What to do when you have a germ carrier in the family

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Warning, this is a rather long article. Grab a drink and a comfortable chair!

A typical Monday, not wanting to get out of bed, not wanting the beginning of the week to start and hearing the wonderful words from Jack “I think I have a cold coming”.
Jack, my other half, is one of the reasons why my immune system takes a beating every now and then.

Jack is a carrier. Where he gets a few sniffles, I get a variation of the black death. It seems that our little Monster also shares my invulnerability, and for the last week we have both been fighting off a fever, congestion, aches and pains, chills, dizziness and more while Jack blew his nose once and just carried on.

I have now decreed that Jack is to move out of the house for 3-5 days if I hear the words “I think I am coming down with a cold,” or something similar again. Where he moves to, I really don’t care!

So back to Monday, my train was delayed, again, and my Bluetooth headset decided to remind me after every verse of the music I was listening to that its battery was low which was really getting on my last nerve.

As I had not had much sleep due to poor Monster up most of the night coughing, spluttering and I don’t want to mention what else (Monsters always want their mums when they are ill), I had spent what little sleep I managed to get on the futon cuddled up with my ill child. So it was inevitable that I was going to get ill. Sure enough I did.

This has been the second illness in the last two months, and it really has to stop. There has clearly been a knock to my immune system.

Monster is nearly eight months old, and one thing I quickly noticed following the birth is that my immune system was not as strong as it was before and during the pregnancy. One thing I should have done was continue to take my pregnancy tablets as they contain vitamins C and D (which you need to break down vitamin C) and of course folic acid. I still take my once a day Spatone iron supplements but clearly that is not enough. So off to Holland and Barrett I went.

I decided to purchase the Vitabiotics Immunace Tablets.

Below is the product information for each tablet. Unless you know what you are looking for, this information is not very useful, so please find below some explanations as to what each vitamin, mineral and amino acid means.

With the explanation of the amino acid the other explanations have been sourced from NHS Choices.

Vitamin A (800mcg) – This helps the immune system, vision in dim light, keeping skin and the linings of some parts of the body, such as the nose, healthy. It can be found in cheese, eggs, oily fish, fortified low-fat spreads, milk and yoghurt.

Vitamin D (10mcg) – This is needed to break down Vitamin C, so if you are taking vitamin C, make sure you take D as well. We also gain our vitamin D from sunlight. The following foods contain Vitamin D: oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, red meat, liver, egg yolks, cheese, fortified foods such as most fat spreads and some breakfast cereals.

Vitamin E (40mg) – You should be able to get all of the Vitamin E you need from your normal daily diet. It can be found in nuts, seeds and wheat germ which can be found in most cereals, or cereal based products.

Vitamin C (150mg) – the popular one that most will turn to when they are feeling under the weather. It is important to realise that Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body so 40mg needs to be in everyone’s daily eating plan. Vitamin C is found in the following: oranges and orange juice, red and green peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, brussels sprouts and potatoes.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) (18mg) – Like many of the other B vitamins, Thiamin helps keep the nervous system healthy and works alongside the other B vitamins to ensure this happens as well as to help break down and release energy from food. Foods rich in Thiamin are: vegetables – such as peas, fresh and dried fruit, eggs, wholegrain breads, some fortified breakfast cereals and liver.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) (6mg) – As above, Riboflavin also deals with keeping the skin and eyes healthy. Food and drink rich in Riboflavin are: milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals and rice. Bear in mind that UV light can destroy riboflavin, so ideally these foods should be kept out of direct sunlight.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) (27mg) – Good sources of niacin include: meat, fish, wheat flour, eggs and milk.

Vitamin B6 (10mg) – This allows the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food, it also helps to form haemoglobin – the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body. Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods, such as: pork, poultry (such as chicken or turkey), fish, bread, whole cereals – such as oatmeal, wheat germ and brown rice, eggs, vegetables, soya beans, peanuts, milk, potatoes and some fortified breakfast cereals.

Folic Acid (500mcg) – Most will think of pregnancy when they hear this vitamin. Folic acid, known as folate in its natural form, works together with vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells and helps to reduce the risk of central nervous system defects, such as spina bifida, in unborn babies. It can be found in: broccoli, brussels sprouts, liver, spinach, asparagus, peas, chickpeas and fortified breakfast cereals.

I will say at this point, I ate a lot of spinach during my pregnancy and my Monster may have been small in size when born, but the force they could put behind a kick left me battered and bruised for days. Monster has kept the strength and the muscles. Spinach is awesome.

Vitamin B12 (14mcg) – This is important when taking high amounts of folic acid as it makes red blood cells and keeps the nervous system healthy, it also releases energy from the food we eat and it processes the folic acid. Good sources include: meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs and some fortified breakfast cereals.

Pantothenic Acid (20mg) – this helps release energy from the food we eat and can be found in virtually all meat and vegetable foods, including: chicken, beef, potatoes, porridge, tomatoes, kidney, eggs, broccoli, wholegrains – such as brown rice and wholemeal bread.

Vitamin K (70mcg) – Vitamin K has several important functions a main one is that it is needed for blood clotting, which means it helps wounds to heal properly – this is the reason why babies are injected with it at birth. A woman cannot produce it from her milk so formula fed babies have the advantage here as it is in formula milk. There’s some evidence that vitamin K is also needed to help keep bones healthy. Good sources of vitamin K can be found in green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli and spinach, vegetable oils and cereal grains.

Betacarotene (3mg) – This gives yellow and orange fruit and vegetables their colour. It also turns into vitamin A once in the body, so it can perform the same functions in the body as vitamin A. Good sources of betacarotene include yellow and green (leafy) vegetables – such as spinach, carrots and red peppers, yellow fruit – such as mango, melon and apricots.

Iron (8mg) – this is an essential mineral, with several important roles in the body i.e. it helps to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. A lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. Good sources of iron: liver, meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit – such as dried apricots, wholegrains – such as brown rice, fortified breakfast cereals, soybean flour, most dark-green leafy vegetables – such as watercress and curly kale.

Magnesium (50mg) – This is a mineral that, among other things helps turn the food we eat into energy, helps to make sure the parathyroid glands, which produce hormones that are important for bone health, work normally. Good sources of magnesium include: green leafy vegetables – such as spinach, nuts, brown rice, bread (especially wholegrain), fish, meat and dairy foods.

Zinc (15mg) – This is a trace element that helps to make new cells and enzymes helps us process carbohydrate, fat and protein in food and helps with the healing of wounds. Zinc is found widely in the environment but good food sources of zinc include: meat, shellfish, dairy foods (such as cheese), bread and cereal products (such as wheat germ).

Iodine (200mcg) – This helps to make the thyroid hormones to keep cells and the metabolic rate healthy. Iodine is a trace element found in seawater, rocks and some types of soil. Good food sources include sea fish and shellfish. Iodine can also be found in plant foods, such as cereals and grains, but the levels vary, depending on the amount of iodine in the soil where the plants are grown.

Copper (0.5mg) – This is a trace element that has several important functions, some of which is to help produce red and white blood cells, and trigger the release of iron to form haemoglobin – the substance that carries oxygen around the body is thought to be important for infant growth, brain development, the immune system and strong bones. Good sources of copper include: nuts, shellfish and offal.

Manganese (4mg) – This is a trace element that helps make and activate some of the enzymes in the body. Good sources of manganese include: tea, bread, nuts, cereals and green vegetables (such as peas and runner beans).

Selenium (Yeast Free) (180mcg) – Anyone remember Evolution the film? Well not only does this get rid of pesky aliens but also Selenium is a trace element that plays an important role in our immune system’s function and in reproduction. It also helps to prevent damage to cells and tissues. Selenium is found widely in the environment. Good food sources include: brazil nuts, fish, meat and eggs.

Chromium (100mcg) – Chromium is a trace element thought to influence how the hormone insulin behaves in the body. This means chromium may affect the amount of energy we get from food.

Good sources of chromium. Chromium is found widely in the environment, in air, water and soil, and in plants and animals. Good food sources of chromium include: meat, wholegrains (such as wholemeal bread and whole oats), lentils, broccoli, potatoes and spices.

Cystine (40mg) – Cysteine is an amino acid, a building block of proteins that are used throughout the body. When taken as a supplement, it is usually in the form of N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC)

L-Carnitine (30mg) – Carnitine is an amino acid derivative and nutrient involved in lipid metabolism in mammals and other eukaryotes.

Bioflavonoids (30mg) – Bioflavonoids are a group of naturally occurring plant compounds, which act primarily as plant pigments and antioxidants. They exhibit a host of biological activities, most notably for their powerful antioxidant properties. Foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and many vegetables, are also excellent sources of bioflavonoids.

For more information on the quantities a human needs per day as well as the differences between minerals and vitamins please visit the No Food Limits website.

Given that several of the nutrients listed above contain milk or some form of diary, I was then of the mind that perhaps my years of drinking just skimmed milk may mean I am lacking something. Therefore I propose to not only take the vitamins above, but also look into other ways to bridge the potential lactose lack.

Some further information regarding the Immune System

The immune system is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body. One of the important cells involved are white blood cells, also called leukocytes, which come in two basic types that combine to seek out and destroy disease-causing organisms or substances.

The folks at Harvard Medical School state that to maintain a healthy immune system you must do the following:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Control your blood pressure.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
  • Get regular medical screening tests for people in your age group and risk category.

You can still do all of the above and get ill, it is inevitable in life like taxes, and the government, but by following a healthy eating plan and looking after yourself, you may be able to avoid getting ill too often.

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