With the days getting shorter, the air getting colder and more time spent indoors, the cold and flu season is upon us. As usual, the standard precautions of hand washing and covering our mouths and noses are necessary for minimizing the spread of viruses. But this season can also be the time that we take self-care measures that will protect us against the cold and flu outright.
Building up our own immune system is less emphasized than the standard hygiene guidelines yet may be more important. After all, even the most thorough sanitation cannot eliminate all pathogens and so it ultimately comes down to our own defenses to keep us healthy. This is demonstrated in any group situation. For instance, in the workplace, all it takes is one sick employee to spread the illness. Despite this, only some, not all, of the individuals get sick. This is because some have more active immune systems than others.
To ensure that our immune systems are running at their best we need to do a few essential things:
1) Sleep: 8+ hours of sleep. Our immune cells generate while we rest.
2) Vitamin D: The wonder vitamin. Essential in so many ways it would take a book to list them all. You need D. But, during the fall and winter we are not exposed to enough sun to make our own Vitamin D. Maintaining adequate levels is critical. Suggested doses for adults is 5,000mg; children ages 5 – 10: 2,500mg; and below 5: 35units/lb.
3) Multivitamin: Take a quality multivitamin (Megafoods, New Chapter) to ensure that you are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to run itself.
4) Exercise: regular moderate exercise can reduce the risk of cold and flu by 23%.
And if we are interested in really beefing up our defenses to ensure a cold- and flu-free season, the following is highly recommended.
1) Steam: The cold and flu viruses do not thrive at temperatures over 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, use steam rooms and saunas on a frequent basis throughout the winter. If not accessible, don’t worry. You can make your own potent steam at home by boiling water, pouring it off into a bowl, and placing a towel over your head and breathing in the steam. For extra effect, add one drop of thyme, eucalyptus or lavender essential oil and enjoy.
2) Humidify: The dryness of the winter months makes our respiratory system vulnerable to invasion. Putting a humidifier in your bedroom ensures that for at least 8 hours a night, you are breathing moisturized air. Placing a cotton ball with essential oils of tea tree, pine and lavender next to the exhaust vent will disinfect the air. (Do not put in humidifier water bin).
3) Food and Herbs: Certain foods and herbs can greatly enhance your defenses. 1 to 3 fresh cloves of garlic per day prepared in your food is extremely effective at killing pathogens in your respiratory and digestive systems (not to mention its benefits for your heart). In addition, Shitake mushrooms stimulate the production of immune cells in the bone marrow. Raw honey contains trace minerals and plant compounds that are very beneficial to your health. Furthermore, the herbs Elder, Echinacea and Boneset (try Traditional Medicinals Echinacea-Elder tea blend), taken at the very first on-set of symptoms, can provide just the kick your body needs to knock a cold or flu before it knocks you.
4) Minimize and/or Avoid: Sugar, dairy, soy, gluten, junk food and smoking. Each suppresses and inflames your immune system, wasting vital energy and making you extremely vulnerable to infection.
By observing these recommendations, you and your family can look forward to a cold- and flu-free year, which means less time being sick and more time living life.
To Your Health!
Karden Rabin, LMT