winter weather reduce you to an achy, sniffling mess? Luckily,
there are ways to ward off seasonal sneezing without visiting
the doctor. The following programme of dietary changes and
stress relievers will bolster your immune system and help
you escape the ravages of cold and flu--or at least recover
from them more quickly.
let's talk about food. Simple sugars, like those you add
to coffee or find in soda, can inhibit the ability of phagocytes,
or white blood cells, to pursue and devour foreign antigens
such as viruses and bacteria--a process referred to as phagocytosis.
Hydrogenated or trans fats, present in margarine and common
baked goods, can also interfere with metabolism, ultimately
disrupting our normal immune processes. Avoiding these sugars
and harmful fats, or at least replacing them with more healthful
alternatives such as the natural sweetener stevia and olive
or canola oils, can improve the body's resistance to illness.
nutritional supplements can also help. They work by triggering
the activity of natural killer cells, which serve as one
arm of the immune system's attack on virally infected cells
and tumour cells. Some also boost T-cell counts, which are
involved in specific immune reactions and produce antiviral
substances called interferons. One of the best cold-preventers
on the market is echinacea, a supplement with immune-enhancing
and anti-micro bial properties. Other immune stimulants
include selenium; betacarotene; vitamin E, vitamin A; and
garlic, usually consumed in deodorised capsules and with
combinations of other Chinese herbs including astragalus,
glycerrhiza and codonopsis.
already come down with a cold, many of these remedies can
also be taken to help lessen the illness' severity and duration.
To treat acute infections, take echinacea for one to three
weeks at the earliest sign of symptoms. Golden-seal also
works this way, though, unlike echinacea, it should not
be taken for more than a few weeks. Despite conflicting
studies, zinc lozenges appear to be helpful in relieving
cold symptoms if you start popping them early.
third weapon against winter illnesses is an understanding
of the mind-body interaction. Chronic stress can suppress
immune system activity by leading to the excess production
of stress hormones such as corticosteroids. Stress inhibits
the ability of lymphocytes, key immune cells, to proliferate
or divide in response to foreign antigens such as viruses;
it also squelches the activity of natural killer cells.
This can make you more susceptible to infection so that
a previously inconsequential exposure to a pathogen now
leads to illness.
major stressors such as bereavement, depression and chronic
anxiety can decrease immune response, even everyday hassles
can compromise your immune system. A more relaxed approach
to life's ups and downs goes surprisingly far toward protecting
the body from infection. If you recline by the fire, frolic
in the snow and enjoy the holidays, you may just survive
the winter sniffle-free.
published by Psychology Today
Kenneth Bock, M.D., is the co-founder of the Rhinebeck
Health Center and the Center for Progressive Medicine in
Albany, New York, where he specializes in integrative medicine.
He is the co-author of the book The Road to Immunity (Pocket
could be good for you
are being recruited by chocolate makers to try to prove
that cocoa is good for you.
Callebaut, one of the world's largest chocolate manufacturers,
is sponsoring the research after tests on animals showed
that cocoa protected cells from disease and prevented ageing.
company hopes that the work, if published, will transform
chocolate from a product associated with obesity to a health
food people feel good about eating.
studies suggest that it might have reason to be optimistic.
Cocoa beans contain polyphenols, a chemical compound present
in all fruits but found in a particularly concentrated and
active form in the base product of chocolate.
scientists in America have found that cocoa could increase
bone density, while the University of California reported
that cocoa flavonoids decrease the oxidation of LDL cholesterol,
often called "bad cholesterol", which can lead
to heart attacks.
36 volunteers in France and Canada will begin a six-week
test next month to assess the benefits of chocolate. They
will first have all the polyphenols cut from their diet
and then be placed on three types of chocolate; one normal,
one with added vitamin E and one with additional polyphenols.
Samples will be taken to measure levels of the good "antioxidants"
in the blood.
Poelman, spokesman for Barry Callebaut, said that he hoped
the research would show that chocolate had ten times the
"good" effects of polyphenols found in other foods.
"This is what we found when we did the tests on rats
and we are keen to replicate that research," he said.
Callebaut is unknown in Britain but is a big supplier of
chocolate which is sold under well-known names.
Oliver Wright, Health Correspondent