With the seasons changing from Fall into Winter and temps dropping or changing from warm one week to cold the next and back again, it can be easy to catch a cold or the flu. There are some very easy ways to take care of ourselves and prevent a cold or flu from taking over. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I don't prescribe to the "germ theory." Meaning, I don't believe that suddenly November hits and a giant cold and flu cloud comes over us and then leaves in April when "flu season" is declared over. That proverbial "flu cloud" is around all the time. Meaning, germs, bacteria, viruses, etc. are around all the time. Whether we get sick or not depends largely on our TERRAIN and how strong and healthy we are.
STRESS MANAGEMENT | With the holiday season approaching, stress levels can get high with more social engagements, travel, family time, etc. High levels of stress can weaken our immune systems. Make sure to manage stress on a regular basis whether that be through more traditional tools like yoga and meditation or dancing in your living room or singing in your car. Make sure to release that stress.
SLEEP | Not enough sleep and/or irregular sleep can affect cortisol levels (our stress hormone), creating more inflammation in the body. Sleep is a time for the body to heal and repair itself and not getting enough of it can disrupt our natural healing processes. If we don't sleep enough, go to bed at different times every night or have poor quality sleep, our body feels like it's jet lagged and this wreaks havoc on the immune system. I recently traveled internationally and jet lag isn't just about feeling sleepy at the wrong time, it can make you feel flu-ish, weak, achy, hungover and overall, just not great. This is because our hormones and circadian rhythm are thrown off, ultimately affecting our immune system. This is what our body feels like all the time (minus getting to take the fun vacation) when we have poor and irregular sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours each night and if possible, bedtime before midnight and the same bedtime every night.
NUTRITION | Focus on eating real whole foods. Avoid sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. This means focusing on foods that don't come out of a box or a bag. Some great options are Vitamin C rich foods like broccoli, papaya and nutrient rich dark leafy greens. Sounds simple enough but it can be challenging during times of stress so do your best and release any stress or guilt about not being perfect.
VITAMIN C | Easy to find in any health food store and great for supporting the immune system and a good antioxidant. Aim for 3-6g daily.
PROBIOTICS | Our gut is full of good bacteria that help modulate our immune system. 70% of our immune system lives in our gut. Eat/drink lots of great fermented probiotic rich foods like miso, natto, sauerkraut and kombucha for a great boost to the immune system. If you're not able to eat fermented foods on a daily basis, you can supplement with a good probiotic. Aim for a dose of 25 billion CFU.
VITAMIN D | Vitamin D is actually a hormone not a vitamin and does an amazing job of balancing mood and also helps maintain a healthy immune system and at higher doses, is also antiviral. Make sure to ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels. And if you're not able to get outside for 20 min of full sun each day, supplementing with 1000 - 10,000 IU daily can help keep your immune system strong, your mood high and keep that cold and flu at bay.
ELDERBERRY SYRUP | This is a wonderful herb to take preventatively. It is antiviral, antimicrobial and tastes good too. Just add a bit of the syrup to hot water and drink as a tea 1-3 x day to keep your immune system balanced and healthy.