It’s that time of year again. The kids went back to school, and already I’m hearing of so many people coming down with an illness. Cold and flu season is arriving, and I think we can all agree on one thing: Who has time to be sick? Not me, not you, not anyone. So I thought I would share with you some tips on keeping your immune system strong this winter.
1. Avoid sugar. This is so hard for many people because cold/flu season happens to fall at the same time as the holidays. Coincidence? Not at all. Sugar suppresses immune system function. Research shows that hours after taking sugar into the body, the immune system’s warriors slow down their responses. So they’re less able to attack invaders like bacteria and viruses. This is why people are more likely to get sick over the holidays; they’re ingesting more sugar than usual, leaving their bodies susceptible to viruses and bacteria. If you’re a sugar addict, you may have a deeper issue such as candida. This fungus causes a vicious cycle in that it feeds off sugar, but it also causes you to crave more sugar. A healthcare professional such as myself or a good integrative doctor can help you if you suspect candida. Also, this supplement can help with sugar cravings.
Also, I do recommend getting to the bottom of why you have sugar cravings to begin with. Is your blood sugar low? Could you have an underlying adrenal fatigue problem? I’m all about getting to the root issue of the problem.
If you must have sugar, read my post on the truth about sweeteners. One sweetener that I love is honey. Raw honey has antibacterial, antifungal, & antiviral properties (LOCAL raw honey is best, especially for allergies).
2. Get plenty of rest. In one study done at Carnegie Mellon University, even if people said they felt well rested if they’d averaged fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night, they were almost 3 times as likely to get a cold as those who got 8 hours or more of sack time. What I’ve noticed with my own sleep patterns is that the QUALITY of your sleep is just as important as your QUANTITY. If you’re in bed for 9 hours, but you were up tossing and turning throughout the night, I wouldn’t call that good rest. There are many things that could be disrupting your quality of sleep: hormonal imbalances, food sensitivities, caffeine too late in the day, and for some people, KIDS
3. Vitamin D. Have you ever wondered why the winter brings on all the sickness, and during the spring/summer, everyone is so much healthier? One reason for this is SUNSHINE. People spend a lot more time outdoors during the spring and summer so they are exposed to the best source of vitamin D everyday. Their blood stores of this nutrient builds up and keeps their immune system strong. When cold temperatures come along, we stay reclused in our homes and offices, rarely getting exposed to natural Vitamin D. People’s vitamin D levels usually plummet in the winter. For this reason, I give everyone in my family a high quality vitamin D supplement everyday during the cold months. Find it here:
My toddler’s pediatrician recommended a few drops of this vitamin D everyday.
Many people love Fermented Cod Liver Oil for immune support. This brand is one of the best. It’s very expensive, but such good quality. The key is getting your children to consume it. Many people mix it in applesauce or other foods. I tried the chocolate cream flavor with my toddler, and he absolutely wasn’t having it. I didn’t blame him as I couldn’t stomach it either. I prefer the capsules, but you have to take a lot more of the capsules to get the same amount in a tablespoon of the liquid so it does end up costing more. Fermented Cod Liver Oil is an amazing source of natural vitamin A and D and omega 3s. Since my toddler wouldn’t take the chocolate cream flavor, and I don’t want to risk wasting even more money, he takes 1 tsp. of this fish oil everyday (or when I remember). Find it here.
4. Eat your way to better health. Everyone knows it’s important to eat healthy, but I think that most people underestimate the power that food has on the immune system. If you’re eating healthy and are exposed to certain illnesses, you have a great chance of not catching it. Foods to enjoy are:
- Organic fruits & vegetables
- Fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, or ferment your own veggies.
- Organic, pastured meats & eggs
- Healthy fats, such as coconut oil, olive oil (cold), grapeseed oil, avocados, nuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds.
- 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar per day (You can make your own concoction out of this: 8 oz. water, 1 tbsp raw ACV, freshly squeezed lemon juice or lemon essential oil, and 1 tsp. raw honey. Mix together and take like a shot. This concoction is best if taken at the beginning of day before breakfast. It’s amazing for your immune system, digestion, and skin health.
- Bone Broth. Read my post here on the health benefits of homemade bone broth (chicken broth). You can use it as a base in soups, cook your rice/quinoa/vegetables in it, or warm it up and sip it in a mug.
5. Elderberry syrup. “Modern research has identified potent flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins which may be directly related to their health promoting properties. Taken daily or on occasion to support the immune system, this concentrated syrup made from Certified Organic Black Elderberries tastes great. And it contains no artificial flavors or colors no preservatives and no high fructose corn syrup.” This is the brand I use. You can find it here.
6. Exercise. But It’s SO Cold Out! Many people back off on exercise during the winter because it gets darker earlier, and for those who don’t belong to a gym, they just don’t want to get out in the cold. I get it, I get it. BUT…..A study of 1,000 people found that staying active nearly halved the odds of catching cold viruses. So get out there and exercise, not just to prevent a cold, but it also helps prevent seasonal affect disorder (SAD) and depression, which happens more during the winter months.
7. Keep Calm & Carry On. Stress weakens your immune system. In the early 1980s, psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, and immunologist Ronald Glaser, PhD, of the Ohio State University College of Medicine, were intrigued by animal studies that linked stress and infection. From 1982 through 1992, these pioneer researchers studied medical students. Among other things, they found that the students’ immunity went down every year under the simple stress of the three-day exam period. Test takers had fewer natural killer cells, which fight tumors and viral infections. They almost stopped producing immunity-boosting gamma interferon and infection-fighting T-cells responded only weakly to test-tube stimulation. So whatever you need to do to keep your stress levels at a minimum, do it. A few examples would be: Prayer, yoga, journaling, walk with a friend, and don’t over commit yourself (learn to say no). The last one is something that I need to work on. Being busy is sure to suck the life out of you.
Even if you still get sick doing all of these tips, your symptoms will be a lot milder than if you weren’t following these healthy guidelines.
Have a Healthy Fall & Winter!
Kristen M. Pardue, RD, CLC