Please note I am not medical professional and the advice in this article should not replace the advice of your naturopath, pharmacist or doctor. If you are pregnant, nursing or have a very young child who falls ill, please seek the advice of a medical professional.
With Thanksgiving behind us, we are now heading into full-blown winter! With frigid weather come colds, flus and general feelings of sickness. This inspires many to line up for their annual flu shot. But can the flu shot really keep us from getting sick? The general answer is yes and no. The flu shot will not protect you from colds, allergies or the general feelings of being “run down”. Some people even get the flu regardless of getting the flu shot. This happens because there are many different variations and strains of the flu. Let me explain. Asia is the first continent where the annual flu strain appears. The strain then moves its way west and eventually ends up in America. When countries like China begin to report an increase if flu related illnesses, scientists begin to work on a vaccine for the upcoming winter season in America. However, the flu strain that starts in Asia may not be the strain that lands in America; this can render the flu vaccine useless for many people.
With that being said, I believe it is everyone’s individual choice what is best for them and their families – my objective in this post is merely to educate about natural approaches to keeping you and your family healthy!
So, let’s talk about some of those holistic alternatives:
First, and we all know this: wash, wash, wash your hands! If you are in the general vicinity of someone with the sniffles, go wash your hands! If we paid attention to everything we touch in a day and then compared that to how many times we touch our faces, mouths, noses or eyes it’s no wonder people get sick! Second, avoid busy locales if you can during peak flu season: the mall, movie theaters, airports, etc. Also, get plenty of sleep, and do your best to de-stress as often as you can. Our bodies release high levels of cortisol when we are under stress which, over a prolonged period of time, can weaken our immune systems. When the stress of the holidays, less sunlight and colder weather is added to our “normal” daily stresses of family, work and life our immune systems can take a huge hit!
Diet also plays an important role in our immunity. The holidays are a fun and festive time of the year but they are also a time where we indulge on less than healthy foods. Do your best to incorporate healthy foods into your holiday gatherings, drink plenty of water, and keep your exercise habits as close to your normal regimen as possible. The winter season is also a good time to up your intake of vitamins and herbs. The best vitamins and herbs to strengthen immunity according to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians are: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc as well as Echinacea, Elderberry and Larch arbinogalactans.
OK, so let’s say you do your best to take care of yourself but one morning you wake up with achy muscles or a tickle in the back of your throat, what can you do?
- High doses of vitamin C is often the first thing I reach for! 1000mg twice a day can knock out any feelings of being under the weather! There are many over the counter Vitamin C powders available at your local health food store or pharmacy.
- Organic bone broth is another item I like to keep close at hand when I’m feeling under-the-weather. Do you ever wonder why everyone suggests chicken soup when people get sick? Well, it is because ‘back in the day’ when we lived in villages and on farms and nothing went to waste our very smart ancestors discovered that you could produce a “cure-all” broth by stewing the leftover parts of chickens, cows and fish in water. Broth contains minerals that are easily absorbed by the body and can quickly nourish you back to good health! Check your local organic co-op for pre-made bone broth or make some at home!
- Another remedy is apple cider vinegar, honey, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and ginger. This remedy can help with a sore throat, wet or dry cough as well as sinus congestion: mix ¼ cup lemon juice and ¼ cup apple cider vinegar in a pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in 3 Tablespoons of raw, organic honey, ½ a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and ½ teaspoon of powdered ginger. Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place and make sure to shake it before you use it. Take 1-2 tablespoons daily until your symptoms subside. This mixture will help thin mucous in your chest and sinuses, it will also get your nose running! Make sure you do not “gut” (swallow) your mucus, spit it out or blow your nose – if you reintroduce it to your body it can take you even longer to feel better.
- Oil of Oregano is also a very powerful antiviral and antibiotic – this can be especially helpful if you have a chest cold or sinus congestion. Take one drop in about 4 oz of water every couple of hours at the first sign of infection (not for use during pregnancy!).
- Perhaps one of the most important remedies when you are feeling ill is rest, rest, rest! Taking it easy for a day or two will help your body recover more quickly than if you “cover” your symptoms with over-the-counter drugs (which could potentially drag out your symptoms for weeks). If you find yourself with a fever the best thing to do it sweat it out. A fever is a good thing, it shows that your immune system is kicking in and that your body is fighting off whatever bug you caught, so it is best not to suppress it. However, if you develop a fever that lasts longer than 24 hours and/or is dangerously high (102 or higher), you should seek medical attention immediately.
With healthy diet, exercise, and a few simple rules (wash your hands, get enough sleep, and de-stress) each one of us can take control over our health and hopefully have a flu-free winter season! Natural remedies and old wives tales have been around for centuries because they work; sometimes the simplest solution is the best one – especially when it comes to our health and wellness! Be well!