How to “Boost” your immune system and avoid the need for antibiotics
Recently there has been a lot of talk in the literature about using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. If used excessively antibiotics cause severe and dangerous diarrhea and fungal/yeast infections throughout the body. Bacteria can also become resistant to the antibiotic and therefore render it useless.
One thing we can do to avoid the need for antibiotics is to make our bodies as strong as possible and therefore resistant to opportunistic infections. We can do that by getting enough sleep, eating fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C and antioxidants (it’s not the same from pills) and not abusing our bodies with drugs and alcohol. We also need to be careful not to expose ourselves to unnecessary germs when possible. Washing hands often and wearing a mask in high-risk situations can help.
But as a pharmacist I know a few tricks of the trade to reduce infections. One of these tricks is to take vitamin C tablets when our bodies are under stress from too much exercising, from flying in an airplane, from lack of sleep or whatever. Vitamin C doesn’t seem to help much when taken every single day in high doses, although an orange a day works wonders. Save the vitamin C supplements for special occasions.
Another trick is to take certain probiotics. There are numerous studies in the literature of probiotics reducing the rate of cold and flu infections. One study gave probiotics to children ages 3-5 years old who were in daycare and exposed to recurrent colds and flu. The children who took the probiotics had fewer colds of shorter duration. Leyer 2009 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19651563
The name brand yogurt used in this study is called Howaru protect.
Other studies of probiotics that work similarly do not have commercially available products that we can buy at the store. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20803023 Berggren 2011
Howaru protect is the only product I know of at this point in time that is on the market and proven to boost the immune system in a medical study. This is good to know because probiotics are NOT interchangeable. You cannot substitute a generic brand and expect the same results. But rest assure I’m on the look-out for more products becoming available so stay tuned.
To save money and still use expensive probiotics judicially I’d recommend making your own healthy yogurt by using the store bought yogurt as a starter. You can google to process.
Other products that can SIGNIFICANTLY reduce the rate of lung infections are the drugs….singulair, accolate, and zyflo. These products are life changing for people with asthma and similar conditions. These drugs require a prescription so you’ll have to ask your doctor if these drugs are right for you.
To shorten the duration of the flu you can try zinc supplements, but I don’t use them and the medical studies don’t impress me. I feel that minerals are dangerous in excess and there are implications for high dose zinc that we haven’t yet found out about. But restoring a zinc deficiency does save lives in third-world countries where children would normally die at a high rate from pneumonias and diarrhea. That’s how zinc got started, but I’m not sure its goodness extends to healthy, well-nourished people in developed countries.
Echinacea is another product I do NOT recommend because it is not tested to be safe or effective. It could be grass clippings and no one would know the difference. Even if you bought it from a reputable company there are too many variables. Is it the leaves, stems, roots, or flowers that have the active ingredient? And which species? There are several different varieties. The choices are too many to confirm with medical studies.
Another way to avoid infections is to get vaccinated. Vaccines are good for a society as a whole and the negative side effects do not out number the good benefits. I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding this issue, but the fact is vaccines have eliminated fatal and crippling diseases like polio, measles, pertussis, rubella, diptheria, and mumps.
If you get the flu despite all these measures… the best thing to do is take comfort measures and wait for symptoms to pass. Tylenol, motrin, decongestants, nasal sprays, warm salt water, and throat lozenges do wonders. (However, I’d avoid corticosteroid nose sprays like Nasacort because you can develop a bacterial sinus infection as a result of using them in the presence of a viral infection like the flu. I know it sounds complicated….just don’t do it.)
The cheapest and most effective thing you can do to get well fast is drink lots of fluid. In the hospital it’s amazing what a simple IV infusion of inert water can do. It’s nothing special and the same results can be obtained from drinking a lot of fluids. It really does make a difference. You might want to put yourself on a schedule of 8 ounces every two hours. That’s equivalent to an IV infusion at 120 ml/hr which is standard.
It really is true that antibiotics do nothing to reduce the symptoms of the common cold. (Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013 Jun 4;(6):CD000247)
Now if that isn’t enough information to process, you can read a blog on clearing up minor skin infections before they become ragging skin infections. https://gundasiska.wordpress.com/?s=why+doesn%27t+the+world+kno And after that blog you will have all my drug secretes on dealing with the malevolent little bacteria.