We are thoroughly entrenched in cold-and-flu season — it is the time of year when sniffles from those poor souls, helpless against the tide of mucus dripping from their noses, pierce the silence of the library. Is there any way we can shield ourselves from the onslaught of viral illnesses? The answer is complicated, much like the immune system itself.
The human immune system is a collection of complex cells, organs and tissues that use various defence mechanisms to protect against disease. It is a delicate, densely collected and beautifully interwoven ballet. Can supplementing with an extra dose of vitamin C, garlic or turmeric fortify this complicated system?
Well, the likely answer is no. If you are popping garlic capsules and throwing back copious amounts of vitamin C concoctions at the first sign of fatigue or the tiniest tickle at the back of your throat, unfortunately, you are already far too late to do anything but hope for the best.
If your immune system is in tip-top shape, little cells will come to your rescue and devour your enemies. If you have stressed your body to its maximum limits, you may have a harder time bouncing back from the onslaught — but the outcome will not change based upon the number of turmeric smoothies you consume in a frantic attempt to stop the siege.
We do need vitamins and minerals. They act as things called cofactors, which are necessary for the reactions that keep our body functioning — including those of our immune system. But if we aren’t already deficient, pumping more nutrients into our bodies is only going to result in pricey piss.
The point is, you can’t jump start your immune system, and you wouldn’t want to either. A hyper-responsive immune system is the source of terrifying autoimmune diseases like Lupus. In fact, you can even blame your immune system itself for the symptoms you suffer from — its attack response is what makes you feel sick.
You can maintain a healthy immune system by getting some sleep, putting down the beer, picking up some weights and working out every once while.
Last, but most definitely not least, wash your hands. The best way to avoid a commonly passed-around illness is with some hot water, soap and a little friction — not echinacea and coconut oil.
Erin Matthews / Opinions Editor
Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk / Graphics Editor