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 to drive to work would take way too long.
You are reminded again that everyone around you is getting sick when you get to work. Your cubicle neighbor comes by to update you on that 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 that invading virus or bacteria at a moment’s notice. This white-blood-cell brigade called the immune system is working behind the scenes to keep us healthy. But, we have to give these warriors the rest they need, 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 2-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 they exposed them to the cold virus for 5 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, turmeric
- Zinc-rich foods such as: cremini mushrooms, spinach, sea vegetables, , chickpeas, oysters, crab, lobster, salmon, turkey, and lamb.
- Vitamin C-rich foods include: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, papaya, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kiwi, cauliflower, kale, parsley, lemons, limes, spinach, snow peas, and rose hip tea.
- Beta-carotene-rich foods include: 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, maitake, etc. Be sure to consult with your licensed health care practitioner to ensure you are taking safe and 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 toes. Taking alternating hot and cold showers (3 minutes hot, 1 minute cold, repeat two more times OR ending your shower in 30 seconds to 1 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 hospital 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, counseling, etc. 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 health care 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 may 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, see my Events section for a seminar this Saturday, November 12th in Toronto.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed health care practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed health care professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.