Flu and cold season is upon us as the weather changes, the sun sets earlier and winter takes hold. For some getting sick feels almost inevitable, it’s a matter of when. We are conditioned to think about “preventative” actions to prevent the flu as 1. the flu shot and 2. eating chicken soup and other hot liquids. We are told it is an “exposure” issue – ie if you come in contact with sick people you will get sick too. Rarely are we told it is a combination of exposure and resiliency of our own immune systems to protect us from what is always in our environment – bacteria and viruses galore and better yet that there are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself!
Here are 10 things you can do to supercharge and protect yourself this season. Keep yourself, your children and loved ones happy and healthy!
- Support your immune system with vitamin D3 (with Vitamin K). Did you know that almost everyone is deficient in vitamin D, especially in the winter time? Vitamin D is essential for proper immune function. Daily doses of 1,000-10,000IU may be needed. Testing to know what your levels are is always best to be safe.
- Add in some Vitamin A and C. Your body needs all the nutrient support it can get. We only get sick when the body’s internal capacity to fend off bacteria and viruses gets overwhelmed. Upgrade your immune system before it is too late!
- Spicy foods aren’t always the best for our colon, but heating herbs sure can activate the immune system! Garlic, cayenne pepper, black pepper, ginger, etc. work wonders at the first signs of a sore throat, congestion or fatigue. Best to boost your system before the symptoms become a full-blown cold/ flu.
- Nature is our pharmacy! Increasing your intake of antimicrobial immune stimulating herbs as a preventative measure can save that week off work/ school feeling icky. Bitter orange, Echinacea, Barberry, Oregano and Grapefruit seed are my favorites. They work best synergistically in nutrient complexes.
- Eat a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits. They contain the phytonutrients our immune systems need to function. Studies show that eating at least 5 portions a day increases your immune system’s capacity to build antibodies and protect you!
- Go light on the food consumption and focus on easily digestible foods – cooked foods, soups, broths, etc. Give your digestive tract a break as soon as you feel you’re vulnerable.
- Avoid SUGAR! Sugar suppresses the immune system and prolongs colds/ flus once your defenses are down. Also limit cow’s milk and other dairy products, white bread, refined and processed foods. How we fuel our bodies determines whether or not our immune systems are robust. It’s up to you!
- Stay ahead on your hydration. Our bodies need extra fluids to flush out bacterial and viral waste products not to mention that hot liquids are soothing to our throats. Drinking at least half your body weight in oz is a minimum, ideally more.
- Use those powerful essential oils around your home in a diffuser, in the shower or in a steam inhalation. Essential oils contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are powerful microbe-busters. Lavender, rosemary and eucalyptus are my favorites and are safe for topical as well as inhalation use.
- Get plenty of sleep! Did you know that in the wintertime our bodies need at least an extra hour of sleep compared to summer? It is part of our circadian rhythm on a seasonal/ yearly basis. When the outside world slows our bodies are primed to go inwards, rebuild and repair. Every hour before midnight is worth 1.5x the quality of an hour after midnight, so getting to bed earlier can help too. Sleep deprivation raises our stress hormone (cortisol) and suppresses our immune system. Get in those ZZZsss!
Wonder how your immune system is doing? Curious what your micronutrient levels or stress hormone levels are? Getting tested is always best to ensure you’re protecting your body as best as you can. As a Naturopathic Doctor I make sure my patients know exactly what they need to stay healthy; blending the intellectual side of modern medicine with the practical side of natural therapies, is an art crafted specifically for the individual.
– Dr ACE, ND
Dr. Alexandra Carswell Engle (Dr. ACE) is a Licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctor and Director/ Owner of Regenerate Health Medical Center in Santa Barbara, CA. She specializes in science-based natural medicine. She completed her medical education at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) in Tempe, Arizona where her clinical training encompassed a wide range of medical conditions.
Dr. ACE is well aware of how acute and chronic pain and disease can affect performance and recovery, and the importance of a balanced lifestyle. Her goal with all of her patients is to help them become an active participant in their health care decisions and treatments. This includes finding the root cause of dysfunction to alleviate symptoms, truly heal the body and increase performance.