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Understanding Meningitis


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Meningitis is a fairly rare infection of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. These membranes are called meninges, hence the term meningitis. There are several types of meningitis:

  • Bacterial Meningitis is contagious among people in close contact and can be deadly.
  • Viral Meningitis is usually less severe, and most people recover completely from it.
  • Fungal Meningitis is rare and usually only appears in people with compromised immune systems.

How Does it Happen?

Most of the time, meningitis is caused by virus or bacterial infection. It begins elsewhere in the body, such as the upper respiratory tract, sinuses, or ears, and then spreads to the meninges. It can also be caused by medications, autoimmune disorders, or fungal infections, but these are more rare.

Bacterial Meningitis

This is a very serious illness that requires immediate medical attention. Death or permanent damage to the brain or other areas of the body can occur within hours if left untreated. There are several different kinds of bacteria that can cause it:

  • Meningococcus, which is the most common
  • Pneumococcus, which occurs in older patients with a weakened immune system
  • Haemophilus Influenza, type B, was common in infants and small children until a vaccine came out called hib.

Vaccines are also available for Meningococcus and Pneumococcus bacteria and are highly recommended for people with a special risk, such as a compromised immune system.

An infected person can pass the bacteria by sneezing or coughing. It is important for you to contact your health care provider if you are exposed to meningitis to find out what you can do to prevent contracting it. When bacteria gets into your bloodstream, it can travel to your brain and cause meningitis.

Viral Meningitis

This form of meningitis is more common and is usually less severe. There are many viruses that can trigger it, several of which cause diarrhea. Viral meningitis patients usually recover completely and are less likely to incur any brain damage.

Fungal Meningitis

This type of meningitis is rare. However, if you are suffering from a compromised immune system, from HIV for example, your chances of contracting it are greater.

Who is at Risk?

While anyone can contract meningitis, there are some age groups that have a higher incidence than others. These are:

  • Adults over age 55
  • Teens and Young Adults from age 16 to 25
  • Children under the age of 5

Certain medical conditions can also put you at risk, such as chronic disease or a damaged or missing spleen, and especially immune system disorders. These disorders occur when your immune system is either overactive or under active. When it is overactive, the body attacks itself; when it is under active, it decreases your ability to fight off infections. Some examples of immune system disorders are:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Guillian Barre Syndrome
  • Psoriasis
  • Graves Disease
  • Vasculitis
  • Rheumatic Fever

Meningitis outbreaks are most likely to occur in areas where people are living in close quarters, such as a college dorm or army personnel living in barracks. This is because certain germs that cause it can be contagious. People who travel are also at higher risk, particularly if you are traveling to certain parts of Africa where the disease is known to be prevalent.

Keep in mind, however, that even if you are in one of the higher risk groups for contracting meningitis, it is still a rare disease, and there are steps you can take to minimize your chances of getting it.


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Immunity-Boosting Foods


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When it comes to your immune system, getting proper nutrition cannot be underestimated. The antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals you receive through your food are what keeps your body strong enough to fight off infection. It is important to make the following foods a part of your diet to ensure a good defense against colds and flu.


Beef will boost your immune system, because:

  • It is a good source of zinc, and zinc aids in the development of white blood cells.
  • These white blood cells improve both immune function and response.
  • It’s protein supports the building of antibodies to fight off infection.

Oily Fish

These types of fish include salmon, mackerel, and tuna. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, these fish:

  • Help reduce harmful inflammation in the body.
  • Control chronic inflammation that can keep your immune system from working properly.
  • Can prevent cold, flu, and more serious diseases.

They also contain Vitamin D, and as daylight hours decrease during the colder months of the year, your Vitamin D stores are depleted. Vitamin D:

  • Is critical to fighting off colds and flu.
  • Reduces the frequency and duration of colds and flu.

Leafy Greens

Dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, arugula, and Swiss chard, all contain significant amounts of Vitamin C which:

  • If consistently taken, they will shorten the duration of a cold or possibly prevent it altogether.
  • If cooked, they will shrink in size so you can consume more of them.
  • Increases white blood cell production.

Carrots and Sweet Potatoes

These vegetables are rich in beta-carotene. Our bodies convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A that:

  • Keeps the mucus membranes that line your nose, throat, and gastrointestinal tract, along with your skin, healthy.
  • By keeping these membranes healthy, it builds your first line of defense against colds and flu.

Chicken Soup

You really should eat chicken soup when you’re sick, and when you’re not. It combines many elements that boost your immune system. Hot chicken soup:

  • Raises the temperature in your airways, which loosens mucus secretions.
  • Releases cysteine, an amino acid that resembles a drug used to treat bronchitis.
  • Contains a high concentration of vegetables and protein that provide many different vitamins.


According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, garlic contains allicin, which has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Garlic has been shown to:

  • Cause you to experience fewer and less severe colds.
  • Promote balanced gut flora, which rids the body of viruses, bacteria, and toxins.
  • Contain the most antioxidants when eaten raw.


Yogurt contains microorganisms, or “good bacteria”, that keeps you healthy. It:

  • Is a probiotic food that replenishes this good bacteria.
  • Promotes digestive health.
  • Helps prevent stomach ailments.
  • Lowers the risk of upper respiratory infections.


While a hot cup of tea can soothe a sore throat and break up chest congestion, it also provides other benefits. All tea, green, black, or white contains catechins, which:

  • Are a group of antioxidants that contain flu-fighting properties.
  • Protect you from cancer and heart disease.
  • Increase your metabolism.
  • Boost your overall immunity.

Dark Chocolate

The nutritional benefits of cocoa are often overlooked, because many chocolate treats contain sugar and saturated fat. However, chocolate:

  • Contains polyphenols that are disease-fighting antioxidants.
  • Also contains a high concentration of zinc.
  • Can be consumed daily if you stick to 1/4 ounce servings.

The following foods are also recommended:

  • Oysters
  • Anise Seeds
  • Citrus
  • Milk
  • Mushrooms
  • Skinned Turkey Breast
  • Blueberries
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Oats

With this abundant selection of immunity-boosting foods, we can enjoy better health during cold and flu season and all year around.

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