Immune Support 101 – Stay healthy this winter!
By Joanne Aponte, ND • February 10, 2020
‘Tis the season for colds and flus! While none of us like getting sick, acute illnesses like colds and flus are a very natural and normal response of a healthy body. It is normal for adults to get 1-2 colds per year and for children under 12 to get 4 colds per year. If you are getting sick more often than this, that may indicate and underlying problem or health issue that needs to be addressed.
Below are tips for staying healthy this winter and to help you recover more quickly when you do get sick.
- Eat a healthy diet and stay hydrated.
- Drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water.
- Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Reduce intake of dairy and avoid refined carbohydrates, sugar, sweets and soda.
- Cook regularly with sautéed garlic and onion – these two foods are wonderful natural antibiotics and immune supporters.
- Click here to read more about immune boosting foods
- Take Probiotics
- At least 80% of your immune system is located in your gastrointestinal tract. You have a zoo of healthy bacteria that will protect you against many of the bad bugs that cause cold, flu and gastroenteritis. Take care of your zoo by taking a probiotic supplement daily during around cold and flu season.
- Maintaining adequate rest is the key, go to bed and wake up at the same times each night. Routine is essential. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Without enough rest your body will be more susceptible to colds, flus and other illnesses.
- Take care of yourself
- Get regular exercise (3-4 days per week), walk daily and incorporate ways to reduce stress.
- Keep your nasal passages clear
- Perform daily Neti pots to cleanse the nasal passages of germs. The nose and sinuses are the #1 entry route of germs into the body, so flushing them out of the nasal passages before they take hold in your body, will help reduce the chances of getting sick. (If you develop a sinus infection or a cold with much congestion, repeat the Neti pot 3-4x/day).
- Strengthen the immune system with key nutrients
- Increase your intake of Vitamin C and Vitamin D. These will help strengthen your immune system. Studies have shown Vitamin D to be effective at reducing risk of flu.
- Consider a Chinese mushroom formula – mushrooms such as Shiitake, Reishi, Cordyceps and Turkey tail build up the immune system and can help reduce frequency of illnesses. These are best started late summer/early fall BEFORE the cold and flu season hits.
Tips for a fast Recovery
- Treat at the 1st signs of illness
- If feeling like you are coming down with something, get on top of it right away. Start the below recommendations at the first sign of symptoms!
- Cold Wet Sock Treatment
- Do this at the first signs of illness. Place a pair of socks in a bowl of ice water. Soak your feet in a hot foot bath for 5 minutes. Then wring out the wet socks thoroughly and put them on your feet. Cover the wet socks with another pair of warm socks such as wool socks and then hop into bed or cover yourself in blanket, being sure to keep warm and take a rest! You can leave these on all night or until your body warms the socks. Repeat 3 nights in a row.
- Get plenty of rest!
- Your body needs rest to heal so allow it time off. It’s okay to call in sick to work. Many employers prefer you do not go into the office as to avoid getting your coworkers sick.
- Starve your cold and fever
- Eat lightly – veggie soups, steamed veggies, brown rice, a little bit of turkey or chicken. Avoid sugar, refined grains, dairy and other heavy foods.
- Click here for a great immune strengthening soup recipe
- Stay hydrated – sip on water, herbal teas , and broths.
- Tea Recipe – Ginger (3 slices), ½ lemon peel, spoon of licorice root. Add thyme, sage, yarrow or honey. Simmer in 1-2 cups of water for 15 min and then drink.
- Hot water with lemon and honey is great for a sore throat and cough.
- Steam inhalation
- A steam inhalation with eucalyptus and/or thyme essential oils is great for opening up the sinuses and chest to help relieve congestion and cough. Put 3-5 drops of eucalyptus and/or thyme essential oils in a pot of boiling water. Turn off from heat and then breathe deeply over the water. You can put a towel over your head and make a tent to access all the steam.
- Take a hot bath with Epson salt – great for muscle aches during a flu
- Avoid medication to lower a fever – Fevers are good!
- A fever means your body is fighting off the infection. It is important not to suppress mild to moderate fevers (under 102) with ibuprofen or aspirin. During a fever your body’s immune function and metabolism are increased and many of those nasty bugs that make you sick will be killed off at these higher temperatures.
- To treat a fever: lots of TLC, fluids, cool compresses to the head, tepid baths and REST!
- Boost your immune system with herbs and nutrients
- Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Zinc, Elderberry, Echinacea, Goldenseal, Andrographis and Garlic are some of my favorite immune boosters. Taking a combination of the above can help reduce the severity and the duration of an illness. These need to be taken frequently, up to every 2 hours for 1- 2 days at first onset. As symptoms improve you can reduce the dose to 3-4x/day. Continue taking these immune boosters for 2 days after feeling better to prevent a relapse.
With the above recommendations you should conquer most colds and flus. If you still find yourself getting sick too often or are taking too long to recover (typical colds last 7-10 days) there may be an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed. Consider seeing one of the Naturopathic doctors at Lakeside Natural Medicine to help uncover the underlying health issues that may be weakening your immune system.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.