Your Immune System and The Common Cold
A cold may be a rather unpleasant experience, however it is not all that bad once you understand what is happening inside your body. For one thing we are all constantly bombarded with bacteria and viruses that have the potential to get us very sick and even kill us. Beyond that, we all have cancer cells in ourselves, which could, if they get the chance to grow out of control cause serious harm. Colds, especially those accompanied with a fever however, do a great cleaning service to our bodies. Knowing this may make the symptoms more tolerable.
Most people get between two and four colds a year. However, with a strong immune system, the amount of colds can be significantly reduced and the symptoms may not be lasting as long and cause much less discomfort.
Colds can be caused by more than 100 different viruses that are in the air we breathe or they are on things we touch. They enter the body primarily to our nose, mouth and eyes. Viruses can infiltrate the protective lining of the nose and throat, which triggers an immune response. That can make the throat sore, cause headaches, and stuff up the nose, making it hard to breathe.
For one thing colds happen when our defense system cannot effectively withstand the constant attacks of the ever-present viruses and bacteria. As those viruses fight with the anti-bodies from our defense system, they produce mucus (which are dead cells, bacteria and viruses), which we know as the stuff that comes from our lungs and from our nose.
Very often an infection starts with a sore throat. The virus infects the epithelial cells that line the surface of the throat. There they start to replicate. The cells then send out chemical messages to the defense system, calling for help. As a result the defense system jumps into over-drive. Lots of immune cells speed towards the infected area, and release other chemicals in order to slow down and kill the infection. This is when you get a sore throat. Some of the chemicals released by the immune system cause inflammation so that the immune cells can pass through the cell layer more easily, which can also result in soreness.
When your body senses a viral attack, your defense system immediately kicks into action causing the glands on the sides of your neck to produce antibodies, which typically makes the glands swell up and tender for a few days.
Depending on the severity of the infection, your body may heat up. It does so with the intent to make the environment as inhabitable as possible to whatever virus or bacteria that is causing trouble. Viruses and bacteria thrive in 98.6 degree Fahrenheit. But they are sensitive to temperature changes and, generally speaking, can survive only in a narrow range.
The body will run a fever when blood cells are working extra hard fighting off the infection. A fever is a great defense mechanism of the body. The high temperatures make the body extremely inhospitable not only to viruses and bacteria but also to other pathogenic microorganisms and cancer cells.
So, a fever really is not such a bad thing at all. I do not, even in my young children treat a fever with medications unless it stays at 103-104 degree for more than a few hours. I see it as a thing that helps their bodies to get rid of undesirable invaders that have no business hanging out there. The important thing in a case like that though is to provide the body with much liquids as well as much extra calcium, in order to prevent a fever-shock. During fevers, the body consumes huge amounts of calcium, which it will draw out of our teeth and bones unless otherwise provided.
What can you do to cut your odds to get a cold?
- Provide your body with enough rest. Sleep is incredibly important for a strong defense system. During sleep our bodies recover from mental, emotional and physical stress that we experience during the day. No being able to get enough sleep sets our defenses down, making the body more prone to infections.
- Eat a balanced diet, including lots of healthy foods. I suggest aiming to get 9-12 servings of anti-oxidant rich fruits, vegetables, legumes, herbs and spices.
- Avoid dead food, such as any kind of processed foods, especially those that contain hydrogenated oils, sugar and flour. All of them will rob your body of vital nutrients that are necessary to digest and neutralize the toxins.
- Enjoy warm drinks (teas) and foods like soups, broths and other healthy foods that provide comfort. Use spices that have warming properties, like garlic, ginger, hot peppers, cardamom and cinnamon.
- Use nutritional supplement sensibly according to your individual needs, preferably with whole food concentrates! It is not true that you can get all the nutrients you need with a balanced diet. The sad reality is that our soils are depleted and the content of enzymes, minerals and vitamins has significantly dropped compared to values of 20-30 years ago.
- Saunas, especially infra-red saunas (they penetrate the body deeper) are wonderful and very effective ways to induce an “artificial fever”, causing the body to heat up, killing, viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells. Almost every culture has been using sweat lodges for centuries.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise helps increase your antibody production, making you less likely to get a cold.
- Spend time outside. A minimum of 20 minutes is recommended (even in cloudy whether) to provide the body with sufficient Vitamin D. Vitamin D is required support your immune system. It is also needed to help your intestines absorb calcium more efficiently, thus building stronger bones. It further helps lower blood pressure, reduce insulin-sensitivity. Lack of vitamin D has been associated with various forms of cancer.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after you come inside the house and before you eat.
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