With the cold weather comes cold and flu season. Both are viruses with symptoms including, but not limited to, a runny nose, nausea, filled sinuses, headaches, body aches and sore throats.
Although a simple virus can manifest into a more serious disease in those with compromised immune systems, the majority of us have the ability to kick it to the curb and reign victorious, ending up with an even stronger immune system, ready for the next battle.
Implementing the following preventative measures today may help avoid a winter virus altogether, but they can also be used to boost your immune system and overcome your illness if it should strike.
Wash your hands: Viruses can be spread directly or through the air. Eliminate your exposure to the virus by washing your hands frequently with real soap. Anti-bacterial soaps have not been proven to be any better than traditional soaps. In fact, they get rid of most of the bacteria and allow the very few, strong strains to survive and persist resulting in an even stronger bacteria strain resulting in a super bug. Save your health and the environment by using oil based castile soap such as Dr. Bronner’s or other natural soaps like Method.
Eat Real, Nutrient Dense Foods: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” said Hippocrates. The absolute best way to stay healthy is to eat real, homemade, nutrient dense foods. Healing yourself from the inside out leads to an ultimate healthier and happier you. As we all know, vegetables are power houses when it comes to vitamins and minerals. Here are a few more unconventional, yet traditional foods that are great for your immune system.
- Bone Broth: Homemade broths are full of nutrients we may not get elsewhere. Soup bones are inexpensive and can be found at your local butcher shop or from your local farmer. I cook mine on low in a crockpot with 2-3 T of cider vinegar, salt and spices for three to five days. Drink it like coffee in the morning for an energy boost or add it to cooked veggies for a quick soup.
- Organ Meats: Again, these are parts of animals that we often don’t eat, but are full of so many great nutrients. Grassfed beef liver is nature’s multi-vitamin! Hide it in meatballs for a delicious and extra nutritious meal.
- Plain Yogurt: If you tolerate dairy well, yogurt and other fermented dairy products are a good source of probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria in our guts keeping us healthy. Choose plain yogurt to avoid added sugars and feel free to add your own fruit, nuts, honey or maple syrup.
Avoid Sugar: Viruses, as well as all other diseases in our bodies love sugar. It’s their food of choice. Avoid sugar to kill off these pests and stay healthy.
Exercise: Regular movement is a great way to keep our bodies and minds healthy as long as it’s not overdone. Going all out every day will hamper the immune system, but if you allow yourself adequate rest between those grueling workouts and move your body at a slow pace on a regular basis, you’ll be keeping your immune system boosted and ready for the winter.
Sleep: Sleep provides the biggest bang for your buck. Our bodies need time to recharge and regenerate our organs. This is done while we sleep. Aim for a minimum of 7-8 hours regularly. Feel a cold or the flu coming on? Opt for more!
Stress Management: With never ending to do lists, preparing for the holidays, getting the kids here and there, stress levels can sky rocket. Your body reacts to all stress, chemical, physical and emotional, the same way and often results in a decreased immune system. Learn to take time to yourself to recharge and regenerate. Meditation, yoga or a warm, relaxing bath can be helpful in reducing stress.
Vitamins and Supplements: Not all supplements are equal. Because they are not regulated, no one has to check whether or not they contain what is stated on the label. Make sure you purchase your supplements from a reputable source to avoid additives and ensure they contain what is on the label. The following are great options to boost the immune system:
- Echinacea: Take this at the first sign of a cold or flu. It works to stimulate the immune system and prevent or shorten virus times. Do not take regularly or longer than a week at a time, as it will lose its potency.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D actually works as a hormone rather than a vitamin. In the winter months we have minimal sun exposure, which is our natural Vitamin D source. Take up to 5000 IUs per day to maintain a functional immune system while the days are shorter and sun exposure is limited.
- Garlic: Historically used to fight off illness, garlic is a great for immune support. It can be hard on the gut, so start small and work your way up to the full dosage as directed.
- Probiotics: Good gut health is a key component of overall health. Probiotics are the good bacteria in our guts which help maintain the immune system. Opt for a dosage of 50 billion with multiple strains of probiotics and take them 30 minutes before eating food.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C has been touted as an immune system booster for quite some time now. Take up to 200 milligrams per day at first indication of illness.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids/Fish Oil: Inflammation is the root of disease. Due to the influx of packaged foods and the severe changes in our diets today from what they traditionally were, we are now consuming diets deficient in anti-inflammatory fats, omega-3s. Begin by taking a loading dose of 3-5 grams of a combination of EPA and DHA for the first two weeks. After that, take 7-10g per week (1g daily or 5g twice a week).
Chiropractic Adjustments: There have been a variety of studies done looking at the body’s immune response to a chiropractic adjustment. Through activation of the nervous system, the immune system is temporarily boosted allowing one to properly deal with an invading virus. It also has been shown to reduce the various pro-inflammatory cells which may be wreaking havoc. This is why many with allergies, full sinuses and colds feel better after an adjustment.
All images courtesy of WikiHow