When the cold and flu season arrives, we cannot help but start to worry. And while the cure for the common cold continues to elude researchers there are many things that we know can help rev up our immune systems so that we don’t get sick in the first place or make sure the bug doesn’t stay with us for long. Here are our top ways to fend off cold and flu.
- Get adjusted! This may come as a surprise to some, but getting adjusted– especially your upper neck– can kick your immune system into gear.
The remaining tips for cold and flu season are courtesy of our naturopath at Thrive Natural Medicine, Dr. Juli Mazi who Katie and I always check in with as soon as we have the first sign of sickness.
- Avoid touching your face, unless you have just washed your hands.You could have virus and bacteria all over your hands and clothes but you will not get sick if you don’t touch your face. This is because our skin acts as a barrier to infection. Viruses and bacteria can only enter our bodies through the cells of our orifices- our lips, mouth, nose or eyes. This is why washing hands before eating is especially important, even if you are just picking up a snack to eat.
- Encourage children to cover their sneezes and coughs with their elbow, and aim away from food and people. Have them use tissues to wipe noses and avoid sucking on toys/fingers or biting nails. Containing the spread of germs is important.
- Turn up the heat. Believe it or not, viruses aren’t as tenacious as we think they are. They need a certain environment in order to thrive. They grow best at temperatures slightly less than our normal body temperature (which is why we often get sick when it gets chilly…we “catch a cold”). In fact, fevers are good! Fevers are the body’s mechanism for heating up, and killing the bad bugs. The optimal temperature for killing bugs is 103ᵒF. If the fever is lower than that, keep bundled, take a hot shower or bath, or use a heating pad/hot water bottle to get warmer. Don’t suppress fevers, monitor fevers so that kiddos don’t go higher than 104.5ᵒF. There will usually be other major and obvious warning signs that something is wrong when their temperature gets high (that will warrant other treatment). In general, fevers are the body’s way of killing the bad bugs.
- REST! At the first sign of illness, schedule more time to take it easy and sleep. The immune system requires a lot of energy, so as much as possible, conserving your energy will help the immune system to work more efficiently during cold and flu season. Taking one day off in the beginning to rest, beats taking 3 days off once the sickness really sets in.
- Decrease the stress. Viruses grow best when the immune system is slightly suppressed. Here are some things that suppress our immune system: emotional stress, poor sleep, poor nutrition, inadequate exercise, and physical stress (such as recent cold, or chronic conditions including allergies). It’s not always easy to decrease the demands of life, but you can decrease your reaction to them. Decreasing your stress level, or your emotional attachment to the outcome of life’s events is hugely beneficial to your ability to prevent and fight off viral and bacterial infections.
- Know when to skip the antibiotics. Most “common colds” are caused by viruses, so not only will taking antibiotics not work, but antibiotics kill off all of the good bacteria and probiotics that live in the gut. These good gut bacteria are important for the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, and especially, they are crucial to helping the immune system function more effectively and efficiently. It can take up to 2 years to replenish the probiotics killed off by one round of antibiotics, and during those 2 years time, the immune system will be more vulnerable to invaders. So, have your doctor verify with a simple and inexpensive lab test that you do indeed have a bacterial infection before choosing to take antibiotics for what may actually be a virus.
- A healthy, whole food, plant-rich, balanced diet is best for preventing colds. Vegetables at each meal are imperative for both kids and adults during cold and flu season. During illness, it’s best to minimize food intake, stick to healthy, nutrient dense options, such as soups and broths. Electrolyte replacement is important as well, so drinking vegetable broth, coconut water, and Recharge is helpful. Avoid junk food, processed food, and sugary foods. Viruses and bacteria tend to feed on sugars, so reducing the amount of sugar in the diet can help to starve the bugs.
- Vitamins A, B12, C, D, Zinc, multivitamins and probioticshave all been shown in clinical trials to be beneficial in preventing infections and enhancing the immune system to fight off colds and flu faster. Especially in the winter time, when we’re exposed to less sunlight, increasing vitamin D intake is important for immune function.
- Immune supportive herbs such as: Astragalus, Echinacea, Elderberry, Goldenseal, and Licorice have all been shown in clinical trials to reduce the total days of illness. These herbs should be ingested in the liquid form, whether tea or tincture. Glycerine-based tinctures are tastier for kids than alcohol tinctures. Appropriate dosages may be taken every two hours for maximum effectiveness.
- A homeopathic remedy for the flu is Oscillococcinum (1capful three times daily for kids and adults). One study found that twice as many people taking Oscillococcinum got over the flu after 48 hours compared to placebo.
- Think “Well.” So often, we talk about how “we’re getting sick,” or we talk about our symptoms, and we forget to emphasize the healing process. Getting sick is actually healthy because it means our immune systems are working. It’s people who “never get sick” that more often have suppressed immune systems. Our thoughts and words play a powerful role in how we feel, so for every time we speak negatively about how sick we are, we may want to also speak affirmatively about how “we are healing.”
Those our all the awesome tips for staying well this cold and flu season! May you stay in good health!