Posts tagged immune system
Swine Flu update

Good Morning! Well, it seems that we know a bit more about the Swine flu this week compared to last week.  It does not seem to be quite as contagious or deadly as originally suspected.  That being said, there are new cases every single day, and it's important that we keep ourselves healthy! Are you keeping your stress level down?  Well, you should be.  Stress can down-regulate your immune system.  Yoga, anyone?  Deep breathing?  How about a nice long walk (in the rain, for those of us here in the Pacific NW)?

Influenza can be contagious from one day before symptoms appear to 7 days after the onset of symptoms.  There are several other known strains of the flu going around right now in addition to the Swine flu.  Believe me, I've seen a LOT of people this week with the crud.  It's a bit late in the "flu season" for all this to be going around, but alas--it is.  It also happens to be high allergy season, and unfortunately this makes people more susceptible to things like the flu.  Here are some reminders from the CDC regarding contamination and cleaning to help decrease your chances of getting sick.

Contamination & Cleaning

Photo of hands and soapHow long can influenza virus remain viable on objects (such as books and doorknobs)? Studies have shown that influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for up to 2-8 hours after being deposited on the surface.

What kills influenza virus? Influenza virus is destroyed by heat (167-212°F [75-100°C]). In addition, several chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics), and alcohols are effective against human influenza viruses if used in proper concentration for a sufficient length of time. For example, wipes or gels with alcohol in them can be used to clean hands. The gels should be rubbed into hands until they are dry.

What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination? Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk, for example, and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.

How should waste disposal be handled to prevent the spread of influenza virus? To prevent the spread of influenza virus, it is recommended that tissues and other disposable items used by an infected person be thrown in the trash. Additionally, persons should wash their hands with soap and water after touching used tissues and similar waste.

Photo of cleaning suppliesWhat household cleaning should be done to prevent the spread of influenza virus? To prevent the spread of influenza virus it is important to keep surfaces (especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys for children) clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.

How should linens, eating utensils and dishes of persons infected with influenza virus be handled? Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick do not need to be cleaned separately, but importantly these items should not be shared without washing thoroughly first. Linens (such as bed sheets and towels) should be washed by using household laundry soap and tumbled dry on a hot setting. Individuals should avoid “hugging” laundry prior to washing it to prevent contaminating themselves. Individuals should wash their hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub immediately after handling dirty laundry.

Eating utensils should be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and soap.

Catastrophizing and the power of positive thought.

I went to a peer review in medical research the other day that really got me inspired.  The presenters were Dr. Beth Darnall and Dr. Heather Zwickey, and they presented research they had conducted on catastrophizing pain, and it's effect on the immune system.  Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion where an individual tends to focus on the worst possible outcome in any given situation.  It turns out that thinking about our pain, particularly thinking about it getting worse actually DOES make it worse.   There are certain signaling compounds that get stimulated just by thinking about pain that feedback into pain cycles. A handful of my patients deal with ongoing pain issues, and although many health professionals now believe that there is a connection between what we think and how we feel, we're now seeing the proof of the fact that the connection exists.  Patients have been told for years that their symptoms are all in their head.  In a way, the doctors have been correct, but what we need to account for now is the reality of these thoughts producing real symptoms.

It seems that people are either prone to catastrophizing or they're not.   Women are more likely to catastrophize than men it seems.  In addition, women are more prone to pain and (lucky us!) have more pain receptors than men.  Also, as the amount of Estrogen decreases in the system (naturally during our menses and during menopause), the number of pain receptors actually increases.

The way that naturopathic medicine can be helpful in working with mind-body pain issues is via body work, lifestyle counseling, diet, and stress management, all helping the body to decrease inflammation .   Homeopathy and flower essence therapy can also be extremely beneficial to help reprogram our thoughts to focus on healing and positivity.  I urge anyone who has chronic pain to pay close attention to their thoughts around pain, health, and healing.  Your mind may be the key to achieving wellness!