You know it is cold and flu season when…you are on the subway and the person behind you starts to cough uncontrollably. You wish you could avoid public transit altogether, but driving to work takes way too long.
You are reminded again that everyone around you is getting sick when you get to work. Your cubicle neighbour comes by to update you on the new guy she is dating. She puts her fingers all over your computer to show you his photos on Facebook after you just saw her sneeze into her hands.
Yuck! Germ overload!
No matter how many times you wash your hands, no matter how many times you try to avoid touching door handles in public, you ARE going to be exposed to illness-causing viruses and bacteria.
It may seem impossible not to get sick, but you can take action to prevent yourself from coming down with colds and the flu.
Luckily, we have an army within us, circulating from head to toe, ready to attack any invading virus or bacteria at a moment’s notice. This white-blood-cell brigade called the immune system is always working behind the scenes to keep us healthy. But we have to give these warriors the rest they need, along with the appropriate supplies, route maps and a hospital/place to live.
Just how can we do that?
First of all, get some sleep! A good night’s rest reduces our susceptibility to colds. Mammals that get the most sleep have been shown to have higher numbers of disease-fighting white blood cells. In a study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine (2009), participants who slept an average of less than seven hours a night over a two-week period were three times as likely to get sick as those who got at least 8 hours a night. They figured this out by tracking the sleep patterns of 153 men and women for two weeks, and then exposing them to the cold virus for five days following while in quarantine. It turns out that extra hour can really pay off!
What else can we do?
These warriors have very specific nutritional requirements to be able to work their hardest. If we are overweight, they slow down and get lazy. Consuming sugar and processed food robs them of vital nutrients while fruits, vegetables and good-quality protein sources keep them marching around the body ready for action.
Foods that particularly keep them going include:
- Ginger, garlic and turmeric.
- Zinc-rich foods such ascremini mushrooms, spinach, sea vegetables, chickpeas, oysters, crab, lobster, salmon, turkey and lamb.
- Vitamin C-rich foodsincluding blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, papaya, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, cauliflower, kale, parsley, lemons, limes, spinach, snow peas and rose hip tea.
- Beta-carotene-rich foodsincluding carrots, spinach, turnip, kale, sweet potato, cayenne pepper, cantaloupe, winter squash, apricots, broccoli, collard greens and asparagus.
- Supplements and herbs that give them the mojo they need include zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, probiotics, bioflavonoids, astragalus, garlic, sambucus nigra, ginseng, andrographis, cordyceps, reishi, shiitake and maitake. Be sure to consult with your licensed healthcare practitioner to ensure you are taking safe, effective herbs and nutrients that will not interact with any medical conditions you may be suffering from or with any medications you may be taking.
Now that they are armed and ready to go, they need a route map to find their way and some sturdy vehicles to help them race around. Exercise and hydrotherapy are crucial to keep them moving around the body and prevent them from getting side-tracked. Muscle contractions during exercise pumps the fluid that carries them around the body so that they can provide surveillance from head to toe. Taking alternating hot and cold showers (three minutes hot, one minute cold, repeat two more times OR end your shower in 30 seconds to one minute of cold water) keeps their jeeps moving along the road to health. If we aren’t moving, neither are they!
We also want to provide a hospitable environment for them to live in. If we are stressed out or angry, they won’t perform at their optimal level. Stress-relieving techniques such as yoga, meditation, exercise, journaling and counselling are great ways to support these natural warriors. If we talk about our emotions and get them out, then we are less likely to succumb to that cold or flu virus.
Talk to your licensed healthcare practitioner to put you on an individualized immune-boosting program. There are many natural ways to prevent getting colds and the flu. They will also provide you with a plan of action if you do start to feel sick, so that you can recover quicker and with less symptoms.
With the right preparation, when you hear that stranger on the subway start to cough, you will know that you have done all you could to get those warriors within ready for action!
If you want further support for boosting immunity naturally, book an appointment with me for an individualized program to keep you healthy throughout the fall and winter.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.