Upping the Ante for Winter Wellness
Winter is in full swing and by the looks of the waiting room in our family health center, the winter viruses and flu are at a seasonal high. Who are those masked people?? Didn’t they get the flu shot this year?? (I have my tongue in my cheeks, ladies, but you just can’t see me. ) The CDC has admitted that this year’s influenza vaccine is a bust, protecting a mere ¼ of the population. Their answer is to load up on Tamiflu and other anti-virals with the hope that it will limit the duration of the illness or lessen the severity of symptoms. I have good news for you today: there is plenty you can still do for yourself and your family to thwart a viral attack this winter. Here are my top 4 ways to maintain your health and support your immune system this winter. Let’s get to work!!
Overall, the best prevention for all diseases both acute and chronic is to live a healthy lifestyle. This allows your body to run effectively and efficiently, with all body systems including your immune system purring along nicely. What does this look like? Replace processed food products with real whole foods. Ditch the sugar. Get good-quality sleep. Take time to de-stress your day. Make exercise a part of your daily routine. Spend time outdoors even if it is cold outside: fresh air and sunshine is free and wonderfully health-promoting.
Support your immune system by nourishing your gut. The health of your gastrointestinal tract is intimately aligned with the health of your immune and lymphatic systems. Here is a nice article to see how this works. Taking probiotics is a fine way to do this, and there are many on the market. If you want to go this route, my advice is to switch brands and strains each time you need to buy more so that your body is exposed to many different strains. This allows your body to “keep and grow” the strains that are specific to you while “discarding” those strains that are not the right fit. A cheaper and more fun way to boost the health and happiness of your gut is to include small amounts of cultured and fermented foods in your diet every day. The process of culturing and fermenting foods is as old as civilization itself. Not only does it serve as a method of preserving foods, but fermenting and culturing foods often increases the bioavailability of nutrients found in the food, making them more usable by our bodies. Win! If you like dairy products, unsweetened yogurt and cottage cheeses are a delicious way to boost intestinal flora. Vegetables that are fermented in a salt brine are easy to make and delicious and healthful. Sauerkraut, real pickles and kimchi are available in most supermarkets and are easy and inexpensive to make yourself. A wonderful website to explore the world of fermenting and culturing your own foods is Cultures for Health . I recommend trying several different types of fermented and cultured foods and incorporating them into your diet in small quantities on a daily basis. Your digestion will improve and your immune system will be ready and able!
Choose the right supplements. I recommend a whole-food multiple, extra D, fish oils and more specific supplements according to your specific constitution and history. Extra vitamin D to the tune of 50,000 IUs daily for the first few days of symptoms is safe and effective at thwarting viral and other insults. The crystalized form of vitamin C taken in water throughout the day is also a good choice. Any generic powdered C is fine, although the Emergen-C brand by Alacer is so convenient and yummy. Homeopathic Ocillococcinum and Influenzinum by Boiron are great to have on hand for when symptoms arise and I also use the Influenzinum as prophylaxis instead of the flu vaccine. Another nice item to add to your winter arsenal is a combination herbal product for overall immunity enhancement. There are several on the market, and my daughter, Elin, has had good luck with Wellness by Source Naturals. I have had good luck with this one as well. I use the liquid formula and it tastes just fine. These items should put you in good shape to resist the viral enemy!
My last and favorite method at preventing and reducing illness is the Detox bath. If you don’t “do baths” or don’t have the time for a bath, take the Detox bath challenge!! Unless you do not have a tub, you should be using it frequently for health and relaxation! Hot baths promote healing, creating a short-term elevation in body temperature which most pathogens abhor. With the use of mineral salts such as Epsom salts, the bath becomes a therapeutic detox spa as the hot mineralized waters draw out toxins and relax muscles. I have Dr. Mark Hyman to thank for this delightful experience. Since having met him, I am a great enthusiast of his Detox baths and I share them with you here. To a hot bath, add 1-2 cups of Epsom salts. You can also add 1 cup of baking soda as well, but often I do not have this on hand. I add essential oils to the salts and then add this to the tub, so that the oils mix with the water instead of floating atop. There are so many essential oils that are antiviral and antibacterial, and by using them in the bath we experience their benefits via the lungs and the skin. All aromatic herbs are medicinal, so think of peppermint, eucalyptus, pines, rosemary and lavender. Citrus oils, too. Just choose a reputable company for your oils and use approximately 20 drops per tub. Experiment with several combinations. I recommend Young Living oils, Do Terra, Floracopeia, and Snow Lotus . The last two companies are smaller and less expensive than the first two, but I have found their oils to be very therapeutic and useful while saving a bit of money. You choose: they are all wonderful companies. Grab a magazine and soak for at least 20 minutes. Add as much hot water as you can stand, and really allow your body to sweat. Please, use caution here until you know how your body reacts to hot baths. It is not uncommon to have a temporary rise in blood pressure and to feel suddenly woozy and lightheaded after a particularly hot bath. This is quite normal until you get used to it, but be prepared to lay down for a few moments after getting out of the tub! And of course, if you do have heart trouble, refrain from all but warm baths. You will absorb benefits from the oils from a warm bath, too, you will just not get the detoxifying sweat from the hot bath.
There you have it!! Now go to it, and be well!!!