By Sarah Harris

Sarah Harris N.D.

Specialist Naturopath – Holistic Nutritionist – Herbalist – Homoeopath – Remedial Therapist

I am sure, like me, you have said or heard others say;

“There are so many bugs going around at the moment! Everyone seems to be getting sick!”

It’s no wonder that opportunistic infections are common, when you consider that pathogen-bearing droplets can be suspended in the air for not just seconds, but minutes, and can travel up to 8 metres! (1)

Although your body is naturally covered in bugs, both inside and out, these bugs only cause a problem if your immune system is weakened. The main weakness in your immune system that can cause infection is a compromise to one of its barriers. These include the mucus membranes of the respiratory, gastrointestinal and genitourinary systems as well as the skin barrier.

opportunistic infections


‘Opportunistic infections’ are caused by pathogens (bad versions of bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses) that take advantage of an ‘opportunity’ to increase their populations in an individual. These opportunities can stem from a variety of causes, along with weakened barrier integrity they can also be due to a fatigued immune system, a less populated immune system, a damaged immune system, or an altered microbiome (such as a disruption of the good bacteria in the gut). Pathogens do not necessarily cause disease in a healthy host with a healthy immune system. Although opportunistic infections can cause mild illness in healthy individuals, they are only a threat in an unhealthy person.

As you have probably noticed the cold and flu season has hit early! Based on modelling from the northern hemisphere, the latest prediction for 2023 is that unlike 2022 it will hit earlier and incorporate a triple wave of colds (especially RSV), influenza and covid – all at higher rates than seen in the last 5 years (2).

Could this be the change of weather? The short answer is yes, even just the slightest drop in temperature reduces our innate immune protection by nearly 50%. This is just one reason for the increase in infection numbers (3).

With all of this in mind, have you got a winter wellness strategy for your home and/or workplace?

Preventative measures are important, and you can spread the message of health as effectively as droplets spread pathogens! As we come out of a pandemic and are unfortunately faced with increased cold and flu and lowered immunity we need to focus on the following:

  • Good hygiene,
  • Adequate sleep
  • Healthy diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Exposure to nature
  • Probiotics and prebiotics
  • Staying at home if unwell

Let’s encourage health in our friends and family because this adds benefit to their lives and our own. When you indulge in wellness strategies you become an immune ‘expert’ as you ‘walk the talk’ and inspire others. This ultimately results in you becoming more resilient to infection.

When your body gets past the threshold of its coping mechanisms the immune system goes into high alert. An inflammatory response mounts, increasing the recruitment of the white blood cells which in turn creates collateral damage and triggers a targeted immune response. This latter response is known as the adaptive phase and creates a memory on how to respond next time a similar infection presents.

At Claridge Naturopathics, we treat each phase to ensure the best outcomes.   We are particularly interested in enhancing the adaptive phase so that you, not only, resolve symptoms sooner and have less likelihood of reoccurrence and/or ‘long’ symptoms.  Given that infections are opportunistic, training your immunity is key!  Keeping your immunity ‘match fit’ is essential and so here are some considerations:  

  • Current evidence suggests that the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, lean protein, quality essential fatty acids, (nuts, seeds & cold pressed oils), and wholegrains, (e.g. brown rice & rolled oats), provides protection against several diseases associated with inflammation and immune activation, whilst balancing gut microbiota.
  • Ensure adequate sleep (i.e. 3-5 years 13 hours, 6-12 years 11 hours, 13-18 8/10 hours)
  • Engage in regular physical activity to improve fitness, health and wellbeing, and reduce stress.

Did you know that up to 70% of your immune health relies on your gut? A study of 1000 people who had recurrent URTIs showed that taking strain-specific ‘Probiotics’ over the three months of winter had a 30% lower rate of infection and an 18% reduction in cold symptoms, particularly pain.(3)

A Cochrane Review collated 24 studies of probiotic strains showing a reduction of 41% in infection rates, shortened duration and reduced use of ‘Antibiotics’.(4).  The ‘gut-lung axis’ reminds us that everything is connected and related to our immune response. The upper respiratory tract is the gateway to our gut and lung.  Gut dysbiosis can be improved using probiotics which, in turn, can break the cycle of simple URTIs escalating into lung infections which ultimately result in antibiotic prescription.(5)

Given that Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has now recalled 55 popular cough medicines due to an increased risk of anaphylaxis during general anaesthesia the over the counter pharmaceutical tools have now been reduced.  Thankfully your Naturopath can provide safe and proven support to these, sometimes, difficult respiratory presentations.  More importantly, owe health orientated training helps us to help support in the most important area – PREVENTION!

Considering everyone is unique, I would love to work with you and your family to help tailor an effective strategy to boost your collective immune systems.

Rather than let for the cold and flu season affect you, let’s work together to become ‘immune-fit’ to ensure that you enjoy the activities that you love.

To make an appointment please call our reception team on 03 5221 8220.  I look forward to helping you.

Yours in good health,


  1. Ereth et al, ‘Healthcare-associated infection impact with bioaerosol treatment and COVID-19 mitigation measures’ Accessed April 5, 2023 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8295046/
  2. Attwooll J. Accessed April 5, 2023.https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/how-severe-is-this-year-s-flu-season-likely-to-be
  3. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/12/221206083120.htm
  4. CFU: Colony forming units. Ahrén IL, et al. J Nutr. 2021;151(1):214-222. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxaa353
  5. 2.Zhao Y, et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2022 Aug 24;8(8):CD006895. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006895.pub4
  6. Hanada S, et al. Front Immunol. 2018 Nov 16;9:2640. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.02640
Sarah Harris

Specialist Naturopath, Holistic Nutritionist, Herbalist, Homoeopath

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