How to stay Healthy in Cold and Flu Season
Today is a beautiful sunny day in the Flathead and the sniffles are threatening to invade the household so we are taking early action and hitting it hard to knock out those pesky viruses. Most colds are simple viruses that are annoying, bothersome and just plain time consuming. Who has time to take off work, rest, do nothing but let the body work it magic? I often see patients in the clinic who are looking for antibiotics to 'nip it in the bud' and get over their 'flu', unfortunately antibiotics are anti-bacterial, most cold symptoms are viruses thus that Z-Pac while it feels good to be pro-active, by the time you complete the medication, the virus has run its course and you are feeling better, purely coincidental. So lets talk about how to be pro-active and prevent that viral or bacterial infection from getting your in the first place.
1. STRESS- In our very busy GO GO world we are always stressing about something, money, kids, work, etc. Stress is a real killer on the immune system and our health in general. While it is not always easy to take every stressful equation out of life, it is possible to stop and smell the roses every day. Simply ALLOW yourself a few minutes several times each day to stop, deep breath and relax. Before you get out of the car ALLOW your self 3 minutes of slow deep belly breathing. Before you rush into your next meal, stop for 2 full minutes smell your food, appreciate the work/love you or someone put into making your meal and take a full minute to deep belly breathe again-just one full minute. Your mind will slow down, you will oxygenate your brain- you will eat less, stop when you feel full and feel more relaxed, thus digest more effectively. When you are feeling exceptionally stressed, lay down, put your feet up above your heart and again breathe. This will put your system from fight or flight to rest and digest, it will lower your cortisol levels, relax your mind and promote better sleep. I suggest doing this after work every day.
2. DIET- The human body is amazing and does an excellent job of healing it self, if it is provided the fuel it needs to work optimally. Food vs Calories- did you know there is a difference? Food is the purest form of what we eat to nourish our body. It is easy processed and provides energy, vitamins and minerals to keep us going. Calories on the other hand usually come wrapped in plastic or cellophane, have and ingredient list of more than 3 and multiple words you do not understand, i.e. processed convenient 'food'. The body has a difficult time digesting and processing, often leaving you tired, fatigued, cranky and run down- there is no energy left to fight off the viral and bacterial invaders; thus making you more susceptible every cold that comes your way. Focus on a colorful variety of vegetables, 1-2 pieces of fruit, protein with each meal and a small serving of heathy fat daily. Think before you put something in your mouth- was this made by nature? or by man? Focus more on nature made not man made.
3. SUPPLEMENTS- I am a firm believer in a few key supplements. I practice evidence based medicine and I promise you, there are piles of evidence that show that quality supplements are essential for optimal health- especially if you are eating more low nutrient calories than nutrient dense food.
My top pick for every day maintenance
A. High quality Multi Vitamin daily
B. Vitamin D3-Optimal levels of Vitamin D have been shown to reduce the incidence of respiratory illness i.e.-colds and flu by as much as 50%- The same ,and at times, better than the Flu vaccine! Living in the Flathead Vitamin D levels I find are chronically low, I check all my patients. I highly encourage you to have your levels checked- as a standard dose of 3000-5000 IU may not be enough for your body, but check your levels first before taking higher doses. At First Line Wellness we have the cheapest price on Vitamin D testing in the Valley.
C. Vitamin C- believe it or not, Vitamin C is another vitamin that is chronically low. 500-1000 mg Vitamin C through the winter months is highly recommended to boost the immune system. By the way, onions have some of the highest concentrations of vitamin C. - homemade French Onion soup made with Bone Broth anyone?
D. Mushroom blends- Shitake, Maitake, and other mushrooms are excellent for your immune system. As most people do not care for fungi, thankfully they come in supplement form. Taken daily through the cold season can do a great deal to help fight any bugs that come your way. Check out Immucore at my clinic.
4. ESSENTIAL OILS- High quality essential oils are truly medicinal. The warming spices, cinnamon, clove, tea tree, oregano, are all highly anti microbial. I am a big fan of On Guard by doTerra to use as hand sanitizer- no Purel here, and only when exposed to 'high risk' areas, such as shopping carts, air ports, doctors offices (except mine). etc. and used as home cleaner to wipe down door knobs, counter tops, leaving the home smelling clean without the risk of aerosols fumes and heavy chemical that are toxic to the immune system and your thyroid.
5. HAND WASHING- The number one preventer of colds and flu. Plain old hand washing. I do not like hand sanitizers as they kill EVERYTHING, we have become so germ phobic that it has been forgotten that our body co habitats and thrives on good healthy bacteria. Chronic daily use of hand sanitizers kill all bacteria thus decrease the immune system.
Next week I'll discuss how to manage those pesky cold symptoms and how to put an end to them as soon as possible. In the mean time take time to breath, focus on nourishing with whole foods, supplement to support your immune system and keep naturally clean.