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How to Stay “Cold-Free” this Winter

common coldThe common cold is a leading cause of lost work and missed days from school. Experts estimate that Americans get more than one billion colds per year. On average, an adult may get as many as four colds in one year.

And yet, if you listen to the CDC, just about anyone who has the symptoms of the common cold should be treated as though they have H1N1 (formerly known as ‘Swine Flu’). I suspect they do this so they can inflate the already over-hyped CDC statistics.

Anyway, recent studies have shown that when you come down with ‘flu symptoms’ such as chills, fever, cough, runny nose and malaise, the odds of your actually having the flu are at most 17%, and could be as little as 3%. The majority of the time these symptoms are caused by a virus or bacteria.

With much of the country already experiencing record cold temperatures and even heavy snowfall (part of Global Warming, I presume…), I thought we should review a few basics. First, people get sick at this time of the year not because the climate is changing and suddenly there are pathogens floating around that aren’t with us during the summer, but because our bodies’ ability to respond is altered. Additionally, as the temperature drops, people tend to congregate indoors and spend less time in the sun. Our Vitamin D levels begin to drop, which makes us more susceptible to viruses, and as we spend more time inside with other people, viruses spread more easily.

Both the common cold and the flu are caused by viruses, so using antibiotics is not only ineffective, but dangerous because your body can gradually build up immunity to those antibiotics, making it more difficult to fight off bacteria when you really need to.

Normally your body can fight off a virus, but if your immune system is impaired, the virus may get the better of you. In fact, some people believe that a significant number of the population are walking around with impaired immune systems, making them more likely to get sick, and to get more sick, than they would if they were healthy.

Your immune system could be compromised and you wouldn’t even know it. If you have a Vitamin D deficiency, if you’re eating too much sugar or too many grains, if you’re not getting enough sleep or exercise, or you’re under a great deal of stress, your body can respond in ways that weaken your ability to resist a virus.

Fortunately, some of these problems are easily solved. The best source of Vitamin D is natural sunlight. A few minutes a day in the sun can dramatically raise your Vitamin D levels. This may not always be practical, so you’ll want to supplement with Vitamin D tablets. Keep in mind that the recommended daily doses are the bare minimum, so doubling or tripling the dosage might be just what your body needs, and poses no health risk.

The other threats to a healthy immune system might require some lifestyle changes. If you are feeling under the weather, you should avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners and processed foods. Sugar is like an anchor on your immune system, so avoid it at all costs if you’re trying to fight off a cold.

Similarly, if you’re not feeling well, getting sufficient sleep can be one of the best things for you. Most adults require eight hours of sleep. Some people need more. It is very rare to find someone who can remain healthy on less than seven hours of sleep. Your grandmother who claims to go to bed at 9pm and wake up at 3am every morning ready to go may be secretly sneaking a two-hour nap in the afternoon.

Our bodies were designed to work and exercise is great not just for warding off sickness but for sleeping well and overall health. That doesn’t mean you need to start climbing mountains or spending an hour a day at the gym, but just a walk around the block, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking around the mall is enough to keep your body in a little better ‘fighting’ condition.

Of course, most of us are dealing with a lot of stress, and more than likely you’re not going to be able to eliminate all the stress from your life. You’ll find that sleep and exercise will help eliminate some of the symptoms of stress, but if you’re really weighed down by issues in your life, consider making changes to eliminate them. Your health is one of the few things you can’t really replace once lost, and you have to ask yourself whether the cause of all your stress is worth it.

Finally, don’t forget prayer. If you spend some time in prayer every day, putting your hopes, dreams, worries, and concerns before the Lord, can’t hurt you, and you might find it works a lot better than complaining to a spouse or seeing a therapist. Nobody ever got hurt by praying! So here’s your checklist for good health:

1. Get enough Vitamin D, either the natural way or with supplements.
2. Make getting enough sleep a priority!
3. Get some exercise every day
4. Don’t forget to spend some time with the Lord!

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