We all prepare for winter in one way or another: we’ve closed up the cottage, packed away the lawn chairs, and readied the snow blower, but have we prepared our immune system in order to prevent cold and flu? Few of us take the time to consider winterizing our immune systems for the coming months ahead in order to prevent colds and flus, yet we should in order to achieve optimal health over the winter season.
It is the immune system within our bodies that maintains a barrier between our environment and us. In the event that a virus or bacteria should invade the body it is the immune system that governs and responds appropriately, and immediately, to destroy the unwanted invader if we have prepared and maintained good immunity. So what can we do in order to prevent colds and flus this season? There are three main healthy lifestyle components that need to be addressed in order to properly ‘winterize’ your immune system- practice good hygiene, get plenty of rest and regular exercise, and maintain a nutritious diet. Having a healthy body and immune system will help you and your family to prevent or successfully fight infections over the coming months.
There are a few simple hygiene guidelines you can follow such as washing your hands often, especially after being in a public place; trying not to touch your eyes, mouth or nose (which is how the virus enters); covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; and avoid sharing utensils, drinking cups, hand towels, etc. with others. These simple measures can go a long way to ensuring optimal health for you and your family this winter season.
We all push ourselves too hard from time to time thinking we can ‘handle it all’, but people often overlook the impact that stress and exhaustion have on the body. Pay attention to how you are sleeping- if you aren’t getting enough sleep you will be at increased risk for a viral takeover. And don’t underestimate the importance of regular exercise for increasing your resistance to illness. There is evidence that regular, moderate exercise can reduce your risk of respiratory illness and boost your immunity.
And finally pay attention to your body’s nutritional needs. Now is a good time of year to alter your diet in favour of foods that will strengthen your immune response. Remember to maintain a nutritious diet, with lots of fluids, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, as well as good sources of protein (organic or free-range eggs, organic chicken, beef and fish, whey protein, and don’t forget about beans, legumes, and nuts which are also good sources of protein). Other good food choices include mushrooms (especially Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake, which have immune-enhancing properties) and garlic, a potent antimicrobial that kills bacteria, viruses and fungi. Eliminate foods that weaken your immune system and cause mucus, including refined sugar, dairy products, and any foods that you are allergic to. Additionally, avoid caffeine (i.e. coffee, black tea, chocolate) which depletes your body of zinc, an important mineral for healing and immune stimulation.
If you are feeling unwell eat light foods such as soup, steamed vegetables, and broths. Add ginger, garlic, and onions to your soup for their antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. If you do not have an appetite, do not force yourself to eat, but do make sure you stay well hydrated with water and herbal teas. Try to eat some berries and citrus fruits that contain vitamin C, as well as foods high in zinc such as oysters, wheat germ, roasted pumpkin and squash seeds, and peanuts to strengthen the immune system. Don’t forget to include foods rich in vitamin A in your diet including liver, raw carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, and mangoes which have powerful immune-boosting and antioxidant effects.
From a natural product standpoint there are several remedies and supplements which are extremely useful in alleviating symptoms leading to a hasty recovery and are without side effects. Homeopathic Remedies are recognized as one of the safest categories among the natural products by Health Canada. There are several well proven combination remedies, single remedies, homeopathic cough syrups (these are safe and effective for use even in children), as well as homeopathic products that have been clinically proven to cut down on the length and intensity of flu symptoms. See your Homeopath this winter if you come down with a cold or flu. They can help heal your symptoms quickly with an individualized remedy specific to your unique symptoms. Moreover, a Homeopath can help you decide if homeopathic prophylaxis for the prevention of cold and flu would be beneficial for you and your family.
Remember, flu season is here again so it is important to take preventative action and “winterize” your immune system to keep it strong against cold and flu viruses. Stop cold and flu miseries in their tracks before they stop you by incorporating the right vitamins, supplements and foods into your daily routine as well as maintaining a balanced lifestyle!
For advice on how to treat your cold and flu naturally book an appointment today and watch for next month’s article on how to ‘Boost you Immunity Naturally’. Our cold and flu protocol can help your get the upper hand on your cold and flu symptoms and also may prevent future attacks.
Andrea Hauser, Homeopath