Camping and West Nile Virus
By: Jim Alseth
My wife and I always have an eye open for any health issues that may surface from time to time. The last couple of years we have noticed a subtle dampening of enthusiasm in many people to get outdoors because of the threat of West Nile Virus. Could this hesitancy be unwarranted, and are people getting all the information they need?
For instance, our local public health authority includes West Nile Virus information on their website. They mention, correctly, that those at risk are “the elderly, chronically ill and those with weakened immune systems.” Yet, their solution is to “protect yourself from mosquitoes,” mostly by lathering on toxic amounts of mosquito repellent, wearing winter clothes in summer or staying indoors. While this certainly is a solution, is it the best one? In many regions of North America, telling someone to not get bit is like telling them not to breathe. Is there a better way than this “live in a bubble” mentality? We think so.
A growing number of health experts believe a better alternative is, simply, to strengthen your immune system. (Ironically, even though our public health information clearly states that a weakened immune system is a major risk factor, we found no information on how to remedy it.) Yet there is an abundance of information available on how to do this—information stressing the importance of a diet rich in immune boosting nutrients (and supplementing when necessary), staying physically fit, reducing stress, and staying emotionally and spiritually healthy.
Most encouraging, is new research regarding immune boosting foods or functional foods. These include foods rich in anti-oxidants, phytochemicals and glyconutrients. Anti-oxidants are compounds found in many fruits and vegetables which help rid the body of free radicals (nasty, cancer-causing agents). Phytochemicals also help with this process and are found mostly in vine-ripened fruits and vegetables.
The third category, often referred to as glycoscience, is showing the most promise. In fact, five of the last nine Nobel Peace Prizes in Medicine have been awarded for research in this category. Glycoscience has to do with the relationship between certain carbohydrates in our diet and cellular communication, or the ability of our cells to “talk” to each other. (Bet you didn’t know that our cells actually converse with one another.) Researchers are finding that this process of communication is critical to immune system function.
You get the idea. Space does not allow us to even probe “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to immune support. We can’t know it all, but knowing the basics can shape our approach to health and disease prevention, and give us the freedom we ought to have while enjoying the outdoors.
Of course, we must take reasonable precautions to avoid mosquitoes*. But what we’re talking about here is an attitude, a mindset, a lifestyle. Do I live in a bubble, afraid of the next mosquito that flies by, even planning my vacations to avoid them? Or do I venture freely into the outdoors with the quiet confidence that my God-given immune defenses can handle most anything that comes my way? I know which outlook appeals to me and if you love the outdoors I’m sure you feel the same.
Supporting the immune system is not difficult, but it does take effort—effort that is well worth it, especially when considering the benefits of good health.
*The risk of contracting West Nile is very small. In areas where mosquitoes are likely to carry the virus, less than one percent of mosquitoes are likely to be infected. Less than one percent of people who are bitten by an infected mosquito and become infected themselves will experience serious side-effects. - Capital Health Authority website, July 2004
Source: Great Camping Spots