Most people know what to do when a cold or flu hits – head to bed, get lots of rest, and drink lots of fluids. This time of year people at our offices start dropping like flies, taking time off to recover from harmful viruses.
But what about avoiding being felled by cold & flu season in the first place? There are many easy, sure fire ways to boost your immune system at this time of year, and hopefully avoid being taken out for a full day or more.
At Tall Tree, these are some of our favourites.
Not to state the obvious, but… Vitamin C!
While it’s not directly linked to preventing colds, vitamin C has powerful immune-boosting properties and is great for your health overall. Rather than a supplement that may be costly or, even worse, comprised largely of fillers, try ingesting foods every day that are ripe with Vitamin C.
Most people go straight to the oranges to add the big C to their diet, but did you know that half a cup of red or yellow peppers have twice the Vitamin C as one medium orange? This is a great list from the Dieticians of Canada of veggies and fruits you can work into your diet easily to boost your C, and stay healthy this winter. So eat up!
Wash your hands & invest in some (natural) hand sanitizer
Turns out your mother and school teacher were right – keeping your hands clean is a great way to avoid the spread of harmful viruses. Pay extra attention to when (after every meal, trip to the bathroom, and handshake) and how (with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds) you wash your hands this winter, and consider buying a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer to keep with you.
One note regarding hand sanitzers – some of the more common drug store brands may contain harmful chemicals and environtmental toxins. The Honest Company makes an excellent natural hand sanitizer, and others are available at health foods stores.
Cut down on sugar and caffeine
Stimulants like refined sugar and caffeine stimulate our adrenal response and our sympathetic nervous system (often called the “fight or flight” response). When the body is on high alert all the time, it doesn’t get the rest and recuperation it needs to support the immune system.
If you feel a tickle in your throat or some congestion in your sinuses and think you might be coming down with something, cease and desist on the stimulants, stat. Your healthy body will thank you!
Sweat it out
We know, we know: this seems like the perfect time of year to curl up under a blanket, sip on some hot chocolate (see above), and read a book. The truth is, winter is a great time to slow down a little, but that doesn’t mean forsaking exercise all together. Upping your heart rate and sweating for 30 minutes five days a week is a great way to support the immune system in these colder months.
Living in Victoria, BC, we’re pretty lucky to still have access to the outdoors through the winter. Even a brisk walk with the family on a Sunday afternoon can count, so get out and get moving!
There are some popular herbs for cold and flu season, such as ginseng, and then there are the lesser-known variety that pack an equal immune-boosting punch.
Astragalus is a powerful antiviral herb that has been prescribed in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. It can be found in powdered or capsule form in most health food stores, and is a great herb to take daily through the winter.
Garlic, when crushed, releases another powerful antiviral called allicin. Allicin’s only available in raw garlic, though, so try using it raw in salad dressings, or adding it to sauces after they’ve been heated.
Finally, shitake mushrooms are incredibly immune-boosting, and easy to find at most grocery stores. The most effective way to benefit from ingesting shitakes is to chop them and simmer them in a broth for a few hours. Throw in some bok choi, ginger, garlic and tofu, and you’ve got yourself a delicious immune-boosting meal!
Visit Your Naturopath
Tried all the tricks in the book, and still suffering from regular colds and flu over the winter? It might be time for a trip to your naturopath, who can help you isolate what’s actually causing the frequent illness, and bring your body back into balance.
With a little bit of foresight, you’ll be enjoying a winter free from stuffy noses, fevers and sore throats!