9 Ways A Functional Medicine Doctor Supports His Immune System

Functional Medicine Practitioner By William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr. Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, is a leading functional medicine expert who specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Cole is also the bestselling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.
9 Ways A Functional Medicine Doctor Supports His Immune System

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We are living in historical times with the novel coronavirus pandemic. The need to keep our immune systems strong to fight off infection and improve our resilience is critical now more than ever. While social distancing and hand hygiene are the best ways to protect yourself, there are some things you can do to support your immune function as well.

As a functional medicine practitioner, here's what I have been doing lately to support my immune system:

1. Saunas

Sauna bathing has been a long-practiced ritual among many cultures as both a social activity and health therapy. Recently, researchers have been looking at the relationship between regular sauna sessions and their ability to decrease the risk of respiratory diseases like pneumonia. If fact, one study showed that a person's risk went down the more sauna sessions a person indulged in per week.

This could be due to the fact that saunas activate heat shock proteins in our body. These proteins, which are produced in response to stressful conditions such as intense heat or cold, increase the antiviral activity of prostaglandins: PGA1 and PGJ2. These work to inhibit RNA-based viral replication to slow, or even halt, the development of a virus in your body.

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2. Manuka honey

Not all honey is created equal, and this specific variety, found only in New Zealand, is the most powerful honey you can choose to help fight off illness. Manuka honey is particularly high in propolis, which contains a large number of flavonoids that support your immune system. This varietal has been studied for its ability to fight off the influenza-A virus.

So next time you start to feel sick, make a cup of tea, add a heaping spoonful of Manuka honey, and sip away!

3. Cinnamon

I often suggest cinnamon to my patients with blood sugar issues due to its ability to help stabilize blood sugar levels, but it also works as a next-level immunity supporter. Cinnamon is packed with antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage.

One lab study even demonstrated how cinnamon might actually help block the powerful influenza virus strain (H7N3) from entering the body's cells. So sprinkle some in your morning oats, or swirl it into a latte for a delicious way to show your immune system some love.

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4. Garlic

Allicin, the main active compound in garlic, has protective properties that have been shown to fight the development of pneumonia and sinus infections. Garlic has also been shown to be effective at fighting the influenza virus and the common cold. In fact, two separate clinical trials showed garlic supplementation prevented and diminished symptoms of the common cold. 

5. Astragalus

This root adaptogen is one of my go-to's for boosting my immune system and fighting off invading bacteria or viruses. Traditional Chinese medicine has been utilizing astragalus for years for this exact purpose, with recent research confirming its ability to fight off the influenza virus. You can find astragalus in capsules or in powdered form to add to teas and smoothies.

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6. Echinacea

This natural remedy is found in many products in the cold and flu aisle of your pharmacy. Echinacea is both antibacterial and antiviral. It can also work to block the release of inflammatory cytokines, which further perpetuate viral infections and slow the body's healing process.

7. Ginger

Ginger root contains compounds like flavonoids, gingerol, and terpenoids that work to halt production of pathogenic biofilms. Fresh ginger has been shown to prevent the human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) from attaching to cells and forming plaque in airways.

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8. Fresh air

During the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, doctors found that open-air therapy dramatically improved the health of patients. Decades later in the 1960s, the Ministry of Defense confirmed the therapeutic benefits of fresh air. Referred to as "Open Air Factor," fresh air was shown to help to kill off bacteria and the influenza virus compared to indoor air, both during the day and during the night. 

9. Sunlight

We can learn a lot from the 1918 flu pandemic about what to do and not to do to support the immune system. One other thing to glean from history is the healing potential of sunlight. Putting sick patients out in the sun helped by deactivating the influenza virus and pathogenic bacteria. 

Sunlight also allows our body to produce vitamin D, responsible for thousands of different pathways needed to fight off illness. In addition sunlight helps our body's natural circadian rhythms, which emerging research suggests can regulate our inflammatory response to viruses.

William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, is a leading functional-medicine expert and a Doctor of Chiropractic. He...
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William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, is a leading functional-medicine expert and a...
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