Tips on staying healthy this cold & flu season!

by Nieve Shere, L.Ac.

Now that November is here, and winter is just around the corner, colds and flu season is not far behind. The following health tips are useful, preventive steps to take to maintain you and your family's health:

This may seem like a no-brainer, but washing hands is key to preventing sickness. Make it a habit to wash your hands after shaking hands with someone, coming in from outside, the grocery store, or any other public place, including the bathroom (which surprisingly enough, many don’t!). Be sure to wash your kid's hands too! They are the biggest carriers of germs especially now that school is in session.

Vitamin C is quickly consumed by the immune system during infections, by adding vitamin C to your diet will increase your immune systems ability to fight off illness.

Elderberry is a common folk remedy that has been around for centuries and used medicinally for many different purposes. Specifically, the bioflavonoids in the juice can inhibit the flu virus from infecting cells. Taken at the first onset of cold or flu symptoms, Elderberry improves the immune system and prevents upper respiratory infections and taken during illness, lessens the severity of the infection and shortens the duration.

Zinc is an essential trace element and needed in small amounts to maintain health, taking zinc lozenges help to boost the immune system and fight off colds. Water is essential during the cold and flu season.

Staying well hydrated is another no-brainer, but often hard to do. Increase your intake to help thin out fluids such as mucus and phlegm, reducing congestion in the sinuses and the lungs.  Water also helps to maintain healthy cell function,  eliminating  toxic buildup, improving your immune system. 

Nasal washes, done using the well known Neti pot, is an excellent way to prevent illness. By flushing out the nasal cavities, you reduce the chance for viruses and bacterial to invade your system. Try the neti pot daily to reduce the severity of seasonal allergies as well.

As always, food is your best defense against any illness. Eating foods that are sourced organically, locally and seasonally is not only sustainable for our environment, but it keeps you sustained as well. Reduce or if possible, completely avoid refined sugars, processed foods, and sugary drinks. Replace with more water, green or black teas, and whole foods, such as quinoa, brown rice, millet, oats, vegetables (especially kale, the super food!), and fruit. 


Useful foods as medicine: (to name just a few)

Garlic: This pungent bulb not only helps to flavor dishes, but it can fight off viruses, fungal and bacterial infections. Overall, this super food improves your immune system. Don't be shy, mince raw garlic into your dishes for an added immune boost. Worried about the pungency? Cook garlic into your food lessening the pungency, without losing the benefit. 


Ginger: This aromatic, spicy rhizome has been used for millennia as medicine. Use ginger in most dishes to add a little heat, increase blood circulation, warm chills, or use in a hot bath to induce sweating. My favorite is a fresh minced ginger with hot water and honey, add a little cinnamon for extra immune fighting power. 

Cinnamon: Feeling the classic signs of a cold or flu with a stiff, achy neck and chills, try cinnamon tea. This culinary spice is a highly prized medicine in the Chinese Materia medica that inhibits the flu virus and warms the muscles reducing achiness. Try soaking 6g in 16oz of hot water once a day. 

Finally, everyone knows how important feeling good is for your health. Well, those feel-good hormones can also reduce stress and less stress means a stronger immune system. To help brighten your mood on a dark, grey day, replace your standard watt light bulb with full spectrum lighting that provides more natural light. Plug in these bulbs closest to where you sit, read, by your bed etc., you will notice the difference. Reduce your susceptibility to illness by maintaining a lighter, happier feeling throughout the day. 

 

 

Some resources that I found useful to write this blog:

  • Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica by Dan Bensky, Steven Clavey and Erich Stoger (Sep 2004)
  • Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal: A Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health, and Vitality
  • National Institute of Health | www.nih.gov