After writing 5 Invisible Lows that Trigger Recurring Colds and 6 Must-Have Immune System Boosters, I decided to write one more article that would add yet another piece to the puzzle of why you keep on getting sick and how you can stop getting a cold every few weeks.
This post will deal with the lesser known, yet extremely common, causes for recurring colds: food energetics, food sensitivity, and cycling of the nervous system. To review nutritional causes and metabolic causes go to the respected articles.
If you can’t wait for a full reveal on how to beat recurring colds please grab “Ousting Sniffles,” the book that can help you build an iron-strong immune system step-by-step.
Let’s start with the obvious…
Common cold is caused by a cold virus, duh…
Everyone knows that colds including recurring colds are caused by a common cold virus. That’s simple to understand, but…
Shut down that air-conditioner!
Hanging around in cold environment seems like an obvious trigger for catching a cold. Common cold infection is called “a cold”, because (everyone knows) we can catch a cold from being exposed to cold, duh…
Nothing surprising about that. Common cold virus loves chilled bodies and you are more likely have an intimate encounter with it during winter than summer.
URT viruses like it cold
Common cold virus isn’t unique about its temperature preference. Many viruses that reside in upper respiratory tract also like their environment on the chilled side. As a result, many chest infections appear in the cold season, between October and March. That’s more or less when the official cold and flu season happens: from late fall to early spring.
Stop living in a refrigerator!
But just because respiratory viruses prefer cold winters, it doesn’t mean you are immune to getting a cold during summer. You may get one after sitting under an air conditioner, while working long hours on basement renovation, or after completing a shift in a freezer.
Where you live and work is of great importance to your immune system. If you are frequently exposed to cold environment, you may be prone to getting sick more frequently. Make sure you factor in your life circumstances and lifestyle habits into the equation, when trying to stop the never-ending string of infections.
Catching a cold isn’t the same as having a weak immune system
Don’t make a mistake thinking that if you catch a cold in summer you must have a weak immune system. These two don’t have to go together. Thus, before diagnosing yourself with a case of a low immunity, check your environment for cold spots (especially wet cold), and drafts. Sometimes, the most obvious reasons are the one that are likely to be missed.
1. Excess Yin
If you have never met a TCM (traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor you may not be familiar with the Yin/Yang principle. But you should, because a little bit of Yin/Yang knowledge may make those frequent colds disappear.
As you already know, common cold virus hates hot hosts (I don’t mean beach bodies, but high BBT). It will always be more interested in colder entities.
One way to make your body less virus-friendly is to keep it warm. Fortunately, you don’t have to crank up the heat and go bankrupt from the resulting hydro bill to do so.
There is another, more budget friendly method to keep your body heat-shielded. The method is simple and does not require a thermostat. It only requires reducing Yin, and increasing Yang foods on the menu.
Energetic signature of foods
Every single food we eat has its own Yin/Yang signature. To take advantage of the food energetics you just need to know which food is Yang (warm), and which food is Yin (cold). If you are prone to recurring colds you should not follow “healthy foods” advice with an thoughtless impulse.
It’s because many “healthy foods” like fruits and vegetables are Yin and thus contribute to body cooling. As a result these “healthy foods” may not be health-promoting, because they may actually contribute to, instead of diminish, the frequency of colds. Ref
Here are examples of common cooling (Yin) foods are:
- soy products
- most fruits
- many vegetables eg. carrots
- anything cold, frozen, or from a fridge
Symptoms that can suggest excess Yin are:
- General chilliness
- Fatigue, lethargy, or sluggishness
- Low motivation, apathy
- Water retention and paleness
- Excess weight or weight loss
- Low libido
- Lower backache, pain in the knees,
- Slow pulse
- Pale tongue
- Low progesterone
- Morning diarrhea
- All symptoms worse in the cold environment
Lifestyle solutions for increasing Yang in the body:
What can you do to tick the Yin excess off your list? Here are a few suggestions:
- reduce Yin food
- increase Yang foods
- increase exposure to sunshine
- keep warm
- add more animal products to your diet (these are mostly Yang)
- avoid plant-based diets (these are mostly Yin)
2. Food intolerance
You mustn’t just follow healthy advice just so, because not all healthy foods are healthy for everyone. And that’s why following generalized “healthy advice” without individualized scrutiny seldom leads to good results.
“Healthy advice” seldom takes into consideration food allergies, food sensitivities, and food intolerances. Advice on reducing frequency of recurring colds is not any different.
Food allergies, food intolerances
Food allergies and intolerances play a huge role in recurring infections, because they directly tap into immune system resources. Both food allergies and intolerance stimulate the immune system in the “wrong” way. The trouble is to find which foods bother your immune system.
While food allergies are easily pointed out by a medical doctor, discovering food sensitivity can present a challenge. Few medical practitioners are versed in food intolerances, and those who do may not have access to specialized test.
You don’t have to get anaphylaxis to have a food issue
Be aware that our medical system has very little interest in food intolerances, because (unlike food allergies) they do not cause life-threatening emergencies, anaphylactic reactions, histaminic rashes, wheezing or fainting. Thus, when your doctor says you aren’t allergic to any food, you still may have food intolerances.
Why knowing how you handle ALL food matters? Because even thought food intolerances or sensitivities don’t present an immediate danger, they can cause a whole lot of health problems, including ruining the immune system.
Beware of hidden food sensitivities
Food sensitivity is a big body stressor and can lead to chronic inflammation and nagging health issues resulting from depletion of nutrient, detox and hormone reserves. Watch out for three food sensitivity patterns:
When to suspect food sensitivity
Food sensitivities are common in people with recurrent colds. If you keep on getting sick, you should start looking for food sensitivity that may be undermining your health efforts.
People with food sensitivities are usually surprised by the discovery. Food sensitivities aren’t obvious. To the contrary, they are difficult to spot. Don’t think that if you have food sensitivity you are going to get cramps or diarrhea the minute you eat the offending food. You won’t. Food sensitivities are different than food poisoning. Symptoms may not show up right after eating at all!
Food sensitivities are sneaky because the symptoms, instead of neatly following food bites, may show up days after you ate that “contaminated” dinner. As an example, gallbladder spasms may show up four hours after a meal and constipation two days afterwards. Bloating may persist for several days after with peak showing up a day or two later.
Symptoms of food sensitivities aren’t limited to the digestive tract. Food sensitivities may cause a number of symptoms that have nothing to do with the gut.
Here are common non-digestion symptoms that may suggest food sensitivities:
- Chronic fatigue
- Unusual changes to blood pressure
- Sudden changes to body temperature
- Erratic or changes in the heart rate
- Anxiety, irritability
- Erratic handwriting
The most common foods blamed for food intolerance are:
How to test for food intolerances
Fortunately, there are test specifically designed to detect food intolerances. Likely your MD does not know about them and may be caught off guard when asked for such. Don’t get upset. You can get such tests on line.
Once you order the kit, you need to send your blood spot sample back to the lab. After testing for the antibodies, the lab will send you the results back. Depending on the lab and the kit they may test anywhere between 100-600 foods.
Sending blood sample for testing is the only way to correctly identify food sensitivities. Computerized tests, tests that rely on touching skin, are quite inaccurate and are frequently subject to (aware or unaware) operator manipulation.
How to reduce food sensitivities
The obvious answer is to avoid the foods you are intolerant to. Although reasonable, I don’t support this method entirely. Avoiding dietary offenders without healing the gut won’t bring success over long-term. It’s because food intolerances are usually the end-effect, not the cause of the problem. Increased gut sensitivity and permeability may come from gut irritants that have nothing to do with food intolerances.
To speed up the process you can consider a gut restoration protocol which may include IS probiotics, soluble fibre, demulcents, or other gut rejuvenators . But be patient. Gut healing isn’t an overnight event. It may take months to see results.
3. CNS cycling
Do you recall coming back from a vacation only to get sick? Post-vacation sickness isn’t unusual. Google says it is due to temperature changes, stress of travel, new germs, and excess booze, but I thing there is one more reason that hasn’t been mentioned.
Nervous system cycling
The nervous system has two branches: sympathetic and parasympathetic. These are turned on and off regularly in order to keep the body in homeostasis. To simplify, let’s say that sympathetic gets to work when you are “under stress”, and parasympathetic does its job when you are “relaxed”.
A healthy body alternates between these two states without your conscious input or awareness. Under ideal circumstances the cycling is mild and does not cause any issues. The sympathetic and parasympathetic peaks are short and low like a ripple of water on a lake during a mild breeze.
Stressed to the max
But real life is far from idyllic and far from being mild on the nervous system. Everyone is stressed out: the job, the money, the kids, the mortgage, the student loan. Stress may especially peak before vacation, because of the outstanding projects that need to be finished.
For the body, stress is a serious business. In the wild it frequently means survival or death. That’s why the body does not spare efforts and mobilizes all necessary resources with zero delay at the time of fight or flight.
Self-regulation and homeostasis
But the body is smart and can self-regulate. The more severe the stress phase the harder the body will work to restore a healthy homeostasis. So, in order to even things out the body needs to follow up the strong catabolic (stress) phase with an equally strong anabolic (relaxation) phase. And that means eating, sleeping, relaxing, and detoxifying.
Eating and lying on the sofa while doing nothing may sound exciting, but that’s not what the parasympathetic activation is all about. While a mild parasympathetic cycling (vagotonia) may equal relaxing on a beach, a more severe case of parasympathetic activation won’t feel that good.
It may feel more like a wet fatigue rather than good times while sipping margaritas. Look out for tiredness, runny nose, dizziness, bloating, foggy head, bladder frequency, hunger, excess saliva, water retention, diarrhea, etc. Ref
Remember, the body will always try to re-establish homeostasis. If you lead a stressful life and then go on a stress-free vacation, watch out! The body will sneak in its healing moment right then and there.
Chronic stress = recurring infections
Do you live a stressful life? Then, chances are you are going to get sick more often. Stress phase cannot continue forever. So, either you subject yourself to voluntary relaxation on a regular basis or involuntary wet fatigue will follow when the stress goes too far.
If you don’t allow for sufficient parasympathetic activation expect that the body will force you into it. Your recurrent colds may be just that important red flag warning that your body is short of recuperative time.
How to reduce chronic stress?
Here are a few tips you can follow:
- recognize stress better
- stop being a workaholic
- establish boundaries
- establish priorities
- learn effective stress coping techniques
Where do you go from there? Well, it all depends what’s easiest for you. You can start reducing frequency of colds by either testing for food sensitivities, increasing Yang foods, or reducing chronic stress. You can also improve nutrition status your body by following steps outlined in this post or by addressing the invisible body lows explained in this post. Alternatively, you may want to see what “Ousting Sniffles” have to say about effective home and natural remedies for recurring colds and weak immune system.
Stay in good health and if you aren’t sure what your health benchmark is, you can test it right here. No lab requisition required.