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.
Do you get several colds every year? That could be an indication that your vitamin D levels are too low. 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. Getting your vitamin D in the optimal range could literally save your life – as low vitamin D is associated with an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.Experts say that 70% of breast cancers could be prevented by optimal blood levels of vitamin D. I always recommend taking vitamin D with magnesium – because it is needed for the conversion to the active form.
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.
I like a probiotic product called Floratrex, which is a blend of live and active cultures from 23 probiotic strains that support digestion and intestinal function and boost the immune system. It has both probiotics and prebiotics – which work together to help populate your digestive tract with a mix of beneficial bacteria to support digestion and boost the immune system. It comes in both 25 billion and 50 billion CFUs, for most people – the 25 billion CFUs is ideal. For those with extremely sensitive digestion, or who have had issues tolerating probiotics in the past – I recommend a product called – Digestive Defense from Pure Prescriptions. It is a single strain of healthy bacteria that is designed to repopulate the gut with good bacteria. It is shelf-stable, and can get past the harsh stomach acid to get to work in the large intestine where it should be. It is generally very well tolerated, and does not cause bloating or discomfort.
Read The Importance of Good Bacteria to learn more about the role bacteria plays in our health.
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.
My favorite hand soap that we use in our house all year long is doTERRA’s On Guard hand soap. It contains essential oils that help to remove bacteria, but does not create resistance.
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. Take vitamin C with food if you have a sensitive stomach or it gives you loose stools, or consider lipospheric vitamin C. Some people with constipation find that 1,000 mg. of vitamin C in the morning before breakfast solves all of their constipation woes.
Read: Was Linus Pauling Right About Vitamin C’s Curative Powers After All?
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. – because the blue light emitted from screens intereferes with the body’s production of melatonin, a sleep hormone.
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!
Essential oils can be powerful tools in the prevention of colds and flu this time of year. I use a line of essential oil blends from dōTERRA that are designed to support the immune system called On Guard®, a proprietary essential oil blend, which may offer protection against environmental and seasonal threats with essential oils known for their positive effects on the immune system. They also have an essential oil blend called Breathe™ – that is wonderful to diffuse if you are feeling stuffy. They also have a Breathe stick – that reminds me of a vaporub – that I love to use if I feel a little stuffed up. And both come in lozenges as well. Essential oils are very powerful – so it is ideal to get informed before using them. If you have questions about essential oils – or are interested in learning more about safely using essential oils – feel free to email me at email@example.com.
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 – the brand we use in our house is Gaia Oregano Oil. We always have some on hand in case we feel a cold coming on! 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.
Note: do not take oregano oil for longer than about 2-3 weeks – like other antibacterials – it can affect both the good and bad bacteria in your gut.
The minute I feel a sore throat coming on – I reach for my Boiron ColdCalm. If you catch it early enough – homeopathic remedies can really help to stop a cold, or at least lessen the symptoms. If you do not catch it early enought to prevent – 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 Boiron ColdCalm or UMCKA Cold+Flu, or ), or look for a practitioner that offers homeopathic remedies. Start these at the first sign for best results – we always have Cold Calm on hand in the house just in case!
If your immune system is fighting a virus, supporting it with additional C, D and zinc is helpful. Vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin D are all important players in the immune system. So if you seem to get every cold and flu that you come into contact with – you could be deficient in vitamin D or zinc. I recommend having your vitamin D levels checked each year, especially if you are prone to getting colds. If you do supplement with vitamin D, always take it with magnesium – needed for the conversion. This is the magnesium we take at our house- Designs for Health Magnesium Malate.
One of the most powerful forms of vitamin C that I have found is Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C. We have used it in our house to help recover from those stubborn coughs that just seem to linger on and on (they didn’t linger as long using this). Lypo Spheric products use phospholipids to maximize absorption. Phospholipids are primary building blocks of the cellular membrane: the thin, protective wall around each cell in your body – the wall functions as a skin for each cell, keeping things in or out. While your body can make some phospholipid compounds on its own, others must be supplied by your diet. These are called essential phospholipids. Lypo Spheric Vitamin C gives you 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C AND 1,000 milligrams of Essential Phospholipids in each packet, including Phosphatidylcholine, an important phospholipid required for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, collagen, and nervous system. Lipospheric vitamin C is one of the most powerful ways to get vitamin C into the cells, nearly as powerful as IV vitamin C – which saved a man dying from pneumonia – his family was given no hope, but IV vitamin C (and lipospheric vitamin C when the doctors refused to give it by IV) brought him back – watch this amazing story called – “Vitamin C The Miracle Swine Flu Cure” – about how a dairy farmer who had “white out” pneumonia complications from the Swine Flu – his life was literally saved by vitamin C. High dose IV Vitamin C may also help with recovery from other immune issues like shingles and lyme disease.
Read: The Remarkable Health Benefits of Liposomal Vitamin C by Dr. Jockers
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.
If you end up with a bacterial infection, or you need to take antibiotics to get well – it is good to be ready to do some “clean up” work to get our bacterial balance back in order to support our health. Antibiotics are not selective – they kill the good bacteria along with the bad. So if you take antibiotics, you will want to replenish the good bacteria in your gut by taking a probiotic (or you will find your immune system to be more vulnerable). I have a two pronged approach for this:
During antibiotic use and for a short time afterwards – take Jarrow brand Saccharomyces Boulardii. Because it is a beneficial yeast (not a bacteria/probiotic), so it will not interfere with, or be killed off by the antibiotic. Saccharomyces Boulardii has been shown to be protective against diarrhea (which antibiotics can cause), and also to help create a beneficial environment in the gut. We also like to bring it with us if we travel to help prevent traveler’s diarrhea too.
After antibiotic use – I recommend a high quality probiotic – to help “reseed” the good bacteria in the gut – for more detail on this, see item #2 above – Boost the Good Bacteria in your Gut.
This article was updated on March 1, 2017.
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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