Navigating Cold and Flu Season Naturally
It's that time of year again...where every sneeze and cough has people paranoid, running for the hand sanitizer and wishing for a force field around them. Not every cold and bout of respiratory illness can be prevented or stopped by natural medicine, but I am happy to report that mother nature can help lessen the severity of your down time if used properly. In this blog post I will present many different avenues to either prevention and/or treatment of cold, flu, and general sickness that plague so many during the winter months.
So, my first piece of advice for all of you is.....
1) SLOW DOWN AND THINK OF YOUR HEALTH. Yes, it seems simple, but I guess it isn't. Take a night or two a week for no activities, unplug from work or social engagements, have a home cooked family meal together, and get to bed early. Think of 1940's America and try to mimic that way of life a few times a week, at least.
2) EAT A HEALTHY, HOME COOKED DIET I avoid restaurants like the plague in the winter time. There is a lot to be said about fresh, healthy, home cooked food in the winter to help protect your immunity. Try and shoot for four cups of vegetables a day....and potatoes and corn don't count. I am not anti potato- they actually have high vitamin C and potassium, but think color for vegetables. Fruits and veggies contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, etc that help protect your body against disease of all kinds. You can't fight off viruses and bacteria when you have no army. Berries and greens are particularly high in illness fighting compounds. Foods like garlic and onion can help prevent and fight illness, too.
3) TAKE A FEW SPECIFIC SUPPLEMENTS. This could be a very broad subject, as there are tons of different vitamins/minerals and supplements that can help in this area. I will just highlight a few that I have found helpful for me. Remember to proceed with caution and consult medical professionals if needed.
Hippocrates said that all disease begins in the gut. Without a healthy gut, you leave yourself wide open for all sorts of trouble. So, my first line of defense in preventing sickness is a good probiotic, and/or fermented foods in the diet. A good rule of thumb that I tell people is don't get your probiotics from your neighborhood drug or grocery store (unless it is Sprouts, Whole foods, Green Acres, etc). Also, you get what you pay for in supplement land. Just think of it as an investment in your health. I drink homemade kombucha almost every day, which gives me some lacto-based probiotics and B vitamins. You can buy kombucha, water kefir, life way dairy kefir, naturally fermented sauerkraut like the "Bubbies" brand, kimchi, and other things to get fermented foods in your diet, also.
acts as an antioxidant and fights free radicals in the body. Lots of cold and flu products have zinc in them because it is so good at helping fight viruses. I take zinc several times a week for a boost; it also helps hormonal health, can help fight cancer, and can help digestion. Here is a link to the benefits of zinc:
Nicknamed the sunshine vitamin, this vitamin is very important for overall health. It improves immune function, helps prevent cancer from forming, assists in hormone health, can help mood/depression, and helps bone health. Sunlight, cod liver oil, and wild caught salmon are your best sources of this vitamin, as well as a good whole food supplement. I take both fermented cod liver oil and this Dr. Axe vitamin D on a daily basis, especially in the winter.
Hippocrates strikes again; he called elderberry his "medicine chest" because of its wide array of benefits. It can help shorten the severity of colds and flu as well as help prevent it because of its immune system properties.
It contains polyphenols, flavanoids, and other big words that basically mean immune system fighters. Wyldewood Cellars in Mulvane makes and sells elderberry extract (and wine!), or there are lozenges and syrups galore for all of your elderberry needs. Here is another Dr. Axe article on the benefits of elderberry: https://draxe.com/elderberry/
There are a million herbs and teas formulated for immune and sickness support. Herbal medicine is the oldest medicine known to man so the options are endless in this area. Chinese Medicine rocks in this area. I personally have about 10-15 herbal formulas that can help with specified stages and symptoms of cold and flu depending on what your main complaint is. So
remember that you have herbal options to help shorten that pesky cold, or even if you do have to get antibiotics for a bad respiratory infection a lot of time herbs can help along side western medicine to get you on the mend sooner. I also sell a wide variety of locally made organic tea blends from "Leaf Logic" (formally Cozy Leaf) that can either help with or ward off sickness.
5) STAY WARM AND DRESS ACCORDINGLY. This seems like a no brainer, but all winter long I see people in shorts or flip flops. Bottom line, your mom was right when she said to put on your coat. You can get sick from cold and wind...why do you think it's a "cold"?? Keep your neck covered in cold wind and dress warmly to help prevent weather related illness.
6) ESSENTIAL OILS
Essential oils are basically herbal steam distilled extracts in liquid form. They are very potent and useful in every aspect of health and household. I probably use 10-15 different oils a day for various things. Not all oils are created equally, so be aware of the quality of your oils. I recommend either DoTerra or Young Living because they are certified therapeutic grade oils. Sorry, walmart and the other band wagoners, you don't stack up. One example of an oil blend to help in cold and flu season is the thieves blend, or
OnGuard in DoTerra world. You can diffuse it to coat your nasal passages, dilute it and clean with it, use topically, etc. DoTerra even has lozenges, toothpaste, mouthwash, and hand soap containing this oil blend. If you are sick, there are oils blends to help fight illness or help with symptoms, too. After all, the main ingredients in Vicks vapor rub are peppermint and eucalyptus oils. You can also purchase these fine oils through me as I am a DoTerra distributor and believe in them and the company whole heartedly.
MASSAGE THERAPY AND ACUPUNCTURE CAN BE KEY IN IMMUNE SYSTEM HEALTH, ALSO. MASSAGE IS CONTRAINDICATED IF YOU ARE ACTIVELY SICK BECAUSE IT COULD MAKE YOU FEEL WORSE! PLUS, WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO EXPOSE YOUR WONDERFUL MASSAGE THERAPIST TO SICKNESS? ;)
SO, THIS WINTER MAKE YOUR HEALTH A PRIORITY: EAT WELL, DRESS WARM, DRINK HOT TEA, TAKE YOUR WHOLE FOOD VITAMIN, AND SLATHER ON THOSE OILS (safely)!!
I WANT TO CLOSE BY SAYING THAT SOME TIMES IT IS INEVITABLE THAT MEDICATIONS ARE NEEDED FOR ILLNESS, AND THAT IS OKAY! BETTER TO TAKE THAT ROUND OF ANTIBIOTICS THAN END UP IN THE HOSPITAL WITH PNEUMONIA. ALSO, BE SURE TO RESEARCH OR CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TAKING ANY NATURAL REMEDIES BECAUSE THEY ARE STRONG AND CAN INTERACT WITH CERTAIN DRUGS.
REMEMBER, AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE!
-SHELLY LAc, DiplOM, LMT