I recently posed the following question to my patients: Suppose, for a moment, that you had to catch a cold. Now, obviously, no one in their right mind really sets out to do such a thing, but, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that your goal was to actually catch a cold. How would you go about doing it?
The answers I received ran the gamut: everything from spending time at a children’s daycare to kissing sick people; from riding a yellow school bus all day to, yes, licking door knobs. And while all of these answers, and the many others I heard of similar theme, are important ingredients to surmounting this challenge of catching a cold, they will all fall short if you fail to address one very critical component: the health of your immune system.
“It’s the soil—not the seed.”
In other words, is your immune system run down enough to let the Germ d’Jour walk right in and set up camp? Even Louis Pasteur, the father of the germ theory, acknowledged this fact on his deathbed when he stated that “It’s the soil, not the seed.” What he meant was it’s not the germs (seeds) that cause disease per se, but whether or not the germs are given a suitable host environment (soil) to take root and grow.
So, here, in no particular order, is Dr. Lamar’s surefire way to “catch a cold.” It’s all about finding ways to “kick your immune system in the teeth.”
1) Do not sleep. We all know that we feel better after a good night’s sleep. Research has shown that it is during sleep that our immune response enhances and does its best work at fighting off whatever germ might be attempting to invade us. So if you want to catch a cold, this is a good one to remember.
2) Eat lots of junk food. Foods that lack antioxidants and are devoid of adequate nutrient levels are known to suppress the immune system. Also pay particular attention to increasing the amount of sugary foods in your diet. Sugar is an excellent immune buster. By competing with Vitamin C for residence in our white blood cells, sugar often will elbow its way in an take the seat that was meant for this infection-fighting-vitamin. The result: a sluggish immune response.
3) Get stressed out. Why not invite the IRS to do an audit? A metaanalysis of stress research over the past 30 years seems to show that our immune systems suppress when subjected to chronic, long-term stressors.
4) Exercise? Forget it. Research has shown that consistent exercise of moderate intensity brings about physiological changes in the immune system. Specifically, during moderate exercise macrophages increase in number and circulate through the body more quickly — enabling them to kill bacteria and viruses more effectively.
5) If you don’t smoke, start! Historically we have touted that smoking suppresses the immune system. In a strange twist of events, however, research just published in the February 2009 Journal of Investigation showed that in the smoke damaged lungs of mice, the immune system didn’t suppress, but rather spiked and turned on the body and started destroying the lungs. I can hear you coughing already.
6) Do some good ol’ fashioned binge drinking. While one drink does not seem to negatively affect the immune system, three or more does. Alcohol creates an overall nutritional deficiency in the body which deprives it of valuable immune-boosting nutrients. It also suppresses the ability of the white blood cells to kill off germs and multiply. The action of killer while cells on cancer cells is inhibited, and the ability of macrophages to produce tumor necrosis factor is lessened.
7) Skip your chiropractic adjustments. Scientists now acknowledge and are learning more and more about the link between the immune system and the nervous system through the study of neuroimmunology. [Read SpinalColumnBlog: Seed or Soil?] Chiropractic’s primary aim is to restore and optimize the integrity of the nervous system. And while more study needs to be conducted, researchers have found positive immune factors are released following chiropractic adjustments. In addition, patients receiving regular chiropractic adjustments often report being sick less often and, when they do get sick, less severely. [Read SpinalColumnBlog: Swine Flu]
Once you’ve done all this, go out a lick a few door knobs. Better yet, why not lick the door knobs at a daycare. Then sit back and enjoy the feeling one gets when completing a job well done.
Contributed by Dr. Thomas R. Lamar, DC.
[originally published in KCN, April 2009; republished from Dr. Lamar’s spinalcolumnblog.com]