My best tips for staying healthy during cold and flu season
It’s officially cold and flu season here in the northern hemisphere.
That means it’s time to obsessively use the hand sanitizer, wash your hands a thousand times a day, and get a flu shot, right?
I do recommend washing your hands regularly (especially when you have been out in public spaces, before you touch your face or eat).
I also recommend regularly cleaning hard surfaces using natural disinfectants.
I even recommend the flu vaccine for some of my patients depending on the state of their health.
Some of the factors that I take into consideration before making a recommendation in each individual case is the overall state of their health, their potential exposure rate, and as well as if they are on any immunosuppressive medications.
However, if you have done the work to strengthen your immune system, a single exposure to a bacteria or virus does not mean you will get sick.
Below are my top 4 tips for those looking for a holistic approach to maintaining their health this cold and flu season.
Engage in a restorative practice, something that lifts you up and leaves you feeling good daily even if for only 5 minutes, however make it a daily practice.
What is a restorative practice?
It’s anything you do that lifts you up, and leaves you with a sense of calm and inner peace.
Don’t have one of these daily practices already, you may consider:
🌸Deep breathing exercises
🌸Listening to music
🌸Epsom salt bath
🌸Cuddles with your favorite person or animal
🌸A meaningful conversation with someone you care about and you know cares about you.
If it’s hard to start this new habit and stick with it, ask a friend or family member to join you! Together we are stronger.
Any change is much easier when we get a little love support and accountability to stick with it!
Schedule yourself a good 7.5 hours of sleep every night.
If this is not possible do your best to prioritize this critical component to your health.
If you have a hard time falling asleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night, please seek help in finding the cause of the sleep disruption.
Top causes of sleep disturbance include impaired blood sugar handling, adrenal dysregulation, sleep apnea, anxiety, and bladder/urinary dysfunction and dysbiosis.
I urge you to have this condition assess and addressed by a functional medicine specialist.
Without adequate sleep, the immune system does not function optimally.
Optimize Vitamin D level
Having an optimal level is different that the lab identified average or the lab’s cut off for deficiency.
The optimal level for supporting proper immune system function is 60-100.
I urge you to know your number, ask your provider to order this test.
If you prefer to have this test done on your own, you can by ordering it from a direct to consumer laboratory company such as directlabs.com who partners with Quest Diagnostics to provide the blood draw for just $59. Or walkinlabs.com who partnered with LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics for just $58 to perform the blood draw.
Should your test result be low, visit with your medical provider to assess if it is appropriate to use a supplement to bring your level up versus focus on vitamin D rich foods and getting sunlight on your skin daily.
Foods naturally rich in vitamin D include:
Eat the rainbow to support your immune system
Plant based foods especially fruits and vegetables are rich in polyphenols, antioxidants, key vitamins and the all important microbiome supporting fiber!
Here are some examples of polyphenol and/or antioxidant rich foods:
🌿 Herbs and spices such as parsley, basil, oregano turmeric, cinnamon and clove.
🥬Vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, onion red cabbage beets and artichoke
🍋 Fruits such as those in the berry family, cherries, citrus, and grapes
🍵Drinks and treats made from green tea and cocoa.
The top 4 immune boosting vitamins
Vitamin C: fruit and vegetables such as acerola cherries, rose hips, sweet and spicy peppers, black currants, guava, citrus fruit, kale, broccoli, papaya, or strawberries to name a few.
Vitamin B6: Found in meat and fish, B6 is in grains and milk, however since many people follow a paleo, vegan or dairy free diet, here are some alternative sources of B6, potatoes and sweet potato, avocados, pistachios, spinach, carrots, peas, & chickpeas.
Vitamin E: mostly found in plant based foods that contain fat such as, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, pinenuts, abalone, salmon, and avocado, however can be found in sweet red pepper, mango, turnip greens, kiwi, and broccoli
Vitamin D: (actually a pre-hormone, but we’ll leave this here since most still classify it as a vitamin): sources include mushrooms, salmon liver, egg yolk and of course the sun.
Each time we eat is an opportunity to either strengthen your immune system or weaken it.
Now that the cold season has hit the north hemisphere, everytime your immunity drops, you have bigger chances of experiencing cold/flu like symptoms.
So make sure to manage your stress, sleep enough and nourish your body!