With flu season upon us, most will seek out a flu shot. But this isn’t the only way to boost your immune system. The flu shot alone is not enough to keep you illness free all winter. The flu is just one of many illnesses we can catch. We’ll take a look at some of the natural ways to boost your immune system to help with the flu and other colds and the limitations of the flu vaccine.
The flu shot, a educated shot
There are many strains of the flu. There are so many we can’t fit them all into one vaccine. Instead, scientists take an educated guess on what strains are likely to circulate months before flu season. In March they decided what to strains to include this year and started production of the vaccine.
Typically the vaccine is somewhere between 40% to 60% effective, but some years it’s less. There is no way to know for certain how effective this year’s shot will be, but on average it’s only effective about half of the time.
Timing of the shot is also a factor. A new study found that the chance of getting the flu increases about 16% every 28 days after getting vaccinated. However, officials are hesitant to change the timing recommendations. Marc Lipsitch, PhD, an epidemiology professor at Harvard had this to say,
“My informal sense of the literature [is] that the suggestion is strong enough that if people could reliably get vaccinated the week or two before the flu season starts, they’d be better protected. The more complicated thing is the trade-off between putting it off and not doing it at all,” he said.
So, what can we do to make sure we’re up for the task of fighting off the flu?
Boosting the immune system
The immune system fights off microscopic organisms, like viruses and bacteria, and is a very complex system. Vaccines work by artificially triggering the immune system to target a specific virus, but that is simply one part of the whole system. There are many ways to aid the other areas of the immune system help keep us healthy.
Our best defense against getting sick is simply keeping the micro-organisms out. Known as the first line of defense, our skin and other barriers keeps most of the “germs” out. Washing our hands, covering sneezes and coughs are all important habits that can help prevent the spread of these micro-organisms.
After the first line, comes the second and third lines. This includes immune cells that seek out invading microbe and kill them. There a a number of ways to help boost these areas.
- Getting enough sleep and reducing stress
- Sleep deprivation and stress suppresses the immune system by overloading your body with cortisol.
- Avoid excess alcohol
- Excess alcohol impairs the immune system and can make you vulnerable to lung infections.
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts
- Catch some rays
- Sunlight triggers vitamin D production in our bodies, a vitamin necessary for our immune system.
- While a study showed that supplemental vitamin D may reduced the risk of influenza A, it’s important to talk with your chiropractor or doctor before starting a supplement regimen.
Chiropractic and the immune system
Not only can your chiropractor help you with a healthy diet and vitamin supplements during flu season, but their adjustments can be beneficial to immune function. There is a growing body of research supporting this connection.
Chiropractic can boost the immune system by improving the communication between the nervous system and immune organs and cells. Through adjustments, chiropractic can remove interference in the nervous system and restore proper functioning of the immune system through various neuroimmune mechanisms.