Staying Healthy in cold & flu season – Naturally! (Part 1)

As we enter (gently so far this year thanks to a generous Mother Nature) into fall, we begin to notice the signs of seasons changing. Shorter days, leaves turning beautiful yellows, oranges and reds, and of course the chill that meets us in the morning when we open the door. And then there’s the less pleasant part: scratchy throats, runny noses… there’s no doubt it’s that time of year again – cold & flu season!

We are all constantly exposed to the viruses that cause cold and flu, but did you know that there is a lot we can do to help overcome illness more quickly and even to help stave off the bugs before they hit. Natural methods of combating viruses can include herbs, supplements, baths and inhalations, etc. Here are a few general recommendations to help you and your family stay healthy all season long!

Healthy and want to stay that way? Here is some advice for how to do so:

  • Get enough sleep: As I mentioned above, while you sleep, your body is busy healing and fixing all the natural cellular damage that happens through the day. This helps keep your immune system strong so it can fight viruses when they attack rather than falling prey.

  • Wash up: Keeping your hands clean helps reduce exposure to viruses an other microbes that travel on door knobs, computer keys, etc… And plain soap is best – “Antibacterial” soaps are really no benefit, and just promote antibacterial resistance!

  • Focus on healthy, whole foods and lots of fluids: If you keep the extra stresses that greasy, sugary, fried and otherwise unhealthy foods place on the body to a minimum, you minimize the amount of work your body has to do processing, eliminating and just dealing with the toxins.

  • Whole foods like grains (quinoa, brown rice, amaranth), vegetables (especially leafy greens like spinach, chard and kale), fruit, lean protein (fish, chicken), nuts and seeds as well as healthy unrefined oils (like extra virgin olive oil an coconut oil) and natural sweeteners (like honey, stevia or maple syrup) help to support your immune system and keep you healthy!

  • Whole foods contain essential vitamins (especially Vitamins C, D and A) and minerals (Selenium and Zinc) that help boost immune system health!

  • Note: Choose organic foods as frequent as possible to avoid pesticides, toxins, etc. from placing extra burden on the body.

  • Risk Garlic Breath: Chowing down on this delicious herb/food well before getting sick will boost up your immune support helping keep you healthy all season long! Fresh, roasted, in soup – mix it up!

  • As for the feared “garlic breath”: if everyone is doing it, no one will notice! Bring extra to share!

  • Wind down: Cortisol (the hormone related to worry, anxiety and tension) stresses your immune system, so taking time to relax will help you stay healthy, not to mention sane! Go for a walk, read a book, meditate – whatever it is that gets you out of “overdrive”.

  • Move: There is evidence to show that those who maintain a regular exercise regime have a stronger immune system.

  • Moderate exercise helps ensure adequate blood flow through all of your tissues which helps your immune cells work by allowing them to circulate, find and eliminate bacteria and viruses faster. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking, ice-skating, yoga or a fitness class 3 times per week is all it takes

  • Be careful though: overdoing it with excessive exercise (more than 90 minutes of intense exercise in a workout) brings about the opposite effect. This actually leads to immune suppression, which can make you more susceptible to illness!

Already feeling sick? Here are a few recommendations for getting better fast:

  • Rest: The first and most important thing is to be sure to get enough of it. And that’s both physical and mental/emotional.

  • Feeling run down, achy and tired are all messages from your body saying you need to take it easy, slow down and not overexert yourself. It takes a lot of energy for your body to be able to fight off the viruses that might be trying to bring you down!

  • Sleep is when your body repairs and heals itself so have an extra nap, cut back on any excessive exercise, stay home from work and just relax – it will pay off in the end with a faster recovery time!

  • Drink up: Keep well hydrated, especially with warm fluids like herbal teas and broth.

  • Ginger-Lemon tea is a good option – it’s warming, and if you add sweeten it with unpasteurized honey, you get the antimicrobial benefits of that added on!

  • Garlic broth is extremely health promoting. Garlic is a natural antimicrobial, an immune system stimulant, etc… See my previous blog (“Glorious Garlic") for more and a delicious, healthy recipe!

  • Eat & Drink Clean: Eliminate foods that stress the body and immune system

  • Sugar and wheat: The main problem with these foods is that they deplete the immune system by breaking down quickly into sugar. Sugar feeds any bacteria that might be present in your body, so if your immune system is trying to keep bacteria at bay while fighting off invading viruses, it gets overworked and less effective at both!

  • Good sweetener substitutes can include stevia (a herb), unpasteurized honey (which has natural antimicrobial factors) and maple syrup.

  • Dairy, citrus and bananas are mucous forming, so it’s best to avoid these when you’re already ill.

  • Avoid the fatty, greasy or junk-type foods. These are hard for your body to process, and now is an especially important time to be consciously staying away from them.

  • Note that eating clean, meaning avoiding fast/junk food is a great way to keep you immune system strong, so if you do so, you will be less likely to be plagues by illness in the first place!

  • Breathe: Try a eucalyptus Steam inhalation

  • Fill a bowl with boiling water and add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil. Place your face over the steam (hot too close to the water – steam can be hot!), cover your head and the bowl with a towel and inhale deeply.

  • Eucalyptus is an excellent remedy for helping clear sinus and congestion, helping you breath clearly!

  • Gargle: Salt-water gargles are a great way to clear the microbes that like to grow in your throat, those same ones that cause sore/scratchy throat, cough and swollen glands.

  • Just add 1-2 tsp of salt to ½ Cup of water and gargle. Repeat 2-3 times per day.

Taking extra care is well worth it in the long run when you stay healthy and are able to enjoy the coming fall and winter seasons!

If you do feel that you need additional support, treatment for a particular condition or just some recommendations for specific herbs, foods or supplements can help you improve your health, schedule an appointment with your Naturopath. She/he will be able to assess your symptoms and recommend a protocol (which may include Herbs and Supplements, Acupuncture, Myers Cocktails, Immune Boost Injections, etc) that would be most appropriate for you.

Note: Keep an eye out for “Part 2” of Staying Healthy in cold & flu season. I’ll be sharing a great recipe for a delicious Immune-System Boosting soup!

Be well!

Dr Katarine Holewa, ND

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