How does my immune system fight the FLU?


You are out to lunch with your friend, enjoying a refreshing iced tea and a delicious salad with grilled salmon, fresh berries and a dressing you would kill to have the recipe for. Suddenly, your friend sneezes. “Uh-oh, you think…. Will I catch her cold?” You talk to her a few days later and find out she is holed up in her bedroom, fighting off the flu.

So, will you soon be expressing symptoms too? If the virus you were exposed to did enter your body, what is going on in there? Can you fight it off quickly? Can you avoid your friend’s outcome?


Here’s three possible scenarios that could happen when you are exposed to a virus, bug, or other attacker:

1. Your first lines of defense ward off the invader. You absorb the virus or bug and show no signs or symptoms, because your defense was too strong for it to even mount an attack on your body! We all love it when this happens. The fact of the matter is, it could happen at any time – and you never even have to know it, IF your immune system is working at its best! These first lines of defense include barriers like your skin, the acid in your stomach, nasal excretions, and even enzymes in your saliva. If it makes it to your blood stream and you have seen this type of virus before, an antibody could grab it and escort it out of your body. Or, other specialized immune cells will recognize the invader as not belonging in your body, engulf it, and eliminate it. You go on with your life, unscathed!

2. Sometimes a virus or bug makes it past those initial barriers. This is especially more common if your body and immune system are weakened or bogged down. Read more about why that happens and how to prevent it HERE! So the virus gets past your initial barriers and gains entrance to a cell in your body. From here, it uses your own equipment to replicate and produce more of itself. The nerve! At this point, it has mounted its attack and will start to spread to other cells. Now you have to mount a larger defense. You call in your army and start recruiting white blood cells, attacker cells, and killer cells in an attempt to contain the virus. These defenses start to kill off those cells that are invaded. Meanwhile, you produce antibodies to attack the invaders that are trying to gain entrance to new cells. This type of immune response requires more energy, and creates a lot of debris! It’s quite a mess to clean up. So during this, you are expressing symptoms – you are tired, you are sneezing out the gunk and debris, you might be coughing to get rid of the cells that have been obliterated in the process. This is what most people call “getting sick”, mainly because you feel horrible, and you KNOW you are being invaded. This process can be short, if your immune system is strong (read more here), or can go on and on for days, weeks, or months, if your immune system is struggling and not at top-notch! Depending on the state of your immune system, you might be out of commission for a while, or you might bounce back to your regular routine quickly.

3. If your immune system is so weak or clueless that it cannot mount the response described in #2, the virus can be invading and taking over cells and you don’t even know it. Or you just feel sub-clinically “icky” for weeks and months on end and don’t know why. This is probably the worse scenario, because you are unaware of the havoc being wreaked inside your body. How long will it take for you to rid yourself of this attack? Will you be able to at all? What future health ramifications could this pose?

No ones likes expressing symptoms and feeling bad, especially around the holidays. But if you do, be glad that your body is strong and able to fight off  your invaders. Want to avoid symptoms all together? Or maybe you are sick and tired of fighting off the same flu for weeks on end? Here are my tips for a healthier fall and winter season:

1. Get adjusted. Getting adjusted takes the stress off your nerve system, body and immune system is vital for getting through the year and staying well. You might not be able to stop the stress of hanging out with that crazy relative at Christmas, but you CAN eliminate its effect on your body! Read more HERE.

2. Drink water! Half your body weight in ounces, AT LEAST! Read more HERE.

3. Take a Vitamin D supplement. D3 is the best – this is the kind your body produces from the sun. Most people are so deficient, I recommend 5,000 IUs of extra supplementation. Need a good, high quality source of Vitamin D? Stop into our office. We sell a 100-day supply for just $30. Eat foods containing Vitamin D to get a little extra. My favorite is salmon. If it’s a nice day, go for a family walk; at least you will get a bit of sun on your face and possibly hands.

4. Avoid sugar. Everything in moderation. Instead of 3 pieces of pie this Thanksgiving, share a piece with your wife. Instead of a cheesecake bar at your office holiday party, opt for some of the fresh fruit. Instead of M&Ms in your kid’s stocking, give them a fun toy or puzzle. Making a dessert? Leave out 25% of the sugar called for in the recipe: I bet you won’t notice the difference!

Some of you might be wondering why I did not include getting a flu shot on my list. Stay tuned for my next blog to learn why!

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