Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Keeping Healthy During Cold and Flu Season



Despite this recent 'heat wave', cold and flu season is definitely upon us! If you have children, you have likely already dealt with at least one snotty nose this season (we are currently blasting through the Kleenex at our house). But the best way to protect yourself and your family from falling victim to illness this season is through prevention. Here are some easy ways to help boost your immune system this season.

Load Up on Fruits and Veggies (and Healthy Proteins and Fats)

A healthy diet is your body's (and immune system's) best defence. Vegetables and fruits contain 100s of micronutrients- vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants- all of which helps to strengthen your immune system and ward off illness. Healthy protein sources are also needed for the immune system and it's normal function, as our healthy fats.

Ditch the Sugar

Some studies have actually shown that ingestion of sugar can actually suppress the immune system and that suppression can last up to 5-6 hours after ingestion. Reduce refined and added sugars as much as possible, and remember that this includes fruit juice which provides a sugar punch equivalent to soda.

Add the herbs

Various herbs and spices- like turmeric, oregano, ginger and garlic all possess immune boosting properties as well as antimicrobial effects. Garlic specifically is highly antimicrobial. If you do feel a bit of illness coming on, load up on the garlic which can help kill the virus you were exposed to.

Botanicals

Both Echinacea and Elderberry have immune stimulating properties that can help boost the immune system and keep you from getting ill. Elderberry has also been shown to help combat influenza. Many studies (here and here) have shown benefit with Elderberry. One in particular looked at a preparation of Elderberry syrup and found that patients who had flu symptoms that were given elderberry syrup had their symptoms resolve within 2-3 days, while those given placebo took 6 days on average. You can make your own Elderberry syrup (I use Wellness Mama's Recipe) or purchase a commercial version. Even adding something like Traditional Medicinal's Echinacea and Elderberry tea is an easy way to give yourself a little daily boost.

Supplements

Supplements are another way of giving yourself that extra protection during cold and flu season and there are a few good basics that can be added to your daily regime, especially here in North America.
  • Vitamin D: During the winter months, our sun exposure (which is our main source of Vitamin D) plummets. This can lead to decreasing levels that tend to bottom out around March. Adding Vitamin D can not only help prevent deficiency, it's also a necessary component for a healthy immune system.
  • Probiotics: When about 70% of your immune system is actually found in your gut- it's important to keep that healthy. Our main source of healthy bacteria comes from fermented foods and our surrounding environment, like dirt. However, both of these sources tend to be lacking in the standard North American diet- we do not regularly consume natural fermented foods (no yogurt doesn't count) and we are generally pretty intense when it comes to sanitizing- both our foods and with hand sanitizer. Adding in a good probiotic is a great way of giving your micro-biome some needed support.
  • Essential Fatty Acids: Again, most people are actually deficient in EFAs (Omega-3s). Our ratio should be 1:1 for Omega 3s to Omega 6s, however, the standard North American diet is actually more like 1:20 Omega 3s to Omega 6s and that leaves us deficient. Our best sources are fish (hence fish oils) but we also can't consume too much due to heavy metal concerns. Beef is actually a source of omega 3s IF it is 100% grass fed, however, due to issues with our food system most beef is corn fed so the fatty acid profile actually shifts to a more inflammatory fat- arachidonic acid. Adding in a high quality fish oil is an easy way to ensure your intake of omega 3s.
Of course, check with your Naturopathic Doctor to discuss if these supplements (or tips) would be right for you and what dosing or brand is best suited to your needs.

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~The Coach House Team~

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