Bug vs. body! Can you improve your odds against bacteria, virus and fungi in this cold/flu season?

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It’s getting to be that time of year where we start huddling together back in our houses to avoid the cold and wet weather. This will bring us into contact with more germs (especially viruses) that cause the cold and flu. Hence we enter the cold and flu season. This is a busy time of year and it can be difficult to be sidelined for days to a week with lingering symptoms. I predict that we will also see a spike in Covid cases as well, so it’s really important to get quality information so you know how to prevent illnesses and also how to deal with them when they present. The first step is making sure that you are taking the steps to make yourself as healthy as possible. If you haven’t already, make sure to sign up for my Free Simple 3 Step plan to recover your health. 


To discuss the cold and flu season, we must talk about the different perspectives of different health care professionals. The contemporary healthcare model believes that when we become exposed to germs, meaning viruses or bacteria, that we become sick. This is also the same model that cannot explain when certain members of a household get sick and others do not. The idea that if someone is exposed to a pathogen they will get sick is not only inaccurate, but also dangerous as it causes fear and panic in people. We have recently seen this with the global pandemic which effectively shut down the world for the last 2 years. Could this have been handled differently with better information and less anxiety? Maybe, but I want to give you a different perspective.


We have existed together with microbes since the beginning of time. In fact, our mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, the organelle that is found in every cell and is responsible for generating ATP which our body uses for fuel, is now understood to have started as bacteria. Dr Lynn Margulis discovered that mitochondria and bacteria shared a lot of similar traits, including making their own DNA and having similar components of their membrane. With further research she proposed that our mitochondria started out as bacteria that we created an “endosymbiotic” relationship with.1 Endosymbiotic means a mutually beneficial relationship where one organism actually lives inside the other. We see this in many plants and animals, so it makes sense that this would happen for us as well. 


With the discovery of antibiotics and substantial use of antibiotics in the 1940’s and 50’s, humanity created an all out war on microbes, specifically bacteria. Unfortunately, this practice has led bacteria to build resistance and create even more dangerous strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, mostly seen with the Staphylococcus genus. This is now referred to as MRSA or Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus and is a direct result from overuse of antibiotics. However, this is not just from overuse of medication. These days every detergent, soap, lotions, and even toothpastes boast that they are 99.9% effective against all bacteria, and we celebrate this as basking in the clean and wonderful modern world of superior technology. You can probably guess, this is not a good thing. 


As we continue to eradicate all bacteria, we fail to recognize that, yes, while there is harmful bacteria, there are also beneficial bacteria that exist everywhere, including in our own gut which help breakdown food to allow it to pass through the gut barrier and become nutrients. Who knows how many bacterial species we have made extinct and the consequences of their destruction? We are actually starting to see some of the fallout from our actions. While these antibiotics and antibacterial substances are used to destroy potentially harmful microbes, they don’t actually work on all microbes. Microbiology is the study of microbes and focuses on 3 basic classifications: bacteria, fungus/mold/yeast, and viruses. Naturally, these three keep each other in check through competition. What happens when we remove the competition? 


Over the last few decades, and especially in the last 2 years, we’ve seen a rise in viral diseases. As we raced to destroy all bacteria, we inadvertently provided room for viruses to emerge and evolve. We have seen the reemergence of Ebola, Zika, Swine Flu, Avian Flu, SARS, MERS, and most recently Covid.2 With an increase in antibacterial products and antibiotic use, we not only create stronger, more resistant bacteria, but we make room for more virulent (stronger) viruses. The bigger problem is that the conventional medical model doesn’t have a way to address viruses other than through immunizations as a “preventative” measure. In reality, the flu vaccines are about 30% effective against the current strains. This is the current narrative if you look to the conventional medical model for information. Don’t worry, this is not the only story. 


The opposite of this perspective, which was discarded when microbes and antibiotic medications were discovered, is that the body itself has the most robust system to prevent infection with these microbes. You may have heard of it. It’s called your immune system and it carries the innate wisdom of your ancestors as well as the ability to adapt to new and unknown substances. When we talk about the brilliance of the human experience, the immune system is at the top of the list! Now, immunology is a complex and detailed branch of study, so we won’t be diving in too deep, but it’s good to know that your immune system exists to differentiate between what is you and what is not you. An example is a virus or bacteria making it into your system somewhere it’s not supposed to be and your immune system recognizes that this is not part of your normal physiology and takes steps to remove the pathogen. In fact, most of the symptoms we experience from an infection is directly involved with our immune system killing the pathogen instead of from the pathogen itself! 


The big difference in perspective becomes what we focus on. Do we focus on the microbe, or do we focus on the body? This is called bug (microbe) versus terrain (body). The current medical world is intensely interested in destroying the bugs themselves. I’m in favor of strengthening the terrain to be able to fight them off, the way nature intended, using the immune system. This really is the reason not everyone gets sick when exposed to someone who has an infection. We all have variable levels of protection from our immune systems based on innumerable factors. Instead of trying to use medications to fight the bugs, it’s time we started focusing on ourselves and creating a terrain that is inhospitable to these pathogens. 


The stronger our immune system is, the more adept it is to find microbes and destroy them. So, how do we strengthen our immune system? This is where nutrition, movement, targeted supplementation, and sleep become major influencers of our health. Ensuring that we eat proper meals with ample animal protein and healthy fats as well as an abundance of vegetables supplies the right nutrients needed to not just improve our immune system, but allow our bodies to recover and heal quickly. 


I talk about lifting heavy things quite a bit because it has so many benefits to our bodies. When we stress them just a bit, we cause the creation of myriad hormones and chemical signals to stimulate a robust immune system. As your muscles are broken down to rebuild (see my blog post on skeletal muscle), they produce a variety of cytokines, white blood cells, and hormones that help regulate and bolster the immune system. A particularly important hormone called Growth Hormone is produced in this process. It works to build muscle, boost metabolism, and burn fat. It also promotes the growth of glands which produce important immune cells, called T cells. These cells find foreign substances in our body to destroy them. 


Targeted supplementation with probiotics not only helps to maintain proper levels of beneficial bacteria in your body but it also provides the building blocks necessary for a fully functioning immune system. I have found great success with my formulation of Recovery Probiotic I with my patients. It has been specifically formulated to enhance recovery of your digestion and natural immune response, and I highly recommend you have it in your cold and flu regimen. 


A good night’s sleep is crucial to allowing your body to heal and recover after a full day’s worth of damage. Sleep also increases the production of Growth Hormone which again allows for improving our immune system and preventing unnecessary illnesses. It’s important to follow a good sleep hygiene plan which addresses all the aspects needed for a good night’s sleep. For instance, getting 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is recommended. You want to get to sleep by 10 pm and know that every hour you sleep before midnight counts as 2, so that on nights before big days, you may want to get to sleep a little earlier. You want to be sleeping in a completely dark room with no residual lights from any electronic devices. Last, put away all screens (TV, phone, computer) 1 hour before sleep to ensure that your brain has time to slow down and rest. 


There is one more important topic to discuss about the cold and flu season. We’ve just talked about ways to strengthen your immune system to resist illness from primarily viral pathogens. Even with all of that, you will get sick. It is inevitable that you will come down with something at some point. I like to say, focus on strengthening your immune system, but no one is Superman. More importantly, getting sick each year allows your body to run its immune system to ensure that it is functioning correctly and allow it to replenish depleted stores. Getting sick is actually a beneficial way to avoid getting sick. Roughly once a year I like to catch something to give my immune system a complete run and allow my body to overcome illness instead of suppressing it. This is a great way to return strength and power to your body. 


There are so many ways to prevent and overcome the cold and flu season, so many that cannot be covered here. Make sure to sign up for my 3 Simple Steps plan to recover your health and follow me on Instagram to get more ideas on how to improve your health. Keep showing up to your routine and prioritizing your health and responsibilities. Consistent attention to yourself will pay dividends when you most need it! 



1) https://www.ruf.rice.edu/~bioslabs/studies/mitochondria/mitorigin.html

2) Bhadoria P, Gupta G, Agarwal A. Viral pandemics in the past two decades: An overview. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. 2021;10(8):2745. doi:10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_2071_20

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