How to Avoid Being Ill
Last updated: September 2020
Do you ever wake up happy, only to look in the mirror and feel the slow-mo realization that this morning, you have woken up with a lot more psoriasis spots than you had gone to bed with the previous night?
That was me this morning.
In the last three weeks I have had a tummy bug, a sore throat and this morning I have realized I now have a common cold. My psoriasis worsens every time I have an infection, this may be the same for you? So what can we do when we find ourselves run down to try to protect ourselves from a run of infections that progressively undermine our attempts to heal?
The importance of staying healthy with psoriasis;
Ideally, you live a life where you eat well, exercise regularly and invest time in personal development and spiritual activities to help keep your health in tip-top shape.
The advice for avoiding infection is true but rather droll.
- washing hands frequently
- avoiding ill people
- getting enough sleep1
If you, like me, have not quite mastered the balance of the idyllic life, or your toddler sneezed in your mouth, then you need strategies to help when getting buried under the weight of repeated infections, and both the physical and psychological symptoms of worsening psoriasis.
Stay healthy the natural way
It seems that the key is to act quickly. Most of these strategies are most effective if used within 24 hours.
Honey and lemon is a classic combo given to soothe cold and flu symptoms, and a perennial favorite for sore throats, for good reason. Honey is thought to have anti-bacterial properties, and in addition to the fact lemon makes sugary honey water much zingier, it also contains vitamin C (though see later comment on this).
Other natural anti-antibiotics include Garlic, Ginger, Clove and Oregano oil.2,3,4 A word of warning- just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is safe. Concentrated garlic, for example, has been shown to increase bleeding at higher doses.2,3 Speak to a qualified professional before going down this route.
We already know this but would it help you had some hard facts? A lack of sleep reduces how well the immune system can fight infection. This is so pronounced, that if you are sleep deprived when you have a flu vaccination, your body response is much less pronounced. The result? The flu vaccine is less effective. Your body produces less of the infection-fighting T cells when you don’t get enough rest.4,5
If you have had a bad nights sleep, that can hammer down your resistance to infections. If this happens to you then The National Sleep Foundation recommends taking two naps (of no longer than 30 minutes). one in the morning and one in the afternoon, to minimize the impact of reduced sleep on the immune system.3,4 Therefore if you're already ill- sleep!
Can you think of a more enjoyable way to heal? So if your planning on going to work and surviving on caffeine and sugar then you're making the wrong choice for your health.
The jury's out on this one as studies have shown very inconsistent findings. In 100 studies in mammals, just over half showed a benefit. So not massively convincing wither way.6 Interestingly, it seems a possible reason for these mixed results is that Vitamin C is more effective on specific subsections of the population.6
Measuring days off, one study shows that while vitamin C supplementation reduced the number of days ‘at home’ with infection in the childfree adult population; for those people living with young children- a notable 46% reduction in stay at home days was observed when compared to the placebo group.
For those of us vulnerable to repeat infections, there are potential benefits too- with a 43% reduction in days at home (compared to 13% for people who report 0-1 infections per year).6,7 So if you have kids, or are prone to multiple infections then vitamin C may be beneficial.
What about Zinc?
Zinc is one of those nutrients that reminds us that supplementing to support immunity is not as simple as we think. More is not necessarily better. There is a strategy for immunity known as Nutritional Immunity- where the body hides the nutrients that the invading pathogen needs to grow. Zinc is one of those nutrients. There are several systems in place which remove Zinc from the blood and plasma and hide it from bacteria such as E.coli.
Immune cells called macrophages also have complex strategies- they can hide zinc away to kill a pathogen or interestingly, and selectively, use the excess to kill it- which t does to ill the bacteria that causes tuberculosis.8
So there is a chance that if you supplement zinc while you have an active infection, you may hinder the bodies own strategies to combat the infection, by increasing zinc levels in the blood and plasma. There is no doubt that zinc is essential for immunity, but this is better combated by having a healthy diet full of zinc-rich foods before you become infected rather than supplementing once it's too late.
While less interesting than consuming honey- it is an essential part of healing. Why? because you can't rest properly if you feel awful, and staying hydrating can help with the following:
- thick mucus
- warm liquids may loosen mucus -and who doesn't want loose mucus?
The double bonus is you can dissolve honey and vitamin C rich lemons into hot water and achieve multiple steps in one go. Just don’t burn yourself.
Basic tips to stay healthy
This may seem counter-intuitive but all of the three infections in three weeks have come via my kids. While increasing my sleep, reducing my stress and managing my dehydrating caffeine addiction will help, them smothering me in the microbial soup they have been cultivating at nursery and at school places me at a significant disadvantage.
Especially as caring for them while they are ill, usually ends up with me being sleep deprived and therefore at maximum vulnerability. If I manage them- if I can reduce their chances of being ill, I can help myself. Therefore my children's' set bedtimes will now be enforced.
Obligatory eating of vegetables will commence from this very minute and sending them to grandmas for a sleepover any time their best friend vomits in the playground is definitely worth considering.
I always get ill in March. Always. Which is also after several months of not manufacturing vitamin D - a vitamin associated with immune function.9 A study that measured the number of children who became infected with influenza showed that those who were taking Vitamin D3 supplements were less likely to become infected.10
Another study looked at the vitamin D levels of people diagnosed with upper respiratory tract infections and found that they had lower concentrations of the active form of vitamin D circulating in their blood.9
Before you speed off to the Pharmacy, remember Its important to check your vitamin D levels first, as you can overdose. This can be done via your doctor or a number of independent laboratories. Definitely, one for future consideration if you have little access to the sun and have low vitamin D dietary intake.
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