Getting Ready for the Cold & Flu Season
The Keys of Prevention
Every year beginning in the fall, many people come down with some sort of viral infection—either a cold or a flu. Being sick is not only uncomfortable, it can be costly if you have to take time away from work or family duties. In my practice I often work with people to facilitate the healing of these conditions using herbal, homeopathic and nutritional formulas along with dietary and lifestyle advice. You can use many of these tips to help prevent colds and flus by boosting your immunity in advance, as well as help your body heal if you do get sick.
Other than avoiding sick people and washing your hands, here are the top preventive measures you can take as fall approaches:
Reduce Dietary Sugars
When you feel a cold or flu coming on, the worst thing you can do is load your body with sugar-laden foods and drinks. Sugar and sweeteners in general can dramatically deplete your immune system—your body’s primary tool for fighting infection. In general, I suggest avoiding large amounts of sweetened foods and drinks, and when you are sick they should be the number one thing to eliminate from your diet. A touch of honey in your ginger tea to soothe your sore throat is fine.
Stick to Primarily Cooked Foods
The fall is the time of year to gradually change your diet from seasonal summer fruits, salads, and raw vegetables to cooked foods such as soups, stews, and other “warming foods”. Warming foods tonify or strengthen the yang energy (warm energy) in the body. Winter is the most yin time of year (cold energy)—so your body needs ample yang energy to balance it. Warming foods include just about every other food other than the very cooling raw fruits and vegetables. Simply steam or bake most of your vegetables and add a small amount of unrefined sea salt to help off-set their cooling properties. Fruit should be eaten in small amounts and preferably cooked as winter approaches. Adding warming spices such as dried ginger and cinnamon to fruit can also help to “warm it up”. Choose from locally grown, in season varieties.
Eating seasonally helps keep your digestion healthy and strong, and since up to 80% of your immune system is in your gut, it is a top priority for immune system support.
Moderately, regular exercise strengthens your immune system and is a great stress reliever. Try to do something every day, even if that means just walking 15 minutes per day.
Reduce Your Stress
A no-brainer, but not always easy to do—especially as we approach the holiday season filled with deadlines and family events. Stress chews up your energy reserves and weakens your immunity. Try not to sweat the small stuff and remember that the world won’t blow up if you don’t get everything done on your to-do list. Listen to your body when it is asking for rest, and give yourself permission to chill out and relax.
If you live in a northern climate, your vitamin D levels will likely plummet during the fall and winter. (Studies show that most Canadians become vitamin D deficient in the winter—some severely). Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for your immune system. Our bodies manufacture vitamin D from regular sunlight exposure, but as we cover up and hibernate in the cooler months we lose this natural health benefit. The bottom line is—get outside every day! Unless you are regularly exposed to the sun (or are using a tanning bed), then adding a vitamin D supplement during the fall, winter, and spring is also recommended.
Now that you know how to prevent colds and flus, here are some easy home remedies that can help if you do get sick. You can use one of the following remedies or all three at the same time.
Garlic holds potent antimicrobial properties—it is antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic making it a premier home remedy for a number of ailments. To treat a cold or flu, finely chop a clove of fresh garlic and swallow it with water like a pill—don’t chew. Take one clove 3 – 5 times per day. Garlic capsules are not advised for treating colds and flus.
Olive Leaf Tincture
This herbal remedy is an alcohol concentrated extract of the olive leaf. Studies and practice show that it holds antiviral properties making it a valuable ally in combating the common cold and flu. Depending on the concentration of the tincture (and your size) you may require 30 – 40 drops every 2 – 3 hours during the first day of infection. Subsequent days can be dosed less frequently—every 3 – 4 hours or as needed.
Fresh Ginger Tea
Fresh ginger stimulates the body’s circulation and is diaphoretic, meaning it helps the body sweat. In traditional Chinese medicine this opening of the body’s exterior (skin) assists the body in driving out infection and keeping it from going deeper. Chop 3 thin slices of fresh ginger and simmer covered in 1 cup of water for 5 – 10 minutes. Drink 1 cup every 3 hours.
To learn more about how to treat yourself and your family for minor colds and flus, download The Healer at Home – Natural First Aid for Colds and Flus eBook. This complimentary eBook shows how you can use natural remedies such as homeopathics, herbs, and nutritional products to prevent and treat colds and flus.