Subscribe

Staying Healthy This Cold and Flu Season… The Holistic Approach

apples+oranges

The cold and flu season is already upon us. It started early this year. Typically, December, January, and February tend to be the worst months.

We have all been bombarded with the message to “get flu shots” as if that is the way to avoid getting sick. Although flu shots may be a good idea for a small number of people, there is a downside to them. By getting yearly flu shots, we actually weaken our immune system‘s ability to fight infections from organisms not included in the current flu vaccine. A better approach is to strengthen our immunity so that our own immune system can do what it is supposed to do — fight infection. The other prevailing myth is that we get a cold or flu because we’ve been “exposed”. Of course it‘s true that exposure to a virus is necessary but that’s not the whole story. In order to get sick three things must occur at the same time:

This is why only a small percentage of those exposed to a virus actually get sick. It is very possible to go years without a cold or flu infection. Yes, years. We seem to have a cultural belief that it‘s normal to get sick a few times each year. Not so!

So much of what we read in the media about prevention is really about avoiding exposure to the offending organisms: wash your hands regularly, stay away from those coughing, cover your mouth, and get flu shots. Perhaps good advice, but a very small part of the story. Also very important (and not talked about enough) is stopping the exposure before it happens. Yes, I mean keeping sick children out of school. And also stay away from work and social gatherings if you are sick. I am amazed how often and freely people are willing to expose others to their cold and flu viruses. It takes a village to prevent a flu pandemic. Let’s help keep each other as healthy as possible this year!

OK, so avoiding exposure is important. But what about supporting and boosting our own immune system to fight off infection when exposed? After all, isn’t that the job of our immune system? I’d like to give you 7 TIPS FOR A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM to do just that:

  1. Get enough sleep, every night. At least 7 hours, yes, every night. This is when our bodies regenerate, heal and detoxify.
  2. Continue following that good anti-inflammatory diet you’ve been working on all year with loads of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  3. Avoid excessive sugar — in the form of sweets, sodas, alcohol, and refined grains. Remember that one serving of sugar reduces your immunity for up to 8 hours.
  4. Continue getting a healthy level of aerobic exercise every day. Aerobic exercise keeps our cells “oxygenated”. Most bacteria and viruses (and some cancers) cannot thrive in a high oxygen environment. Create an environment that makes it difficult for them to thrive. Remember though that excessive exercise may actually weaken your immunity. Make exercise a non-negotiable part of your day.
  5. Take a good multivitamin and mineral formula daily that provides a healthy amount of vitamin C, vitamin A, minerals and B vitamins. In addition, be sure you are supplementing with vitamin D. Better yet, get your vitamin D blood level checked to be sure you are taking a high enough dose of vitamin D for your needs. A healthy goal for your vitamin D blood level is 50-65. Low Vitamin D levels are associated with more susceptibility to infections.
    Remember, vitamins provide an insurance policy only in conjunction with a healthy diet. They do not replace healthy eating. I can help you with immune-boosting supplements if needed.
  6. Maintain healthy digestion. 70% of our immune system is in our digestive system. If you have signs and symptoms of poor digestion, you likely have poor immunity. Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, cramping, pain, acid reflux are all signs that you have weakened digestion.
    It’s worth saying more about this because our immunity definitely starts here. Healthy digestion begins with eating healthfully. Remember that processed food, sugar, chemicals in food, food allergens exposure, overcooked food, overeating, and stress, all destroy the natural bacterial flora in our GI tract.
    Moreover we need a variety of nutrients and high fiber foods to feed these beneficial bacteria and help them thrive. It may be hard to believe that a healthy gut harbors over 100 trillion bacteria, but it is true.

    The good news is poor digestion can be healed with a healthy diet and perhaps some supplements. And, we can work on that right away.

  7. Manage stress. Stress hormones affect our immunity in many ways. They suppress healthy digestion, lead to “stress” eating, which usually means too much sugar and alcohol, and interfere with sleep, to name just a few.

As colder weather approaches, this is the ideal time to make a personal assessment about how many of these areas you have under control. Perhaps some guidance, coaching or specific supplements can be of help. Working with your unique situation, I can help you create a food and supplement plan to boost your immunity and keep you healthy throughout the season. Definitely, if you know you will be under more stress this winter season – we should be proactive and set up a plan for a healthy winter for you.