December 6, 2012 by Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
I get this question a LOT:
What can I do to keep from getting sick this winter? And what should I take if I do end up with a cold or flu?
Let’s talk about how you can support your overall immune health.
Here are the biggies:
- Get enough sleep. Your body repairs itself during sleep. Poor sleep leads to poor health. This goes for over all immune function, heart health, you name it. Aim for 8+ hours per night.
- Move that body. Studies have shown that exercise helps boost immune function. When you exercise, white blood cells circulate throughout the body more efficiently, getting to where they need to go to fight infection. But don’t go crazy; intense exercise (like training for/running in a marathon) can have the opposite effect. (No worries there for me!)
- Stress less. Easier said than done, right? I’m not exactly the queen of calm, so I’ve had to find some ways to keep my stress under wraps. If stress is an issue, make a daily practice of doing something just for YOU. Take an epsom salt bath, read a good book, go for a walk on the beach. You get the idea.
- Ditch the sugar. Sugar suppresses the immune system. Even a glass of orange juice can keep your body from mounting a strong response to infections. If you do nothing else, try to cut out concentrated and refined sugars from your diet. I know it’s hard, especially at this time of year. But it’s worth it for the illnesses you’ll avoid.
- Keep your home hydrated. Viruses thrive when the humidity drops, so keep a humidifier running to moisten the air. This also helps keep the lining of your respiratory passages healthy.
- Take a probiotic: Good health starts in the gut and studies have shown that probiotics (good bugs) can help ward off colds and keep you healthy. One study showed that probiotics reduced the incidence of fever, cough, and runny nose in children taking them over the winter months. Children taking probiotics were also 68-84% less likely to need antibiotics than children in the placebo group. For adults, I recommend Integrative Therapeutics Pro-flora Immune Capsules. For children, I use this one: Integrative Therapeutics Inc. Children’s Probiotic Pearls.
So, you’ve done everything you’re “supposed” to do, but you still catch a cold. NOT YOUR FAULT!
No matter how healthy you are, how well you eat, or how strong your immune system is, when you are exposed to a critical level of “bugs,” you’re going to get sick.
When you do, do this:
- Get some sleep. Yes, we’re back to that. It’ll take longer for you to get better if you don’t give your body a chance to recover.
- Keep up the probiotics, especially if you’re taking antibiotics. Some people think that taking probiotics at the same time as antibiotics is a bad idea. NOT TRUE! You need them more now than ever! Try to take your probiotics at least 1 hour away from the antibiotics, and continue your probiotics for at least 1 month after you’ve finished the antibiotics.
- Drink, drink, and drink some more. Fluids are vital for beating colds and flus. They help loosen secretions in the respiratory passages, making it easier to clear your nose and chest of congestion.
- Try homeopathy. Oscillococcinum, when taken at the onset of symptoms, may shorten the severity and duration of colds and flus.
- Give Echinacea a go. Not all studies agree, but several have shown that Echinacea may shorten the duration of colds in adults (but not children). I like this one: Gaia Herbs Quick Defense. It’s kind of pricey, but I’ve found it to be very effective.
- Try honey for a stubborn cough. Studies have shown that buckwheat honey can lick a cough better than OTC cough suppressants. I also like local, raw honey; works like a charm and you really can’t overdose. This is the one exception to the no sugar rule.
- Keep elderberry on hand. Elderberry is an effective treatment for viral infections, including colds and flus. It even works against the H1N1 virus and is virtually free of side effects. My kids love the taste of this Black Elderberry Syrup and they swear that it helps them feel better, faster.
- Take vitamin C. Adults need about 1 to 4 grams and children need about 500 mg daily to combat a cold. If loose stools are a problem, try a lower dose.
- Give zinc a try, but not in your nose. Some studies have shown that
zinc lozenges containing zinc gluconate, zinc acetate, or zinc gluconate-glycine can shorten the duration of the common cold. I use these: Zand Herbalozenge. Avoid nasal sprays containing zinc, as they can cause irreversible loss of smell.
Stay well, folks!
Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is for educational and/or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health or that of a family member, you should always consult with a healthcare professional.