Something that happens a lot at this time of year happened again to me the other day. I received a text from a good friend that read “Help! My whole family is sick with this flu and I just can’t get sick right now. What should I be taking to ward it off?”.
I can totally relate to this right now, as 3 out of my family of 5 are currently down for the count with the nasty bug that’s doing the rounds. Winter has set in here in Australia, and with it the flu season has started with a vengeance. But I can’t afford to get sick right now, either. Who would look after everybody if I did? Probably still me! Mums never get a day off. But it’s definitely not easy to take care of a family, a business, study or any other aspect of life when you get sick.
So, when everyone around you is dropping like flies, what can you do to protect yourself?
Here’s what I do to support my immune system when I’m surrounded by illness at every angle:
1. Get enough sleep
Although it may be hard when you have a stressful life, sick children that you’re up with at night, or a partner who is coughing next to you in bed, this is a big one. Sleep is when our bodies fight the bad guys and repair any damage from disease exposure and stress. Listen to your body. If you’re tired – sleep. Go to bed early. Alternate sleep-ins with your partner if you have small children to help you catch up on sleep. Nap during the day. You might say that you don’t have time to nap or sleep, but if you don’t have time to sleep then you’d better make time to be sick, because it’s going to happen! Even if you work full time in an open plan office you can make time for a nap. Take your lunch in from home so you can eat it in under 10 minutes and nap for the rest of your lunch break. I’ve even known people* to bring in a pillow and blanky and sleep on the floor under their desk in a shared office in their lunch break (*this person may or may not be me!). When you need sleep, listen to your body. Otherwise it will make it so you have no choice in the matter and are too sick to get out of bed anyway!
2. Drink plenty of water.
Always a challenge, this is even more of a challenge in winter. Switch to herbal teas, hot water with lemon and homemade soups to up your fluid intake. Water helps to flush out the germs and toxins from your body and helps to support healthy detoxification pathways and immune function in your cells. Dehydration stresses the immune system. So avoid it, if you can.
3. Don’t worry, be happy!
Scientific studies are now proving that your mood can effect your immune system. Emotions such as anger and sadness dramatically decrease your immune function for many hours after experiencing the feelings, and feelings of happiness, love or joy can dramatically improve your immune function, again for many hours after experiencing the emotion. So break out the funny rom-coms, listen to upbeat music that makes your heart sing at every chance you get, dance in your car at the traffic lights, laugh and see the lighter side to life. Breathe in beautiful sunrises if your child has you up before dawn, read only inspiring and joyful books and avoid the news at all costs. Limit time spent with those friends or family who bring you down. And most important of all – make time to meditate daily. Even 5 minutes a day of meditation can dramatically improve your mood, sleep and immune function, among many other benefits that will come rolling into your life in spades once you commit to this life-changing practice. Do whatever works for you to keep your stress levels low and keep you happy and your vibrations high.
4. Make a big pot of bone broth soup.
Great-grandma knows best with this one. In the western world our diets dramatically changed as a result of the rationing during the Second World War and the mass commercialisation of food that followed afterwards. One of the most health-giving immune-boosting foods that we lost as a result, that is slowly making a comeback in the health world, is bone broth soup. Soup made by very slowly simmering meaty, marrow bones and joints from grass-fed beef or free range chicken frames, then adding chopped root vegetables, herbs and greens from the garden, is an easy and cheap way to boost your whole family’s immune system. One big pot can serve up to 40 people, with less than $7 worth of ingredients! And it really packs a superhero power-punch of nutrition and immune support. The benefits of bone broth are so many and varied that I need to write a whole blog just about that one topic. So, I’ll come back to that another time. Just make it and eat it for lunch and dinner, or as a snack in between meals, freeze it in single serves to eat at regular intervals, and feed it to the whole family to get them better, too.
5. Get out in the sunshine.
Even in winter we are lucky enough here in Perth to be able to sit in a warm sunbeam at lunchtime and soak up the rays. If the sun shines where you are, make sure you park yourself in it for at least 10 minutes a day, particularly in winter. Just be sure not to overdo it in the warmer months. The UV in sunlight kills germs and is used therapeutically for a variety of reasons, as well as to sterilise medical instruments. Harness this natural wonder to help keep you healthy. In addition to this, sunlight stimulates the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin, which is also a well documented immune booster. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get some rays! Well, read this first, then go!
6. Eat only the good stuff.
This one should be obvious, but a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, grass-fed meats, fish, fermented probiotic-rich foods and healthy fats (extra virgin olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, grass-fed butter etc) helps to give your body all it needs to keep strong and healthy, even in the eye of the flu season storm. Eat whole foods, as close to the way nature made them as possible, and avoid the processed junk that will only stress your immune system by overloading it with sugar, salt, additives, MSG and toxic by-products of the food industry that are labelled as chemicals and numbers in the ingredients list. Go easy on the gluten-containing grains (wheat, barley, rye and oats) and dairy products if you want to give your body a fighting chance to beat the colds and flu, as these also add an unnecessary load to your immune system. Make sure you include plenty of fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil and coriander, and immune-boosting garlic in all your meals. Make up a batch of fresh basil pesto with plenty of raw garlic and add a spoonful to your breakfasts, pasta, soups etc. Make a batch of hummus with extra garlic to snack on to help ward off those germs (and some vampires, while you’re at it!).
7. Wash your hands.
I only use sanitiser when I’m travelling (planes are gross!) or if my family has gastro. Otherwise a good regime of proper, thorough hand washing (surgical scrub, style!) with soap and water after any bathroom visit, before touching any food, after blowing noses, coughing and sneezing should be implemented with the whole family.
8. Stay warm.
Yes, mum, you were right. There, I said it. When we let our core temperature fall even slightly below where it should be, even for only a short amount of time, our body goes into “trying to stay warm” mode and we divert our energy away from our immune system and into the heat generating responses, such as goosebumps and shivering. This leaves us weak and vulnerable in terms of fighting off the bugs that are all around us at this time of year. Ignore those who look at you funny or make fun of you, like I do, and wear warm coats, scarves, gloves etc at all times when out in cold weather. Keep your core nice and warm. You’ll have the last laugh when they get sick and you don’t!
Be wary, too, of changing the temperature in your environment too much from hot to cold and back again. This can stress out the body and have a weakening effect on the immune system. And germs breed in warm environments. So don’t set your thermostat or heater too high and rug up instead.
9. Support your immune system with supplements.
I prefer to get my vitamins and minerals from my food, but at this time of year I need all the help I can get to stay healthy. Even though I’m eating well, I take a few supplements to help fill in any nutritional gaps. My go-to supplements for this time of year include magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin C, and probiotics. And I also include a few immune-boosting herbal supplements, such as echinacea, olive leaf extract, black elderberry and andrographis, particularly when the rest of my family are sick and I’m caring for them.
So, go and eat your soup in the sunshine with a smile and stay healthy this winter!
What are your go-to supplements and sure-fire ways to prevent colds and flu?
Copyright Emma Turton 2016.
Leading International Medical Intuitive
Founder & Director of Medical Intuition School
Certified Medical Intuition Practitioner, PMIPM, Certified Intuitive Guide, BSc(Physiotherapy), APAM, CTNC, Functional Nutritionist, Certified Meditation Teacher
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