Way too often, when things get out of whack and I really “need” to get sleep, eat well and exercise? That’s the exact time that all of that goes right out the window… for lack of making it a priority. The Holidays are notorius for this…so, note to myself: this Holiday Season I’ll follow my own advice and do the following:
- Eat well. Get exercise. Get plenty of sleep. Screw my head on right so if there IS stress, at least it won’t be “self-imposed” stress.
- Take a multi vitamin/mineral pill every day, as well as one drop of my vitamin D emulsion, and cod liver or fish oil.
- Wash my hands more than usual. Use a handi-wipe before putting hands on the grocery cart handle.
- If handling things like communal pens, grocery carts, etc…. don’t touch my eyes, nose or mouth until I’ve had time to wash my hands.
As for the “Eating Well” Part?The Biggest “No No” = Sugar.
The most simple advice I can give anyone is to cut sugar, in all its forms, out of your diet absolutely as much as possible.
“Sugar” isn’t found just in the 5 lb. bag or in cookies and candy… it’s found in refined carbohydrates, processed foods, juices, softdrinks, alcohol & mixers. Cut back on bread, pasta, pastries, crackers, and obviously chips and processed snack food.
Sugar suppresses the immune system, so porking out on the above is a great way to suppress yours so you can get a cold or the flu.
- Keep the refrigerator filled with salad makings, veggies (broccoli and cauliflower are good immune bosters), fruit, salsa, beans, homemade chicken soup, organic lean meats, fish, poultry and eggs.
- Keep some fresh ground flaxseed on hand and add it to a good quality Greek yogurt that has the beneficial probiotic bacteria in it (as well as LOW sugar!).
- Find ways to add ginger, garlic and onions to your food as often as possible.
I figure if I’m good here on a day to day basis… I can go ahead and dive into some of those favorite holiday foods and desserts a couple of times over the holidays and not feel guilty that I sabotaged my immune system.
Supporting your Gut and Digestive System.
Take a good probiotic every day, which will help support your gut.
Did you know that 80-90% of your immune system is located in your gut? Pro-biotics help support the proper bacterial balance in the gut, which in turn helps our immune system attack and digest foreign invaders (viruses, bad bacteria). Research also shows that these “good bacteria” can help with a healthy immune response in the nasal mucus (which also helps trap… foreign invaders).
Relaxation and Stress Reduction
- Get 8 hours of quality sleep.
- Get daily exercise of some kind. Don’t overdue it if you feel you’re coming down with a cold.
- Keep Epsom Salts by the bath along with a good book. Keep another good book or magazine by the fireplace. Make your own favorite Holiday music CD to listen to. Try “Sleepytime” herbal tea before bed.
- Try to get in extra water. Go for the 6-8 glasses water. Herbal teas and green tea count towards that goal too.
- Staying hydrated keeps nasal passages moist, providing better natural defenses against viruses.
My “Emergency Kit”
If I start to feel like I’m dragging and may be susceptible to catching a cold or virus, I enlist the help of a few of the following “emergency kit” items. (I keep this easily accessible so I don’t forget about it.
- “Emergen-C” or “Power Pak” electrolyte packets… helps get in an extra glass of water everyday too!
- Zinc lozenges. (I’m using Wellness brand “Peach-Raspberry” lozenges. Whatever… zinc has a pretty strong taste and these taste fine to me).
- B complex. (This is in addition to my multiple… the B vitamins are used up easily and they’re very helpful during times of emotional or physical stress).
- Anti-oxidant supplement (in addition, green tea and dark chocolate are a source of anti-oxidants).
- Probiotic: One to try is “Udo’s” brand. He has many different ones and you can find them at New Seasons, Whole Foods, or Food Front.
- Mushrooms have a proven immune boosting capability and some supplement options are: Deep Health “Medicinal Mushrooms” (fast acting softgels);or New Chapter “Host Defense”.
- Elderberry: I’m loving Honey Gardens “Apitherapy Honey Organic Elderberry Syrup”. I found it at New Seasons… it’s traditionally used for cold and flu.
- Wish Gardens “Kickass Immune Activator” ( a tincture to add to juice or a smoothie.. a pretty strong taste), which contains Goldenseal, Yarrow, Echinacea, Elderflower, and a few others to help boost the immune system.
- Astragalus: a tincture you can add to juice or a smoothie. See description below.
- Echinacea: a tincture you can add to juice of a smoothie. See description below.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous) is a well studied herb from Chinese medicine used traditionally to help strengthen and support the immune system. Look for astragalus products standardized to 16 percent polysaccharides and 0.2 % flavones, and take two capsules twice a day (unless the product directs otherwise). Dr. Andrew Weil
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) helps treat colds, flu, sore throat, and other common infections. Available as tinctures, extracts, capsules and tablets, take two capsules of freeze-dried extract four times a day or a dropperful of tincture, in water, four times a day at the first sign of an illness coming on. Look for combination echinacea products (containing both angustifolia and purpurea species) standardized to four percent echinacosides. Dr. Andrew Weil
A Neti Pot
Zan swears by the neti pot… he’s prone to getting sinus infections, and just like clockwork, every winter he used to get one that dropped into his chest and developed into either bronchitis or pneumonia. Then he’d have to go on antibiotics, but he’d still nurse a lingering cold all winter.
Since using the neti pot, (he uses it every a.m. and p.m.), he hasn’t had a sinus infection. No brochitis. No pneumonia. No penicillin. That’s pretty impressive.
I didn’t think Zan would let me post pictures of him using his neti pot, so here’s a good explanation of what one is and how to use it from Dr. Andrew Weil.
If you suffer from chronic sinus problems, nasal congestion or postnasal drip, you may want to consider using a Neti pot. Originally from the Ayurvedic tradition, a Neti pot resembles a genie’s lamp and uses a saltwater solution to irrigate nasal passages and sinuses, making nasal mucus thinner and flushing out irritants. It’s fairly easy to use, but may take practice before it feels comfortable and is done correctly:
- Dissolve one-quarter teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water, and pour the solution into the pot.
- Over a sink, tilt your head about 45 degrees to the side, and place the spout into your higher nostril.
- Gently pour the saltwater solution into that nostril, letting the solution flow through to the lower nasal cavity. (If the solution runs into your throat, just spit it out.)
- Once the solution is gone, blow your nose to get rid of any remaining solution, and then repeat the process with the other nostril.
Be sure to clean and dry the Neti pot between uses.
A couple of comments of my own: you can buy a plastic “travel” neti pot which is cheaper than the porcelin one. Also, don’t use it if one of your nostrils is stopped up. Get in the shower and make sure both nostrils are open. If one is stopped up, the water doesn’t run through easily and sometimes goes into your ears.
If You Do Get Sick
- Salt water is a great old remedy, one my mom used on us when I was a kid. Gargling with warm salt water helps with sore throats and also helps wash away bacteria in the back of the throat when you spit it out.
- Remember the neti pot.
- Drink LOTS of fluids. (what’s the first thing the nurse does when you go into the hospital?…. puts you on an intravenous drip for fluids…very important).
- Along with the sugar, stop all milk products, as they can produce more mucus.
Immune Support Drink….
Watch Out! This is SPICY! But it provides a great boost to your immune system.
- Peel about an inch piece of fresh ginger and chop.
- Peel and chop 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic.
- Add to 2 cups of boiling water and light boil til it reduces by ½ .
- Add about 1/4 tsp. Cayenne pepper & simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Squeeze ½ a fresh lemon into it,
- Add honey to taste.
- Drink this a couple of times a day.
And Don’t Forget!
- Homemade chicken soup with good quality ingredients is always good.
- Also, there are good herbal teas for cold and flu that you can get at New Seasons, Whole Foods,etc…
- Tylenol, Advil… whatever the pharmacist recommends for aches, pain and fever.
- Suck on ice or a popsicle to help bring down a fever.
- Use a warm wash cloth on your skin, letting the water evaporate… this helps reduce a fever.
- Carry alcohol towelettes with you for your hands.
- Make sure you are hydrated while flying and consider using a nasal spray before and after. Find one that cleans your nasal cavity with saline and also has aloe in it to moisturize and sooth the inside of the nose and keep it from drying out. I just bought one from Naturade that looks good. (a little vaseline inside the nose can help it from drying out on the plane too… just not too much.. not a good look!)
- Keep hydrated.
Personally, I’m not into flu shots.
I think our immune systems are naturally SUPPOSED to battle colds and the flu (and most viruses that are floating around out there in the wintertime aren’t the viruses that are in that year’s flu shot anyway).
I think the advice for every single person in the US to get an annual flu shot from age 6 months to death is nutty (actually greedy would be more like it, but… who am I to say anything?).
Everyone needs to weigh the pros and cons for themselves…people are different and have different circumstances; however, I really think there are a lot of people who aren’t that well educated on what the flu shot is, and isn’t.
But this would be a LONG post, so more on that at a later date.
Last But Not Least
Cleanses are a great way to “reboot” your immune system. I’m already planning one in January. It’s also a good way to clear everything out, sleep better, lose a few pounds, and feel like you’re back on track.
I’m planning to do one in January and it might turn into a “group cleanse” (which is the cheapest way to go), so if you’re interested, keep it in mind.