Fight the Flue with a Functional Medicine: As the cold winter months approach, many people prepare for the inevitable flu season. It has become almost a societal norm to expect to get sick during this time of year. However, what if I told you that frequent illness during the winter months is not normal? It’s a sign of a weakened, overwhelmed, or dysregulated immune system. It’s also a time when numerous individuals seek help from my functional medicine practice due to the lingering and debilitating effects of Long COVID. Long haulers often grapple with a multitude of distressing symptoms, including chronic pain, brain fog, dizziness, insomnia, shortness of breath, chest pain, and chronic fatigue. In severe cases, Long COVID can even affect the body’s organs. Fortunately, through the principles of functional medicine and targeted supplementation, I’ve been able to assist clients in not only strengthening their immune systems but also eradicating these debilitating symptoms. In this blog post, we’ll explore some common causes of a weakened immune system during flu season, offer some tips on how to bolster your defenses, and invite you to consider a Functional Medicine Comprehensive Health Assessment to reverse any systemic imbalances that can lead to a weakened immune system and consequently to getting often sick. In the battle against seasonal flu, it’s crucial to explore alternative approaches to boost your immune system’s defenses. Functional medicine offers a holistic perspective that delves deep into the root causes of weakened immunity during flu season. By adopting a functional medicine approach, you can not only ward off the flu but also enhance your overall well-being, including the health of your skin.
Understanding the Causes of Weakened Immune System
Before we dive into how to fight the flu with a functional medicine, it’s crucial to understand why so many people fall ill during the flu season. Several factors contribute to a weakened immune system:
- Poor Nutrition: Consuming a diet lacking in essential nutrients can impair your immune function. Diets high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats weaken your body’s defenses.
- Blood Sugar Dysregulation: High blood sugar dysrupts immune response and makes nearly every system work harder, including the white blood cells of your immune system.
- Chronic Stress (emotional and/or physical, physiological): acute stress enhances innate immune system but chronic stress weakens innate immune function which can make you more susceptioble to infections. Physiological stress can come from things like food sensitivities, gut imbalances and toxins.
- Lack of Sleep: Inadequate sleep disrupts your circadian rhythm and reduces the production of immune-supporting cytokines and antibodies. Insomnia is an overt driver of systemic inflammation!
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Physical inactivity can weaken the immune system by slowing down the circulation of immune cells in the body.
- Vitamin D Deficiency: Many people experience reduced sun exposure during winter months, which can lead to a deficiency in vitamin D, a key player in immune system regulation. Please note that vitamin D is not the only key immune nutrient.
- Dysbiosis: Imbalances in gut bacteria can negatively impact your immune system since a significant portion of immune cells resides in the gut.
- Toxins: Exposure to toxins (e.g. heavy metals, mycotoxins, mold, environmental toxins) can weaken the immune system over time.
The Impact of Flu on Skin and Aging
In addition to its effects on the immune system, the flu can also negatively impact your skin and accelerate the aging process. In periods of combating an infection or the flu, the skin experiences a decreased ability to regenerate, limited healing capacity, and compromised barrier function. The mechanisms behind this phenomenon are multifaceted:
- Inflammation: The flu triggers a systemic inflammatory response in the body by increasing pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-6 and agressive IL-17. Agressive IL-17 causes skin deterioration
- and is involved in the development of psoriasis. Ageing is associated with mild but persistent and chronic inflammation. This leads to a break down of collagen and elastin, causing wrinkles and sagging skin. IL-6 is associated with the Covid. It also contributes to a leaky gut and disruption in the blood brain barrier which can lead to the Long Covid symptoms like insomnia, dizziness and brain fog.
- Dehydration: High fevers and excessive sweating during the flu can result in dehydration and impaired barrier function, which can leave the skin looking dull and accelerate aging process.
- Weakened Immune Response: A compromised immune system due to the flu can make your skin more susceptible to infections and slow down the healing process of existing skin issues.
- Stress: Illness-induced stress can increase the production of stress hormones, which can contribute to abarrent barrier dysfunction. This ultimately can lead to skin problems like acne, eczema, atopic dermatitis, rosecea, vitiligo and psoriasis.
Tips to Protect Your Skin During Flu Season
To counteract the negative impact of the flu on your skin and overall health, consider the following tips:
- Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, which helps maintain skin elasticity and radiance. Adding electrolytes will help to restore minerals that are lost during excessive sweating.
- Skin Care: Use a gentle, hydrating skin care routine to soothe and protect your skin. Avoid harsh products that may further irritate your skin during illness. I invite you to book a First Time Facial appointment or a Virtual Skincare Consultation with me. This will allow for a thorough assessment of your skin and the development of a tailored at-home skincare regimen designed to suit your specific skin type, condition, and requirements.
- Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods like berries, fatty fish, and leafy greens into your diet to reduce inflammation.
- Stress Management: Practice stress-reduction techniques to minimize the skin-related effects of stress during illness.
- Rest and Recovery: Allow your body sufficient time to rest and recover, as this will aid in skin healing, rejuvenation and overall well-being.
Tips to the Fight Flu with a Functional Medicine
Now that we’ve identified some (not all!) of the common causes of a weakened immune system, here are some tips to help you avoid falling ill during flu season:
- Nutrient-Rich Diet: Focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, organic, grass-fed animal proteins to provide your body with essential vitamins and minerals.
- Manage Stress: Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, massage, deep breathing through the nose and relaxing facials into your routine.
- Prioritize Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to support your body’s immune functions. This is non-negotiable as sleep is the only time when your body repairs itself and can effectively fight infections as well as detoxify. If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep or waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall asleep, it may be essential to delve deeper into the underlying factors contributing to your sleep disturbances. In my role as a functional medicine practitioner, I can assist you in identifying the root causes of your sleep issues and implementing effective strategies to address and reverse them.
- Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity to boost circulation and enhance immune cell activity.
- Vitamin D Supplementation: Consider vitamin D supplements during the winter months, or consult with a healthcare provider to check your vitamin D levels. When you sign up for my functional medicine program, we can also check your vitamin D levels as well as other macro- and micro-nutrient levels that play a key role in immune function.
- Gut Health: Support your gut health with probiotics and a fiber-rich diet to maintain a balanced microbiome.
- Detoxify Your Environment and Your Body: Minimize exposure to environmental toxins by using natural cleaning products (I for example use only vinegar and soda in my home) and filtering your drinking water. Prioritize season functional medicine detox to safely and effectively reduce toxic burden and overload in the body that can lead to immuno-suppression.
Functional Medicine: A Comprehensive Approach
While these tips can help improve your immune system and protect your skin during flu season, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. That’s where functional medicine comes in. As a Functional medicine practitioner I take a personalized approach to healthcare, addressing the unique factors contributing to your health concerns. A Functional Medicine Comprehensive Health Assessment can identify specific imbalances and guide the development of a tailored functional medicine program.
Functional medicine focuses on optimizing your body’s natural healing mechanisms by addressing the root causes of illness. Whether it’s through dietary modifications, targeted supplementation, stress management, or lifestyle adjustments, a functional medicine program can help reverse systemic imbalances that leave you vulnerable to seasonal illnesses and other imbalances, dysfunctions or disease dynamcis that pre-dispose you to frequent illness, creating a vicious cycle.
This flu season, don’t resign yourself to the idea of falling ill as a seasonal inevitability. Recognize that frequent illnesses are signals of an underlying issue within your immune system. By embracing the principles of functional medicine and following the tips provided, you can strengthen your immune system and enjoy a healthier, symptom-free winter and enjoy your life with your family and friends to a full capacity!
If you’re ready to take control of your health and invest in a comprehensive approach to immune system optimization, I invite you to schedule a Functional Medicine Comprehensive Health Assessment appointment. Together, we can work towards reversing imbalances, enhancing your well-being, and ensuring that flu season is no longer a dreaded annual occurrence but a time of vitality and resilience.
Book your appointment today to start your journey towards a healthier you.
In my role as a corrective skincare therapist, I employ non-invasive, results-driven facials that deliver visible, long-lasting improvements. As a functional medicine practitioner, I guide clients in pinpointing and rectifying the underlying factors contributing to a range of health concerns, allowing for their reversal. It is indeed possible to regain a sense of vitality and well-being! My expertise encompasses:
- Immune Health
- Skin Health
- Allergies/ Asthma
- Gut Health
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Autoimmune Conditions
- Bone Health
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