Well here we are again…headed into the flu season. I wanted to share some of my tips for beating the awful funk that likes to visit us this time of year. The first 4 I'm pretty sure you've heard us say before—but they're all worth saying again!
If you're not doing these things, then the rest of these tips are not going to make up for it.
- Stay Active: It's getting colder outside. This tends to make it more difficult to motivate yourself to get out and exercise. Don't slow down! Your body needs movement for overall health—especially your immune system. In fact, many of your immune cells require muscle contraction to get around the body. This is because these cells live in a separate circulatory network called the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system lacks the pump (the heart) that the cardiovascular system enjoys. Movement and the resultant muscle contractions squeeze the lymphatic vessels and move the immune cells around the body. As a bonus, less time indoors means less time in close quarters with other people coughing on you.
- Drink Plenty of Water: All cells in your body require a certain balance between water and all other matter in order to function properly. Dehydration not only lowers your body's ability to create energy, repair tissue, and cushion joints. It also lowers the effectiveness of your immune system. Bodyweight divided by 2 = number of ounces per day you should drink. Add accordingly if you drink caffeine or lose sweat via exercise.
- Get Adequate Sleep: Sleep is critical for your body to be able to repair and rejuvenate. Shoot for 8 hours. There's a reason this Mom wisdom has stuck around. It's true! Read my earlier post on Sleep to learn more about the importance and how to increase sleep quality.
- Eat Clean: Give your body the fuel it needs to function properly without the burden of dealing with loads of toxins and nutrient imbalance. Eat a diet rich in whole unprocessed foods, balanced clean carbs, lots of clean healthy fats. Limit sugar, alcohol, caffeine. The cleaner your diet, the more tools your body has and the more energy will be available for fighting illness. For an even bigger immune boost consider intermittent fasting.
What a mouthful! This is a homeopathic remedy by a company called Boiron that has been clinically proven to reduce the duration and severity of flu. It works best when taken at the earliest signs of flu. It can be taken preventatively, but be warned, it's expensive. I keep this stocked at all times in my household. Bonus: as with most homeopathic remedies, this one is safe for everyone—kids and pregnancy included.
Colostrum is a complex arsenal of macro and micro-nutrients found in breast milk. It is a vital source of conferred immunity from mother to baby. Colostrum contains many different anti-microbial compounds which both support the immune system by stimulating white blood cell production and regulating communication between immune cells and, in some cases, kill microbes (including viruses) directly. Bonus benefits include reduction of errant gut permeability and brain-boosting effects. I like Naturade Symbiotics Colostrum Plus. It's a solid product that is affordable and easy to find. Another good option is Ancestral Supplements Grass Fed Colostrum that we have available in the clinic.
Zinc works by inhibiting viruses from attaching to your cells. It must dissolve under your tongue and be taken repeatedly throughout the day for it to be effective. Try 10-15 mcg of a good quality Zinc every 2-3 hours short term (this is probably too much for long term use—in this case, follow bottle directions) during a flu or cold onset. As with most of these, it works best when started right away. Avoid the intranasal variety unless permanent loss of the sense of smell sounds cool to you.
You can take this as part of your daily preventative immune regimen. You can also take high doses (up to 3000mg garlic extract 2x / day or 8000mcg of allicin, which is the therapeutic compound found in garlic) when you feel a cold coming on. Be prepared to not smell your most fresh if you decide to take high dose garlic. Not inviting, but if you're sick you don't need to be smooching on your sweetie anyway. It may also upset your stomach at higher doses. If so, just reduce the dose and frequency until you are more comfortable. I like GarliActive by Pure Encapsulations. They have a very sciency enteric coating that reduces some (SOME) of the garlic odorifery. Even more gentle are the many varieties offered by Kyolic.
Elderberry has been clinically shown to fight almost all virus activity. It's safe to take preventatively long term too. In this study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11399518), elderberry extract was found to boost several immune component production within the body by as much as 44 fold! The authors also state the potential usefulness for this compound in fighting cancer and AIDS. The product used in this study is Sambucol. Bonus feature: elderberry syrup tastes delicious. You should have an easy time convincing your kids to gulp this down!
Some General Notes:
Please take these recommendations as starting points for your own research. I tried to include things that are generally regarded as universally safe. But NOTHING is universally safe these days. Check with your primary care provider if you have ANY health condition or if you are already taking any medications to make sure that the product you are interested in is safe for YOU to take.
Quality is key with nutritional supplementation. Remember there are no free lunches. If you see “the same thing” in the WalMart pharmacy for $9.99 something is amiss. The supplement industry is, unfortunately, largely unregulated. Therefore you MUST depend on the company's integrity and commitment to quality. Buy only from companies that have solid long-standing track records and who test their products and raw materials for purity and potency. If you are unable to afford quality supplements then you would do better to get these things from high-quality raw food. (You can purchase most of these supplements from our online supplement store--register for a Fullscript account.)