I am so much more into preventative measures rather than reacting to ailments, and truly believe that is the key to a healthy body and a healthy family. If you have littles in daycare or school and find that you are all getting sick often, I hope some of these measures can cut down on your sick days. But to begin with, it IS healthy to get sick every now and then, think of it as the bodies opportunity to upgrade its immune system. But what isn’t normal is to catch every cold and flu that is going around, that is your body telling you it is lacking somewhere, whether it is some nutritional deficiencies or too much stress.
Here are 5 preventative things you can do to ensure better health this upcoming cold and flu season.
“It’s the one time the body gets to focus on healing”Amy Mckelvey (herbalist)
This is the foundation to all; mental health, body health, happiness, less stress. And as Amy McKelvey (of Her Vital Way) says, it is the one chance the body has to truly heal. So if your sleep is limited (hello sleep-deprived Mamas), then your immune system will be compromised. If you have the choice with sleep and can choose to go out with friends on a Friday night but also feel a cold coming on, you might want to choose to stay home and go to bed early and get a tonne of sleep to let your body do it’s job. If your kids have a runny nose, put them to bed 30 minutes earlier until they fight it off.
Stick to as many whole foods as you can. Think, warm nourishing soups packed with loads of veggies and herbs. Processed and refined foods can impede the function of the immune system (especially sugar which can exacerbate inflammation). So get lots of fruit in to you and the kids to up their vitamin intake. There is a reason most people start craving warm soups, stews and chilis once Fall comes, it can warm the body from the inside like giving it a nice big hug. See my Soup recipe below.
Load up on probiotic rich foods because 80% of the immune system is in the gut. So, supporting your gut and its microbiome is crucial. Get it daily in the forms of: kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, or miso.
3. Sun / Outdoor Time
This can get hard in the winter if you are exposed to Canadian winters, but this is crucial for the bodies health as well; Breathing in fresh air, and getting sunlight directly on your face. So bundle up, I know it is hard (especially with toddlers), and takes a lot of effort, but *try* to get outside for at least 10-15 minutes each day. Even if it is cloudy or snowing, get some proper snow gear on and go for a walk, go tobogganing, or build a snowman.
4. Washing Hands
This one is SO SO simple, but still so many people (especially kids) have such a hard time with. If you can teach your kids (and yourself) to not touch their faces at all when they are at school, and wash their hands before they eat anything, you could cut down their sicknesses significantly. Germs enter through the eyes, mouth and nose, so if they touch any germ infected surfaces or children, chances are, they won’t get it.
Avoid using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, as they kill ALL the bacteria (good and bad), and opt to wash your hands with water and soap instead.
If you must use a hand sanitizer, make your own in a spray bottle with:
- Watch Hazel
- Lavender Oil
- Tea Tree Oil
- Rosemary Oil
Fill spray bottle half way with witch hazel, and add 5-10 drops of each essential oil. Make sure the essential oils are pure (aka NOT $5 each at homesense). Spray on hands and rub vigorously as if you were washing them under water.
5. Supportive Herbs
There are some herbs and supplements that you can take to support your system, if you are already doing the items above and need an extra boost. But just know that you can’t take all of these herbs while eating refined foods all day while you stay up until 4am 😛 (I know, no fun at all).
Thyme, Rosemary and/or Oregano are all very powerful antimicrobial and antiviral herbs that are easy to get your hands on and can be very useful. Steep a few tablespoons of the dried herb (use more if herb is fresh) in hot water for at least 10 minutes and drink throughout the day. You can also consume the oil directly (be VERY CAUTIOUS with consuming these oils, they can burn you if you use too much, and never give these to children). Another options is adding loads of fresh or dried herbs to your soup (see recipe below).
Vitamin C / Zinc / Echinacea-
Vitamin C is depleted from the body when you are under stress, so anytime your are feeling stressed or feel like you are getting sick (a sore throat is a huge red flag), load up on Vitamin C. You can take a lot of Vitamin C (6,000 or more mg/day), but split it up throughout the day and take with a meal. If you take too much, the only harm is it will loosen your bowels, so if that happens after you take your C, take a little less next time. Personally, when I feel something coming on, I take 2,000-3,000mg 3 times a day.
Echinacea and Zinc can also be incredibly supportive to the immune system. I’ve found a great blend of all 3 in a capsule from hervitalway.
You’ve probably heard this buzz word about the health world, for very good reason. Adaptogens are herbs that can help the body deal with stress. And getting sick is a stress on the body. These can be added in small ways throughout your day, you can take capsules or get it through food. Some examples of adaptogens that can support your adrenals (stress management), and immune system are:
- Schisandra berry
- Mushrooms (shitake, reishi)
- Astragalus (powder form or root) – See how I added this to my soup (recipe below)
Immune Supporting Soup
Ingredients + Directions
- All the Veggies (I used: kale, peppers, mushrooms, beans, beets, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, beet greens, loads of garlic). Sautee garlic and veggies lightly before adding broth in.
- Chicken broth (Cook free-range chicken bones in pot or crock pot for 12-24 hours with salt, veggie ends, splash of apple cider vinegar)
- 2-4 tbsp astragalus powder (it is bitter, so add it in slowly and according to taste preference)
- 2-4 tbsp dried thyme (according to taste preference). Or use rosemary or oregano if you prefer the taste.
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Add bits of chicken
- Let soup simmer for 30-60 minutes or until veggies are soft.
If you have a picky eater, puree the soup or even use it as a sauce on pasta.
What are your go to cold preventative measures? Comment below 🙂