Yes, we all know it’s that time of year when coughing and sneezing become the norm at the office, and everyone is making it a personal goal not to catch what’s “going around.” In the hospital environment at ACMC, we’ve undergone a full-fledged effort to get everyone vaccinated, but while a vaccine can help stave off the prominent strain of flu for the year, there are still tons of bugs to catch, flu or not.
With the holidays right around the corner, there is traveling to do, parties to attend, presents to wrap, decorating to be done, and the list goes on and on. None of that stuff is fun if you have a cold or the flu, so I’ve compiled a list of tips to stay healthy through cold and flu season. And if you do get caught, I have some great tips to help you beat your invaders more quickly. Surely some of this will be review, but it never hurts to be reminded!
Tips for staying well:
- Drink plenty of water — have a nice big BPA-free bottle of water at your desk or in your car and sip from it all day. Shoot for 3 refills throughout the day to ensure that you’re staying hydrated and keeping your respiratory membranes moist. If you’re even more ambitious, try adding something to it that will aid in mineral and/or electrolyte absorption. This will energize you and help your immune system perform at its best. Cell Food is a good example, but not the only thing out there.
- Eat antioxidant-rich foods — such as whole-grains, dark green leafy veggies, and artichokes, as well as foods packed with omega-3 fatty acids, such as WILD salmon (not farmed), chia seeds, and walnuts. “The antioxidants protect the body’s tissues against stress and inflammation and enhance immune function,” while “omega-3 fatty acids promote blood flow and the production of anti-inflammatory substances,” also boosting the immune system. (source)
- Wash your hands and DON’T touch your face — Germs can live a surprisingly long time — influenza can live on an inanimate surface (like a door knob, phone, or pen) for up to three days! Wash your hands frequently with soap and water (don’t go overboard on those antibacterial gels), and keep your hands off your face. “Your face is an open portal to your insides,” says Dr. Kalvin, physician and weight loss expert.
- SLEEP! — We talked about sleep a few weeks ago here, but just to underscore a message in that posting, when you don’t sleep enough, your body overproduces cortisol, a stress hormone. When your body is focused on stress management or has too much cortisol in circulation, the immune system suffers. Find a way to relax — I’ve recently re-discovered the magic of controlled, deep, methodical breathing, both in pain control and stress reduction. Try it. Breath in for a 3 count, exhale for a 3 count, and then hold your breath for a 3 count. Repeat that 5 times and see how you feel. You could also try alternate nostril breathing, which has the same effect.
- Exercise – Are you tired of hearing the laundry list of arguments for daily exercise? Well here’s another reason to stop hearing and start walking. “Research has shown that moderate exercise—30 to 90 minutes most days of the week—increases immune function and reduces your chances of catching a cold.” Don’t go crazy though, sustained high-intensity workouts have the opposite effect. (source)
And now for some advice if you think you may be coming down with something:
- Listen to your body — That first sign of a cold is often subtle, but if you are paying attention, you can cut your cold short just by taking extra good care of yourself at the very beginning. Stay home from work, sleep in, make some good hot soup (lovely segue into #2), and relax on your couch.
- Drink bone broth — Eating chicken soup is not just an old wives’ tale from the days of yore. If you are using good-quality broth made from organic chicken bones (not Campbell’s, sorry guys), you’re getting marrow, gelatin, collagen, and minerals, all of which pump your body with disease-fighting power and boost immunity. Here’s a recipe with more info.
- Load up on vitamin D — Your T-cells will thank you. A major component of your disease-fighting arsenal, T-cells rely on Vitamin D to activate and start the battle. (source)
- Take herbs — If you catch it early enough, try taking Echinacea, or Yin Chiao (my favorite way to go). Both herbs will curtail a bacterial or viral infection if taken early and consistently. You may want to talk to a TCM doctor, American Herbalist, or Naturopathic doctor to get the dosing right for your body, size, and symptoms.
- Stay warm — When your body is using its energy to keep you warm, that’s energy it isn’t using fighting your infection. Do yourself a favor and take a hot bath (with Epsom salt if you’re achey), and then get under the covers.
- Lastly, don’t forget to cover your mouth with the crook of your elbow if you sneeze or cough (rather than your hand) to keep these nasty bugs under wraps for those around you.
I hope these little tidbits will help you on your way through the rest of the cold and flu season. Spread the love and cheer (and not the flu) by passing this along to your friends and family.