Kimberly Zurich ND LAc
Stay healthy this cold & flu season!
(Originally published November 30, 2018)
There are a couple of things that relate to how often you get sick. First, is the amount of exposure you have to the pathogen (and how often do you wash your hands?) Second, is the strength of the microbe (the virus or bacteria). The stronger the microbe, the harder it is to combat. Third, how strong are you?
The concept discussed here is how to strengthen your defenses. A strong, healthy warrior is going to be able to defend his city against invaders much more easily than a weak one. If you are stressed out, undernourished, and sleep deprived, do you think your body will be able to resist all the colds going around? Taking care of yourself is key to staying healthy so you won't be spending your whole winter on the couch with a box of tissues. We can't neglect our bodies constantly and then be upset when they don't hold up in times of battle.
Rest is one of the number one things you can do. When we are sleeping, our bodies regenerate and heal. There is plenty of research out there showing sleep deprivation will decrease immune function. So take sleep out of the luxury category and put it in the essentials.
Along with sleeping comes eating. You are what you eat, and it is true that broccoli can fight off microbes better than donuts. In fact, microbes LOVE sugar and the more you eat, the happier they will be. Our immune systems require the proper nutrients to function: to combat the microbes, manage inflammation and heal the body. This means, eating real, nutrient dense food rather than processed artificial stuff is going to give your body what it needs to be strong. Again, eating healthy is not a luxury, it is necessary for health! Taking time to sit an eat a cooked meal will do wonders for your digestion, which doesn't like to work on the go. It goes without saying that a happy digestive system will process our nutrients more efficiently and so tending to this is important.
Exercise is another key concept to healthy bodies. This is going to increase circulation which moves the blood, nourishes your tissues, helps the immune cells get around, and removes wastes and toxins.
So those are the basics. What else can you do to stay healthy?
Spices are an easy and fun way to make a big difference. Spices are not just for taste; humans have used them for centuries to improve digestion and increase circulation. Spices are also antimicrobial, so they keep food fresh and safe. Notice how food is much spicier in hotter climates where it can spoil much more quickly? Have fun with this one, get creative, add much more than usual. Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, oregano, turmeric, .... the list goes on. Garlic especially is a powerhouse for your immune system.
Vitamins are important because they help your immune cells function properly. Sunlight is going to supply you with vitamin D (so get outside to enjoy a little fresh air and sun on your face.) I don't recommend taking more than 1000 IU's of vitamin D daily if you are not deficient in it because too much is not a good thing. Vitamin C is found in fresh fruits and vegetables and is known to shorten the duration of colds and act as an antioxidant.
My favorite thing to take to ward off a cold is elderberry syrup. It tastes great and it is very safe. It is super effective at preventing and stopping respiratory infections. You can take 1-2 tablespoons of syrup each day as a preventative, and if you feel a cold coming on, take up to every hour. I have stopped many a cold in its tracks with this one!
Mushrooms are also amazing at stimulating the immune system. You can find tinctures or capsules in your health food store and these can be taken for long periods of time to stay strong. Mushrooms can be added to your food as well.
Astragalus is another herb that is a favorite for keeping the fortress protected. It helps you stay healthy and prevents colds as well as helps with seasonal allergies. You can find this as a dried root and decoct it in a tea or add it to your broth. This can also be taken for long periods of time.
If you do feel a cold coming on, make sure you take time to rest. Up your dose of elderberry syrup and add lots of garlic, cayenne, and ginger to your food. Ginger tea with honey and lemon is a great way to get fluids in, soothe your throat, and combat the virus while you take some time to catch up with a book or old movies; you will be back on your feet in no time!