Don’t Let the Flu Get You Down: Some Helpful Tips
Coming into the holidays, we’re often doing a lot of things that can negatively impact our immune system—eating more sugar, drinking more alcohol, and potentially feeling stressed because of schedule or company, or because it’s a hard time of year for other reasons. Also, with the chillier days and loss of daylight, folks tend to exercise less and spend less time outdoors. All this combines to create a terrain that promotes illness. What sort of therapies are available to keep you healthy at this time of year?
- Probiotics: Take at least five billion organisms per day. It should be noted that while probiotics are helpful, they also support only a very small percentage of beneficial intestinal bacteria. A far more nourishing and comprehensive method of increasing intestinal flora is to consume fermented foods e.g. sauerkraut, kimchee, tempeh and miso.
- Drink tea with lemon: You should drink half your body weight in ounces of water (or tea) per day. Lemon and rose hips are particularly high in vitamin C and both can be added to your tea. Elderberry syrup is readily available and is rich in vitamin C and a wide range of important flavonoids, including quercetin and anthocyanins. Researchers have found that compounds in the berry bind to the flu virus, inhibit replication, and prevent the virus from penetrating cell walls. Propolis in raw honey is one of the best infection fighters available to us. In nature, propolis is the glue-like resin made by bees as an antiseptic agent that protects the hive from infection.
- Vitamins A, D3 and zinc: As the rainclouds approach, we’re prone to low vitamin D because of low sun exposure. I typically recommend 1000-2000 IU/d, but supplementing at a higher dose for a short period may be beneficial for some individuals. Be sure to expose yourself to sunlight for at least 20 minutes a day during the cold, wet months. Vitamin A is especially adept at fighting viruses, especially those that infect the respiratory, digestive and sinus tracts. Zinc should be taken in daily doses of 25 mg.
- Exercise: As the daylight diminishes, it certainly can be difficult to motivate yourself to exercise during the dark morning hours. I cannot overemphasize the importance of finding time to exercise at least 45 minutes five times a week. Improved attitude and sense of well being, stimulation of the immune system and reduction in upper respiratory tract infections are only a few of the well documented benefits of regular exercise. Be sure to use the sauna if you go to the gym.
- Cook with immune stimulating foods: Garlic, ginger and spices such as rosemary and thyme (live herbs are best) are easily obtained. They each have long, storied histories that have earned them legitimate reputations for being able to ward off colds and flu. Crushing or cutting garlic cloves generates a sulfur compound known as allicin, which imparts its antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Allicin is available only from raw garlic, however, so choose a preparation that calls for it raw, or add garlic at the end of cooking to tap its full medicinal power. Other foods to consider include burdock root, licorice, mushrooms, ginseng (Eleuthrococcus and Panax) and astragalus. These are particularly tasty addition to soups. Consume 4-8 oz of bone soup daily for an added immune stimulating bonus.
- Warming sock treatment: I have often reviewed the benefits of hydrotherapy and endorse this particular therapy emphatically. The WST filters the blood, strengthens the immune system and boosts natural killer cell activity. It requires no financial investment but offers fantastic immunologic returns. Soak your feet in hot water for 15 minutes. Don thin, cotton socks that have been soaked in ice water (wring them out well). Over the cotton sock must be worn wool socks to keep your feet warm. Go directly to bed. In the morning the socks should be dry.