AS SEEN IN ODYSSEY MAGAZINE 2019 WINTER COLLECTIBLE
Winter is coming… and along with it, the dreaded winter blues. I’m sure we’re all starting to think of the best ways to ward off the nasty cold and flu and how to keep our immune system alive and kicking!
Ideally, the best way to keep healthy is to equip your body with the ability to fight off any incoming infection and, thereby, preventing colds and flus all together (versus constantly trying to treat the cold/flu), but that isn’t always so possible.
There are various factors that play a role in us getting sick (or not getting sick!)
How we handle periods of intense stress.
How we keep ourselves warm enough in cold weather.
How we nourish our bodies with nutrients from foods.
Our emotional state.
How well we sleep.
What we drink.
The types of people we surround ourselves with.
Some of these may seem a bit more esoteric, but these factors (and many many more) can help or hinder our immune systems from functioning optimally.
We’ve been hearing about colds and flus since the beginning of time, but what actually is the difference?
Commonly caused by rhinovirus
Runny nose, begins clear and develops into thick and green
Mild fever (more common in children)
Ear and headache
Caused by influenza virus’ A, B, and C
Aches and pains in muscles
Fatigue and exhaustion (must lie down)
Dry, chesty cough with or without sore throat
May have a runny nose
The commonality between these is that they’re both caused by a virus! From a treatment point of view, this means that antibiotics will not help to get rid of these viral infections, because antibiotics are indicated with bacterial infections only.
So what can we do to ward off the flu?
A big issue is that we aren’t listening to our bodies and to what it is telling us with every different symptom. What is our body actually telling us when we get sick?
It’s like a handbrake telling you to slow down! Coming down with the cold isn’t a time to berate yourself because “now’s really NOT a good time”! It’s actually time to take a step back and see that maybe you’ve been pushing yourself too hard at gym, or your work stress is actually unmanageable, or your eating patterns haven’t been adequate to nourish your current needs… Maybe you need to take a few steps back and breath! That’s why the best thing when you come down with a cold or the flu is to take a few days to stay in bed, eat chicken soup, drink lots of water and sleep.
Keeping your immune system alive and kicking:
These are my best ways to keep your immune system alive and kicking:
Stress management is important to ensure your body isn’t constantly functioning in a fight and flight mode and ensuring there is the correct balance between the sympathetic nervous system (fight and flight mode) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest mode).
Top stress management techniques:
Deep belly breathing - 10-12 deep belly breaths have been shown to be effective in shifting the body into a rest and digest mode. My favourite way to do these is to inhale for 4 counts, hold my breath for 6 counts and exhale for 8 counts. Another great way is to inhale fully until you can’t breath in anymore, hold for 7 counts and exhale for 7-10 counts.
Meditation is also a great tool for stress management! There are loads of useful sources online and on YouTube. I’ve recently been loving the app SimpleHabit for short, peaceful meditations.
Gratitude journaling helps to centre and bring ourselves to the present moment. This comprises of saying or writing three (or more) things you are grateful for. It can be specific or general. This can bring meaning even to the worst days.
Good quality sleep helps the body fight off any lingering pathogens. During the day, our body’s focus is on our daily activities - eating, digesting, thinking, walking, moving and so on; so at night, our energy should be spent on repairing cells, replenishing the immune system, rejuvenating, storing memories, removing waste and toxins, and to ready the body for the next day. Did you know that uncompromised, good quality sleep is essential for your well-being and personal spirit?
Keeping away from screens (cell phones, computers, tv, tablets) at least an hour before bed helps with better sleep and stress management!
Better nourishment from nutrition. It is important to ensure your food and beverage intake is adequate before opting for supplements to take.
Decrease caffeine intake as this can deplete the body of necessary B-vitamins. My RDCA (recommended daily coffee allowance) is one to two shots of coffee a day. Whether you drink that as a cappuccino or two espressos is up to you. Caffeine intake includes green tea - even though it’s a better product as it contains the amino acid, L-theanine, which helps to counteract the effects of caffeine.
Increase colourful intake of fruits and vegetables to get a wholesome intake of many necessary vitamins and minerals, including B-vitamins. B vitamins are very important for energy, heart health, cellular rejuvenation, red and white blood cell production, skin, hair and nail health.
You can supplement with adaptogenic herbs - these are herbs which help the body to adapt to external stressors. My top ones are Rhodiola rosea (Arctic root) and Withania somnifera (indian ginseng).
You can also supplement with a good quality B-complex.
Sometimes we do get sick, no matter how well we managed stress and slept.
Chicken soup and bone broth are amazing foods for when you’re both sick and healthy. They’re high in minerals and vitamins that are bioavailable to the body and are easily digested. Our digestive ability decreases in times of illness.
It isn’t just an old wives tale that chicken soup is good for infections. It has been found to fight infection and clear mucous.
Bone broth is also great for gut health! They are both fairly simple to make and recipes can be found so easily online! (Or by giving your gran a quick call ;) )
A winning home remedy is my turmeric concoction:
Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral to give the immune system a nice little kick for it to function optimally! NB: Please use with caution if you are taking any blood-thinning medication.
Turmeric root or powder (the root is better, but not as easily found)
Black pepper OR coconut oil (these will help the body to absorb as much turmeric as possible)
*I put garlic in the ingredients but you shouldn’t actually put it in the mix. Rather, place a single clove of garlic in your mouth, bite down and swallow like a pill. The reason for this is that crushing the garlic releases its potent antimicrobial constituent - allicin! Please note that allicin releases quickly so best is to bite it and swallow straight away! This, coupled with my turmeric concoction, should have you up and running in no time.
In a pot, put half a teaspoon of turmeric powder (if you use the root, cut up about a 3cm piece).
A quarter of an onion, cut as you desire.
3 small to medium cubes of ginger.
Juice of half a squeezed lemon (you can put lemon slices if you prefer).
Add water (measure by how much you want to drink) and switch the stove on.
Wait for the water to start heating up and stir.
Once it is boiling, add a teaspoon of raw honey. (If you are using coconut oil, you can add a teaspoon here.)
Once the turmeric has fully dissolved, bring down to a low heat and stir.
Five to ten minutes later, your concoction should be ready. (If you are using black pepper, add a quarter to half a tablespoon here.)
Pour it into a mug, drink, and enjoy!
I must admit, it doesn’t have a great taste but it works absolute wonders! I would recommend drinking it at least twice a day for 5-7 days and swallowing two garlic cloves daily, one in the morning and one in the evening.
There’s a misconception that we need to “boost” the immune system, but actually we sometimes need our immune system to lay down low. Our bodies are clever enough that it will activate what it needs when it needs and vice versa! The correct term is immune system modulation and what that implies is aiding the immune system in doing its function of being “on” when it is needed and being “off” when it is not.
CAUTION: If you are taking cortisone, immunosuppressants or similar medications, you need to be VERY wary of taking any herb or supplement aimed at “boosting the immune system” or even modulating it. There can be dangerous supplement-drug interactions and anything that you take should be under guided supervision of a skilled practitioner, whether allopathic or alternative.
Always consult a skilled healthcare practitioner before embarking on your journey to optimal health and wellbeing.