Thoughts going into this cold and flu season...

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the University of Cincinnati hospital lately. It’s a fascinating place. Our family has been spending time there as a result of my 21 yr. old nephew, John Alan, enduring treatment for a traumatic brain injury. I say enduring because as it turns out, the treatment has been every bit as traumatic as the blow to his head from a falling tree. Actually, more traumatic. I won’t go into those details here and to be fair, people are, well, just people. They aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. Medical mistakes often come at a significant price, not just in dollars and cents.

If you wanted to be statistically accurate, our healthcare system is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Heart disease and cancer are our “leading” killers, but in reality most die during/from the treatment and not necessarily because of the disease. In other words, if you gave chemotherapy/radiation to a healthy individual they would get sick. If they make healthy people sick, why would we expect that they would make sick people healthy? I know this may cause some to bristle a bit, defending what they believe to be true. The reality though, is that the stats don’t lie. The World Health Organization ranks the US as 37th of 42 industrialized nations for our system. Over 9 million people are admitted to the hospital annually for problems created by their prescription drugs. We are 5% of the world’s population and take over 60% of the world’s prescription drugs. Over 200,000 people die each year as the result of medical care. That’s like 3 jumbo jets crashing every day and killing all aboard. (Not malpractice, that’s a separate category.) These numbers are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Today, as I sat in the hospital, I read an article regarding hospital acquired infection, or HAI. These are infections that only thrive in that environment. John Alan has currently survived at least 3 of them. Certain pneumonias, MRSA and staph thrive there. This article, also published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, stated that these infections cost/generate 9.8 billion dollars annually. They estimate 1.7 million people get an HAI and over 99,000 die from them annually.

So, as “cold and flu season” approaches, let’s look for a “why” regarding the proliferation and fear of germs. For starters, why do they thrive in hospitals? You’ll be hard pressed to find a more antiseptic place! They use more antibacterial hand gel, soap and spray than anywhere else on the planet. If killing germs were the answer, these infections wouldn’t stand a chance.

But germs are intelligent. Not smart, intelligent. They don’t migrate on rickety boats to America or board planes from Germany (pun intended) to come and infest US hospitals. They live here, year round, and hang out only where the conditions are suitable, like flies. Those pesky flies seek to annoy only in certain conditions. Flies need certain conditions where they can grow, breed and feed. Ever see a fly in winter? Not outside. Wrong conditions. That occasional winter indoor fly is slow, dazed and easy to swat. In spring, summer and fall, though, he and millions of his family run amuck and drive us crazy. Dung heaps, trash cans, road kill, a melting pop sickle on the sidewalk…all perfect conditions for flies. Here’s a question. Are flies attracted to the trash can, or the trash in the can? If you want to make flies leave the can, just get rid of the trash and wash the can. The fly population in that vicinity will drop dramatically! You could just use fly spray and kill all of the flies in the can, but what happens if you leave the trash in it? Yep, more flies tomorrow.

Germs are similar to flies. They need food and shelter. That’s it. The conditions have to be just right and they thrive like any other creature with the right environment. Take away either food or shelter and they have to move on or die. Polar bears don’t live in Florida for the same reason. Germs love warm, dark, and moist. Know what their favorite food is? Sugar. Bummer, huh?

So, if the hospital is so sanitary, how do these infections take root and affect so many people? Are they attracted to the big, beautiful, new modern facility, or the condition of some of the people in the facility? You’ll notice the doctors and staff don’t get MRSA, pneumonia, and staph. In fact, they handle the blood, mucus and feces of plenty of sick people every day and don’t seem to acquire life threatening illness on a regular basis. If they did, I would suggest nobody would want those careers. (Don’t say vaccinations. That’s another blog to come.)

Why, then, do these virulent germs pick on the patients? Because their conditions are perfect for flies, uh, germs. Every surgery requires antibiotic treatment. Every infection requires antibiotic treatment. Every cut, scrape or abrasion…antibiotics. Every antibiotic treatment kills germs, including good germs called the immune system. We’ve been lead to believe germs are so scary and yet 90% of them are necessary to keep us alive! Wipe out the immune system and more bad guys can move in and set up shop. (See the fly spray example above.)  In fact, the bad guys, the 10%, have gotten much meaner because of the overuse of antibiotics. Ever notice that one child in the house gets a cold and the other doesn’t? Or seen the sore throat or ear ache return upon completion of the 1st, 2nd or 3rd round of antibiotics?

The solution is simple. Not easy, but simple. Ready? Take away their food and shelter.

1) Get checked by a Doctor of Chiropractic. Studies show people that get regular chiropractic care have 200-400% stronger immune function than those that don’t.

2) Probiotics, and other essential nutrients are a must, but they’re more effective if the body’s running well. Some nutrients and foods that researchers believe may enhance the immune system are readily available in a variety of healthful foods. Try adding these immune-boosting items to your daily meals: 

  • Vitamin C-rich foods, like citrus fruit and broccoli 
  • Vitamin E-rich foods, like nuts 
  • Garlic 
  • Zinc-rich foods, like beans, turkey, crab, oysters, and beef 
  • Bioflavanoids, which are found in fruits and vegetables 
  • Selenium-rich foods, like chicken, tuna, eggs, sunflower seeds, and brown rice 
  • Carotenoid-rich foods, like carrots and yams 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, found in nuts, salmon, tuna, mackerel, flaxseed oil and hempseed oil

3) Removing germ's favorite foods, in the form of sugars and grains, is also wise.

4) According to the National Institutes of Health, hormones, like cortisol, that hang around during chronic stress can put us at risk for obesity, heart disease, cancer, and a variety of other illnesses. Take time out of your day to do a relaxing activity you enjoy, like journaling, meditating, praying, going for a jog, or talking to a friend on the phone. 

5) Drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces every day!  Water helps to cleanse and detox the body, including germs. By keeping your body system hydrated, you can enhance your virus-fighting potential.

6) Get enough sleep, typically 7-8 hours. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants at least 3 hours before you go to bed to ensure a restful night's sleep. 

So as the “season” approaches, do your homework. If you need more information about caring for your spine and nervous system or good general nutrients, we can help. It’s your body. It’s your family. It’s also your responsibility to do what’s necessary to take good care.

Until next time, Live Well.

Dr. Terry McCoskey

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