Summer is starting to wane and back to school is upon us. Soon young people everywhere will be congregating in classrooms where they will tell of their summer adventures, and share the germs they have collected along the way. These bugs don’t then stay at school, they come home for the whole family to share.
As the days get shorter, darker and wetter, the tendency for seasonal illnesses goes up.
Then cold and flu season is upon us. For some families, like clockwork, what seemed to be viral infections at the start with clear and cloudy mucus turning into bright yellow and green gunk signals time for antibiotics, again, year after year.
So why do some families and people seem to have this recurring pattern but not others? Good rest, low stress, and good nutrition are keys to a healthy immune system.
When summer ends in Oregon, so does most of the vitamin D made by our skin exposed to sunlight. D is a key nutrient for a healthy immune system. It’s impossible for most people working or attending classes inside, to receive the winter sun exposure to maintain D levels. If you have an equatorial skin tone, its hard to get enough sun here
even in the summer. The answer should be obvious – supplement with a daily oral dose
of vitamin D3.
Stress comes with the busyness of fall. Today’s children have a tendency to be overbooked without enough down time. For parents this schedule is yet another stressor, arranging all those carpools, drop offs and pickups into the flow. Work/school-life balance is a challenge in our “do everything” culture. What is the limit, and what is balance is a one individual and family at a time question. Just acknowledge this can be an issue, so you can be self-aware and self assess. Restful sleep is even more important in fall and winter. If everything is planned tightly on the schedule, allowing enough rest and relaxation and a regular bedtime is a must. Lack of quality sleep is another stress on the body, weakening the immune system.
Even the most dedicated fresh, organic and local eater finds the fall and winter months a challenge in Oregon. Leafy green vegetables like kale and Swiss chard, some which could be growing in your own garden and flower beds, are available all winter here. These are important fresh vegetable sources that deliver vitamin C, B vitamins and importantly, beta carotene that your body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is another immune nutrient that supports viral defenses in particular. Those who supplement daily with high quality multi-vitamins have fewer sick days, and are less likely to require antibiotics. Avoiding highly processed and sugar added foods supports your immunes.
So what is the problem with antibiotics every year anyway? The first is this correlation: if you repeatedly need them, you’re not a picture of health.
Antibiotic over use, some would say even frequent use of antibiotics, has a number of issues. Bacteria continue to learn and share how to be antibiotic resistant. It’s a non-stop struggle in our health systems to have effective antibiotics available to treat life threatening illnesses. Antibiotic use comes at a potential future cost to your health through disruption of your personal microbial ecosystem, also known as your microbiome. Besides digestive issues, altered microbiomes are implicated in skin conditions, and more and more, autoimmune diseases, possibly even diabetes and dementia.
If the signs on the path to needing antibiotics is well known for you, there are naturopathic herbal medicines that can make a big difference in the early stages of the process. If you need antibiotics, you need them, and we will prescribe them. There are families in our group practice that have jumped on the early intervention approach with herbal medicine, and have broken the cycle of needing antibiotics every year.
Now is the time to get ahead of the need for antibiotics. Our doctors are ready to help you with a full health review, and some tips to reduce the chance you’ll need antibiotics in the year ahead. If you do get sick, don’t wait until antibiotics are the only way out, come see us sooner, and you’ll find there are way more options available.