Ask Dr. Elina: An ounce of prevention |

Ask Dr. Elina: An ounce of prevention

Dr. Elina Chernyak
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –Every time you feel a scratchy throat, sneeze or cough, do you wonder whether it’s allergies, a cold, or symptoms of the H1N1 swine flu? Winter has arrived, and along with it, a higher probability of coming down with something. We all hope to avoid it, but there is still a sense of resignation – we just accept the risk. But feeling miserable, missing work and losing productivity is a serious matter for everyone.

And why is it that some people can’t go two months without catching a cold while others avoid illness for years at a time? The difference may be attributed to a bit of luck, but more likely to the performance of one’s immune system. If you have a strong immunity, you need not worry too much about who sits next to you in the movie theater, who touched that keyboard last or worse yet, getting stuck by a needle full of a yet-to-be-determined-as-completely-safe vaccine that is too late to the party anyway.

Some of the signs of a weak or dysfunctional immune system are frequent colds or flu, allergies, ongoing fatigue, yeast overgrowth, herpes (cold sore) outbreaks, muscle and joint aches, psoriasis or eczema and chronic inflammatory conditions. A weak immune system is also involved with the development of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune diseases and possibly osteoporosis, all of which contribute to so much suffering and death in society.

Fortunately, modern research has revealed new information about building immunity. Unfortunately, mainstream media does not seem to focus much on this first important step to maintaining health. We are bombarded with news about the flu vaccine, but very little on how to build the body’s natural resistance to illness in the first place.

As a physician who embraces both conventional medicine and evidence-based alternative approaches, I encourage everyone to take the offensive through building a strong immune system naturally rather than just playing defense and only reacting to illness. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is the epitome of “common sense medicine,” a philosophy that I practice with my clients and in my own life.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Along with adequate rest and exercise, nutritional supplements are essential for staying healthy. It’s even more vital for anyone dealing with an existing condition, or who may be using strong pharmaceuticals or under chemotherapy treatments. For example, it is now well documented that people living with HIV/AIDS can benefit in their struggle against infection and physical deterioration by maintaining a more optimal level of nutrition. Similarly, cancer patients can minimize the damage caused by chemotherapy by maximizing nutrients that are essential to cellular protection and regeneration. The importance of fighting disease in part with good nutrition is illustrated in the fact that nearly 40 percent of cancer patients die of complications brought on by malnutrition, not necessarily the cancer itself.

On my short-list of the most vital immune-boosting supplements are zinc, vitamin D, probiotics, a high quality multi-vitamin/mineral and garlic. Each of these produces unique physiological effects that dramatically reinforce the immune system. Better yet, they benefit the body all year, not just during the cold and flu season. After testing the levels of these nutrients in my clients, I almost always find that they are depleted. It is important to note that not all supplements are created equal. Out of the plethora of supplement brands on the market today, I carry and use just a handful of brands that have been developed specifically as pharmaceutical grade, for ultimate quality and purity and in appropriate, safe dosages.

These are just a few things you can do to improve your natural immunity, and to better your overall health in the process. But the bottom line is that each individual carries a unique set of physiological variables that each play a role in overall health, immunity and ability to recover from illness. Therefore, I believe it is also common sense to treat each person as an individual, and to look at all the variables affecting their life in positive and negative ways. From a comprehensive view we can establish a smarter, more effective road map to well-being.

Dr. Elina Chernyak is an Osteopathic Doctor of Integrative Medicine in Edwards. For more information, call 970-306-2737 or visit

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