The season of colds and flu is upon us once again and although we can’t control what we are exposed to we can hopefully set ourselves up to fight it off. There is a lot you can do to help prevent yourself from getting a nasty cold, or at least diminish the severity of it. Here are my go to tips:
I love sleep! I am someone who does not do well on little sleep so this one’s easy for me. Sleep is imperative to allow the body to boost immune defences. When we are run down and tired we are more susceptible to getting sick. There is evidence that suggests that proper sleep and circadian rhythm boosts immune function. You should aim for 7 ½ - 9 hours of sleep a night.
If you do get a cold give yourself time to rest. The sleep will let your body better fight off the illness and shorten the duration. Think about it – when you are sick many people feel better earlier in the day after a full night of sleep and then as the day goes on and you get tired you start feeling worse.
2. HAND WASHING
Germs are everywhere and on every surface you touch. You can’t help but touch germs. Kids come home from school and have germs all over them. A key thing here is hand washing – the minute you walk in the door everyone should wash their hands, lots of bubbles for the duration of the happy birthday song. If someone in the house is sick they should be washing hands even more frequently to prevent spreading germs. It’s a simple strategy that has been shown to reduce incidence of colds and flu.
3. MINIMIZE STRESS
Ever noticed that you may tend to get sick during or right after a really stressful time? This time of year is stressful for many people and combined with the daily stress of life it can be a perfect storm to get hit with the germs. Stress depresses the immune system and chronic stress actually impairs the immune systems ability to respond to the hormones that are responsible for stopping an inflammatory response following illness. Plus the psychological stress of day-to-day life raises the fight or flight hormones and in doing so supresses the immune system making us more susceptible to the viruses that are floating around.
Take stock of where you are at. Are you overcommitted? Are you getting any exercise? Time for yourself? Can you eliminate something that is making you stressed? Do what you can to try to minimize the effects stress will have on your body.
4. LIMIT SUGAR
In case you need another reason to limit your intake of sugar. Sugar hinders the immune system so eating it will make you more susceptible to the cold and flu. Vitamin C is needed by our white blood cells to help fight infection, but Vitamin C and sugar have similar chemical structures and compete. Insulin receptors on our cells prefer glucose so if there is more sugar we will have less vitamin C doing it’s job.
5. IMMUNE BOOSTING DIET & SUPPLEMENTS
A healthy diet filled with a variety of fruits & veggies, healthy fats, lots of water and clean protein is key to boosting your body’s defences. This is an all the time kind of thing, not just when flu season hits. Set yourself up for success!
When we get into flu season you want to increase the intake of:
Vitamin C rich foods- citrus, dark leafy greens, red peppers, broccoli, berries, tomatoes
Vitamin D rich foods – eggs & fatty fish
Fermented Foods – kimchi, kefir, tempeh, yogurt
Protein – tofu, chicken, fish, eggs, protein powders
Water – Easy way to calculate daily water - your weight x 0.55 = #ounces/8 for cups.
For supplements I do the following;
Vitamin C – Key vitamin to help ward off illness. Make sure to supplement in the winter months to stay healthy.
Vitamin D- in Canada we really can’t get enough of this in the winter so I ensure the whole family takes extra VitD this time of year.
Probiotics – Gut health is so important to our immunity, so again this is something we do yearly to ensure proper
St. Francis Deep Immune – Deep Immune by St. Francis is used in Herbal Medicine and is an adaptogen that helps maintain a healthy immune system. It will increase resistance to flu, colds and other infections. I take this daily at the beginning of fall - for little ones there is Deep Immune Kids.
Elderberry Syrup – Elderberries are rich in antioxidants and have been used for years to treat colds and flu. They are a high source of Vitamin C and great to boost immunity. It is safe for kids to so at the first sign of anything we start taking this in our house.
There are also mushrooms, Echinacea and other immune helpers. I have quite a regime each winter after suffering many years with chest infections each time I got sick in the winter! If you are interested in a protocol just reach out for more specifics.