Yes, it’s coming.
The Autumn Equinox has passed and colder, darker days are rapidly approaching. Sure, it means you’ll have to bundle up to battle the elements when going outside. But it also means cozy afternoons by the fire. And more time for introspection, or for reading those books that are piling up on the bed stand (remember books?), or playing board games with the kids.
The seasonal shift also means that it’s time to stock up on natural cold and flu remedies. And to build up your body’s natural resistance to the new and improved viruses and bugs that may be floating around this winter.
I started writing this with a list of ten preventative measures in mind. I ended up with 11 – and an article that exceeded 3000 words! So today you can read about the first five tips. Next week, stop back by for six more tips on what you can do to stay your healthiest this winter.
Even if you live in the other side of the world and are looking ahead to months of sunshine – you can still benefit by arming yourself against marauding viruses. Summer colds are almost worse than sniffling through the damp winter days. After all, who wants to be sneezing poolside?
Although our temps don’t drop below freezing too often here coastal Northern California, the pervasive damp that creeps in off the Pacific Ocean causes an excess of respiratory distress for everyone who lives here. In fact, there’s even a specific name for this locale’s specific manifestation of a cold: The Humboldt Crud.
It’s hard to escape ‘The Crud’ when you live around here – but those of us who prepare ourselves can sometimes avoid it completely, or at the very least shorten its duration significantly.
No matter where you live, the common cold virus lives there too. So you’ll want to check out these tips for combating its stealthy attack.
Get these habits into place, and these supplies in your cupboards now, before you are stricken.
1) Wash Your Hands – Often
You’re probably thinking, Oh, come on, really? But before you click away in disgust at such basic advice, bear with me a minute.
If you’re already a good hand-washer, become a better one. This single action prevents more cold and flu bugs than anything else. That’s why I had to include it, even though it’s kind of a no-brainer. And you have to do it for more than a couple of seconds. That’s where I personally tend to fall off the wagon – I’m always in such a rush I end up deciding that a quick rinse will take care of things.
Not so, it turns out. According to my medical professional friends, you get the best results from a thorough soapy, between-the-fingers hand washing. And scrubbing them every couple of hours is another key – especially if your personal space is crowded with sniffly coworkers or family members.
But one caveat: skip the antibacterial soaps! Despite the environmental nightmare that these chemical concoctions product, an even bigger reason to eschew these soaps is that they’ve been linked to the mutation of stronger and more resistant viruses and bacteria. So ditch the antibacterial stuff, and just stick with a nice natural liquid or bar soap.
If you really want your hand soap to have some extra oomph to kill those germs, add in a few drops of any essential oil to your favorite liquid soap. All essential oils have antimicrobial action. Eucalyptus, lemon or peppermint are all good choices to add to a soap.
Kids have the hardest time with the hand washing thing – and as anyone who works in schools knows well – they are the biggest culprits in spreading around bugs. So, teach them now while they’re young. Instill that good habit and they’ll reward you by bringing home far fewer sicknesses.
2) Get Enough Sleep
I admit, this is a piece of advice that I am still struggling to follow in my own life. (How did it get to be 12:30 already? And how will I manage to wake up at 5:30 for my exercise routine?) I often find myself wishing that my body would thrive on about five hours of sleep. But the annoying truth is that it simply won’t.
A few nights of that and my immune system is gasping for breath.
Why does lack of sleep suppress the immune system? There’re lots of different reasons, and entire books and articles have been written on just this subject. But let’s just look at two important things that happen (or don’t happen).
When your body has not been allowed sufficient rest, it stops producing white blood cells as fast as it would under normal circumstances. These white blood cells are your disease-fighting team, and if you don’t have as many, you’re not fighting the germs as effectively.
When you experience enough deep, restful sleep your body naturally releases interferon and other potent immune-enhancing compounds. You want these compounds circulating through your system and doing their work. Skimping on the shut-eye just doesn’t cut it if you want to stay disease-free.
I spent a lot of years ignoring these facts – and those years were punctuated with three or four debilitating colds per year. In recent times – as it began to sink in what a negative effect lack of sleep was having on my health – I’ve worked hard at allowing myself enough rest. And it’s definitely paying off in fewer visits from ‘The Crud.’
3) Feed Your Immune System With A Healthy Diet
Another no-brainer perhaps – but one that many of us have a hard time actually doing.
When life is runaway busy, it’s often so much easier to reach for junky snacks and processed food, rather than take the time to prepare fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains. But when we do, we’ll pay for it with a lowered resistance.
There’s quite the variety of contradictory information out there about what constitutes a ‘healthy’ diet, what foods help you stay fit and trim, etc. etc. As I’ve said before, my recommendation with this is to listen to your own body, because no one ‘diet’ is exactly right for everybody. We are each unique individuals with distinctive body chemistry that responds differently to different foods. Therefore I generally don’t like to tell people how and what to eat – at least not with specifics.
That said, very few food gurus will argue with the idea that upping your consumption of fresh vegetables will benefit your health. A good way to do this in winter is to eat lots of warming soups.
Many soup recipes are super easy to cook up in a short time, and yes you do have to spend some of that time chopping. Believe me, you will thank yourself if you manage to avoid days of nose-blowing by spending an extra 10 minutes with the chef’s knife.
If you add some astragalus and garlic to your soups (see below), you get extra points – and even more immune-building power in your supper.
Include enough protein in your eating regimen – whether it comes from sustainable meats or your favorite vegetarian sources – and make sure you are eating plenty of foods that are high in Vitamin C. You also need a moderate amount of healthy fats such as those found in nuts, avocados, olive oil or coconut oil. These monounsaturated fats work to build healthy cells and repair damaged tissue.
Perhaps most important is what NOT to eat. Or at least what you should eat less of. Specifically this would include processed and highly sugared foods. If you can, cut way back on your consumption of all sugars (even fruit juice) because it’s been proven when you eat even just a small amount of sugary food you may be suppressing your immune system for the next several hours.
And we don’t want that, do we?
4) Start Eating Astragalus
What’s that, you say? Astraga-what?!?
Maybe you’ve heard of this Chinese herb that has been used for centuries to strengthen and tonify the immune system. It’s an herb that’s great to use before you get sick, rather than others that you might use once the sniffles take hold.
You can buy astragalus as a supplement and take it in capsules or as a tincture. But it’s far cheaper to do it the way people did before we had all these fancy bottles to choose from. Purchase some dried root slices – available at most herb shops or online – they look like oddly contoured tongue depressers. You can actually just throw one of these into your soup, or into a pot of rice or whatever other grain you are cooking.
Just let the astragalus root simmer away with the rest of the food, releasing all of its essential vitality-boosting goodness. It lends a subtle, pleasant and earthy flavor. When your soup (or rice) is done, simply fish out the astragalus root and compost it.
You can also brew up a tea with your astragalus roots.
Since it’s important to consume astragalus on a regular basis, you might want to purchase it as a supplement in addition to cooking with it – unless you make soups every single day.
5) Eat More Garlic
You’re probably familiar with this one, since even popular TV shows have touted the health enhancing properties of garlic. Not only does it fight infections, it’s been shown to work to prevent cancer, detoxify the body from heavy metals, reduce cholesterol, and prevent heart attacks.
A sulfur compound in the garlic called allicin (which also gives garlic its distinctive odor and flavor) is responsible for most of it antimicrobial qualities. Unfortunately, the allicin is destroyed during cooking.
I know folks who swear by eating raw garlic as their sole protection against colds and flus. I’ve heard of spreading it on toast instead of butter, tossing it into power shakes, or just chomping up a couple of cloves every morning.
And it’s true – raw garlic is much more potent as a treatment and preventer of disease than its cooked version. But not everybody’s stomach can take a daily deluge of raw garlic. And some folks would prefer not to drive everyone away from the seat next to them on the bus – because of dragon breath.
Well, you only need one clove of raw garlic a day to derive the health benefits. But if even that is too much there are some alternatives.
One easy one is to add fresh, crushed garlic to cooked dishes right before they are served, that way the antimicrobial compounds will not be destroyed. Otherwise you’ll want to take some deodorized garlic oil capsules (about 10 mg per day), or just the powdered garlic in capsules or tablets (recommended dosage is 600 to 900 mg a day, and be sure your supplement is standardized for allicin content.)
Try one or all of these methods and you may be amazed at how well your immune system responds. And check back next week for six more power-tips for chasing away cold and flu bugs this winter.
Ready for more ideas? Here’s 7 more tips for preventing or knocking out that cold or flu!
What’s your favorite natural method for staving off a cold? Please tell us about it in the comment section.
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