine release. (Histamine is what causes those annoying sinus and respiratory symptoms.) This product also has vitamin C, and Stinging Nettles Leaf, which is great to help support sinus passageway health. Bromelain is also used as an anti-inflammatory and it helps the body to absorb quercitin, along with supporting normal mucosal tissue. This great allergy fighting combination would not be complete without N-Acetyl L Cyeteine, which is also great for reducing the viscosity of mucous. We use this product for anyone who is suffering from an allergy or who wishes to prevent symptoms in the future.

Homeopathic remedies are also helpful with symptom prevention. Homeopathic tinctures which help the body build its response to specific allergens have been used for hundreds of years. There are options for broad spectrum products or to target specific allergens like cat dander or ragweed. These products can help your body become desensitized to a specific allergen so that your response is lessened over time.

Exercise is also important. In order for your immune system to operate at its optimum level, you must get regular exercise. Exercise promotes blood flow to all parts of your body, and by doing this it helps the body carry the important nutrients that all cells need to their destinations, along with carrying away things it no longer needs. Oxygen, which is increased by exercise, is vital to every cell in your body, and exercise is the best way to get it to those cells.

I hope you feel more educated about those annoying symptoms that happen when your body senses an invader. I also hope that you will think twice before you pop a pill for those symptoms in the future. Occasionally, we must do something to reduce the symptoms of a virus or allergy, but remember that by doing so we are hampering our bodies natural ability to handle things its own way.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Summer Time is BBQ Time

Did you know that illnesses like Rheumatoid Arthritis were never seen before man learned to conquer fire and use it to cook their foods? Using fire to cook meats is a fun and tasty way to make your summer meals, but keep in mind that cooking meat at high temperatures may not be healthy for you or your family.

The National Cancer Institute reports that cooking meat increases the amount of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are created when amino acids and creatine (found in muscle meats) react at high temperatures. Muscle meats, which are the meats most commonly used for outdoor cooking, are where higher levels of HCAs are found. The NCI also states that there are 4 factors that are included in HCA formation: type of food, cooking method, temperature, and time. One study conducted by researchers showed a threefold increase in the content of HCAs when the cooking temperature was increased from 200° to 250°C (392° to 482°F). The burnt portions or well done parts of the meat are higher in HCAs than the rare portions of the meat.

Most will agree that baking, stewing, poaching or boiling meats are the best ways to reduce the levels of HCAs. By cooking muscle meats slowly and at a lower temperature you can reduce the amounts of these possible cancer causing carcinogens formed during cooking.

Some believe that using spices or marinades that are high in antioxidants may reduce the amount of HCAs created when barbecuing, but you must be careful not to use marinades that are high in sugar. Making your own, is the best way to maintain control of what goes into the marinade.

From a health and wellness viewpoint, we recommend that you eat your vegetables and fruits as raw as you can, and with the skin on when possible. Meat should be cooked to kill bacteria and contaminants, but you should cook it on a low temperature for a longer period of time to reduce the HCAs. Most meats purchased at the market will tell you on the label what the temperature of the meat should be in order to be eaten safely.

If you are concerned about lessening your risk factors for cancer or reducing inflammation in your body, HCAs are definitely something you should consider when planning your summer meals. Using antioxidant spices to reduce the occurance of HCAs is a great idea, and making your own marinade can give you braggin' rights all summer long.