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Stop playing games with your health. Do this instead.

Updated: Mar 20

Avoid these common mistakes. Instead use these simple strategies for fighting dangerous germs and staying well over the winter and your lifetime.






Playing arcade games on the boardwalk at Rehobeth Beach is one of my favorite childhood memories. . Almost all of the flashing, whirling, beeping games in the arcade were enticing to me but the one that sucked up most of my precious tokens was whack-a-mole.. No matter how hard or how fast I pounded those little red-capped moles they just WOULD. NOT. STAY. DOWN. Whoever invented that game had to have been more than a little sadistic. It's a good thing there was an 8-inch padded covering to that hammer because I swear I would have pulverized the entire game on more than one occasion. The fact that every time you beat down one of those pesky critters another one would pop up just as fast made the challenge both frustrating and addictive. Many years later I recognized this familiar game in my practice of medicine. I saw a very similar, frustrating, approach being used to treating diseases. Let me explain.


Throughout the typical person's lifespan he encounters endless pathogens with the potential to significantly disrupt his state of health. In fact, entire medical specialties have been devoted. To characterize and wage war against these medical miscreants. The list of antibiotics available to combat these pathogens is nearly inexhaustible. Since the days of Louis Pasteur the war on germs has been waging. Unfortunately it's a war humans may be losing. For a number of reasons the germs are becoming resistant to our chemical weapons. When we knock one down with an antibiotic hammer another one pops up smirking right in its place.


Perhaps we need another strategy.


It turns out that we have a very powerful tool at our disposal. It's an ally that is well-suited by design to do battle on our behalf. Rather than beat back germs using only one approach, it employs a strategy to gain the upper hand on multiple fronts at once. That tool is our human immune system. With numerous different strategies including skin, saliva, hydrochloric acid, complement proteins, natural killer cells, and T and B cells, the human immune system has an army of specialists equipped to keep us well.


It's impossible to overstate the importance of a healthy immune system. Most health problems I see in the office have come about because of a dysfunctional immune system. You likely know that susceptibility to colds and infections is impacted by the health of the immune system but what you may not realize is that so many other diseases are as well. Diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's, and even depression are significantly impacted by a person's immune system. Trying to find the right medicine to treat so many different germs, infections, and diseases to contend with can feel a bit like playing whack-a-mole at the boardwalk arcade. It's exhausting and you won't outsmart those persistent invaders.

Instead, let's start by making sure our immune system can do its job well, Here's a few ideas to start with.


Tip #1 - Don't Skimp on Sleep

Most people notice that they feel better when they get a good night's sleep. This usually means about 8 hours or from 10 pm to 6 am. What many people don't realize is that even one poor night's sleep can significantly impair your immune system function. Several studies have demonstrated a strong correlation between getting adequate sleep at night and proper immune system function. In particular, a study in the journal Nature highlighted the connection between sleep loss and aberrant cellular function associated with cancer, infections, and autoimmune susceptibility.


Tip #2 - Dump the Donut


Most people know what sugar causes cavities. Cavities, or dental caries, are a result of a combination of factors including wearing of tooth enamel by certain types of bacteria as they metabolize sugar. Sugar impacts the risk of infection not only in the mouth but throughout the entire body. For example, excessive sugar consumption has been linked to reduced macrophage activity, an important component of a well-functioning immune system.



Tip #3 - Embrace the Cold


For a variety of reasons cold water exposure for health has been growing in popularity. I try and do this practice regularly. One of the researched benefits is an improvement in immune function. Swimming in cold water has been shown to improve numbers of natural killer cells which have many important functions including helping destroy cancer cells.


Tip #4 - Nourish Your Body


Proper nutrition is essential to fighting off diseases. The proper function of the immune system is dependent on a well-nourished body. Minerals like zinc, Magnesium, Calcium, and Iodine are important for our immune system. Foods grown in or on nutrient-rich soils are higher in these and other nutrients. Taking a supplemental source of nutrients like a multivitamin may add extra insurance.


Tip #5 - Keep Moving.


Our bodies are made to move. Daily activity keeps our immune system stronger. For some people joining a gym is the best way to get consistent exercise. Other people do well with productive activities like farm chores. I find that physical activity with a group keeps me more consistent.


Staying well in our modern world is more difficult than it should be. Forces are working against our good health. Cheap, poor quality, engineered foods (not food) make eating well a challenge. Technology makes it easier to be sedentary. We don't have to move our bodies like we used to. We have machines to do the work for us. Lights, screens, and time demands make sleep and the sun more elusive for many people. We are more comfortable but we aren't healthier. Chronic diseases are on the rise. They don't have to be. We know what our bodies need to be well. We understand that our immune systems can work on our behalf. We need to give this system every chance we can to work for us. ur bodies are under constant assault. Chemical and germ invaders have the potential to wreak havoc with our health. We are not left defenseless. Our bodies stand ready to defend us. If we offer the basics our bodies will do the rest to keep us healthy. Play games. Not with your health.


Be Well.


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