It doesn’t have to be a dream. Yes, the cold and flu season is looming upon us, and has already started for some. But instead of feeling like a sitting duck – instead, why not go on the offensive with some natural ways to boost immunity (that don’t involve getting a shot)! As the expression goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Here are some tips to help you stay a step ahead of colds & flu this year.
Perhaps one of the most important things we can do to prevent colds and flu – is to optimize our vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but a pre-hormone produced in the skin after exposure to the sun’s UVB rays. So vitamin D levels typically drop in the Fall/Winter months when we get less sun exposure. A study published in 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that 70% – 97% of Americans have insufficient blood levels of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is known for it’s role in building strong bones, but it also plays a significant role in our immunity – in fact, our immune system requires vitamin D in order to properly function (read: Immune System Superstar-Vitamin D). Some research shows that vitamin D is more effective in preventing the flu than a flu shot. To get ready for cold and flu season – the Fall/Winter is a good time to supplement with vitamin D3 (read: Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?). Low levels of vitamin D not only raise our risk of colds and flu, but also increases our risk for breast cancer, fractures, depression, heart disease, Alzheimers disease, and more. These Nordic Naturals Vitamin D3 gummies are a great option for kids, and I like this one from Pure Prescriptions for adults, it features VESIsorb® Delivery System for optimal absorption. Ideally, you should have your levels checked twice yearly to know if you are supplementing at the right dose. Optimal blood levels of vitamin D should be between 40 ng/dL – 60 ng/dL, and are very important for cancer prevention, learn more.
Our bodies are teeming with bacteria, in fact, according to scientists, we have 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells! And it is important for us to remember that some of those bacteria are the “good guys,” which are important not only for our digestion, but also for our immune system, and even our mental health. Studies show that probiotics are a very powerful tool in the fight against infection. So if you want to boost your immune system, increase the good bacteria in your gut by eating probiotic rich foods, and/or taking a probiotic supplement. According to this article, “a healthy lower intestine should contain at least 85% friendly bacteria to prevent the over-colonization of microorganisms like E. coli and salmonella. Replenishing the healthy bacteria in our gut is especially important after a course of antibiotics – critical really – because they wipe out ALL the bacteria – good and bad. So although antibiotics can help to get rid of an infection like strep throat, they can leave your immune system vulnerable to future infections. Read The Importance of Good Bacteria to learn more.
Whenever you put a bunch of kids together in a room, you increase the chances that viruses and bacteria can spread. One of the best ways to prevent germs spreading around is to simply wash them off! One of the simplest things our kids can do to prevent getting sick is to simply wash their hands. Because viruses can live for up to 48 hours on a surface, so remind your kids to make sure to wash their hands before they eat, or when they come into the home from being out in public places touching surfaces. Also remind your kids to not put their hands (or toys) in their mouths.
Do your kids do the ‘quick rinse’ in the sink without soap? I know a lot of kids do – they are far too busy to wash with soap. But a quick rinse with water might not get all the germs off. So hands should be washed with soap and water after using the bathroom, before eating, and after handling things in public places (ie: playground, museums, grocery stores, health clubs). But just say no to the antibacterial soaps! Studies show that use of the anti-bacterial agent Tricolsan (found in many antibacterial soaps, gels, and wipes) could be creating resistant strains of bacteria. So don’t forget to wash hands, but stick with regular soap.
Ever since Nobel prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling wrote the book Vitamin C and the Common Cold in 1970, the debate about whether or not it can help prevent the common cold has raged on. But research does shows that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can support a healthy immune system. So during the cold and flu season – load up on the citrus fruits, strawberries, and red peppers. It is also a good idea to supplement with vitamin C as well. I like Trace Minerals Research Electrolyte Stamina packs – they pack 1,200 mg of vitamin C, and come in a variety of delicious flavors – even the kids like them. Take with food if you have a sensitive stomach.
Sleep is when our body recovers, regenerates and repairs – several different studies have shown a link between lack of sleep and lowered immune system. Adults should get no less than 7 hours of sleep. Kids need different amounts depending on their age. But they should be getting to bed early enough each night that they wake up feeling refreshed. Turning off electronics 1 hour before bedtime helps people settle down to sleep better.
One of the worst foods for our immune system are sugary foods and drinks. Studies have shown that ingesting a sugary solution reduced white blood cell effectiveness by 40%, thereby reducing the body’s ability to fight infection. Sweets also increases systemic inflammation in the body, and create imbalances in our gut bacteria, which are both important players in the immune system. So try to cut back on the sweets this time of year to boost immunity (easier said than done with Halloween around the corner!). If you are struggling with a sugar addiction, consider my Break up with Sugar eCourse!
Stress can lower the immune system, making the body less effective at fighting infections. So doing things like yoga or meditation to reduce stress levels will help to boost the immune system. If possible – giving kids downtime away from homework and other commitments to just have some fun – also helps to lower stress levels too. Kids (and adults) need play time!
Great for prevention of colds and flu this time of year, Olive leaf is a powerful antioxidant immune support with an ORAC score of 7608. The use of olive leaf extract to support health dates back to ancient Egypt. You can buy liquid, capsules, and even a throat spray – which is great at the first signs of a sore throat, often the early stage of a cold or flu.
So what should you do if you start to feel a sore throat, or other symptoms of a cold of flu? In addition to the above, there are a number of natural things that we like to do to stop a cold in it’s tracks!
Garlic and oregano – are both powerful antiviral and antibacterials – if you catch it early enough, at the sore throat stage – I have found that taking some oregano oil can really nip a cold in the bud! I also like to take Immune Shield from Sun Warrior. Immune Shield contains ionic liquid silver and gold in a fulvic acid base. Silver is also a very effective natural anti-bacterial. If you catch it at the early stage – taking natural anti-bacterials can help to prevent a virus from taking hold, or progressing into a more serious infection. But do not take oregano oil for longer than about 2 weeks – like other antibacterials – it can affect both the good and bad bacteria in your gut.
If you catch it early enough (right at the sore throat stage ususally), homeopathic cold remedies can help to nip a cold in the bud. But even if you do not catch it early – homepathic remedies are also natural ways to manage the pain and inflammation, and help to drain the mucous membranes. Some homeopathic formulas can be found over the counter at your local health food store (such as UMCKA Cold+Flu, or Boiron ColdCalm), or look for a practitioner that offers homeopathic remedies. Start these at the first sign for best results – we always have these on hand in case!
Vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin D are all important players in the immune system. So if your immune system is going to work to deal with a virus, supporting it with additional C, D and zinc is helpful.
Organic slow-cooked chicken soup made with bones is not just comforting and good for the soul – it provides collagen which helps to support immunity and gut health, it also has electrolytes which help to keep the body hydrated too.
Lack of sleep can leave us feeling run down and prone to illness. So if you are feeling something coming on – try to get to bed early and get some ZZZs, so the body can recover.
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
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