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Cold and flu season is just around the corner!
Kids are going back to school, the weather is getting colder, many of us in northern climates are getting less sun, and that means the season of sickness is almost here.
If you dread winter for this one reason alone, I don’t blame you!
My family had a few years where it seemed like we were hit hard with every sickness you could imagine. It was miserable!
I’ll spare you the details but I’ll just say, we have had everything from vomiting to pneumonia, and everything in between.
So, I don’t know about you, but I would like to avoid any or all cold and flu episodes this year if possible!
To help keep us healthy I decided to do some research. I found some really interesting information about how and why we get sick that I think you might find useful.
I also found 11 ways to help us stay healthy during cold and flu season.
So be sure to keep reading!
Why Do We Get Sick?
You may be wondering how we get sick in the first place.
When talking about cold and flu, or infectious disease, there are two main theories: the germ theory and the terrain theory.
The Germ Theory
Louis Pasteur and is often credited with really bringing the germ theory to life. He built on other’s observations and theories, conducted laboratory research, and is believed to have found that germs introduced into the body could cause sickness and disease.
This theory is still widely used and accepted in medicine today.
The basic principles of the germ theory include:
- Disease comes from outside the body
- Micro-organisms are the primary cause of sickness and disease
- Disease can happen to anyone
- We need to guard against disease and build our defense against it
The Terrain Theory
The terrain theory is credited to Antoine Bechamp.
His theory is almost opposite to that of Pasteur. In his research, Bechamp noted that disease or sickness only happened when the host or tissue was compromised.
This means that sickness is not a cause but a symptom.
The basic principles of the terrain theory include:
- Germs do not need to be killed
- We are constantly exposed to germs
- Disease occurs when unhealthy conditions exist within the body
- To prevent disease, we must create a healthy environment so that disease cannot take hold
Many who practice functional medicine and take a holistic view of health believe in this theory.
Which Theory Is Correct?
It seems reasonable that the germ theory could be correct, but consider this- Rudolf Virchow, who is known as the “father of pathology”, is quoted as saying, “If I could live my life over again, I would devote it to proving that germs seek their natural habitat: diseased tissue, rather than being the cause of diseased tissue”.
Virchow’s work dates back to the 19th century, but a more recent event supporting his work (and that of Bechamp’s) were findings from the Human Microbiome Project that was organized by the National Institutes of Health.
During this study, bacteria samples from about 250 healthy people were taken and genetic material was sequenced.
What they found turned out to be quite a surprise!
The researchers learned that each person had thousands of bacterial strains and every person was different from the others.
Included in everyone’s microbiome the scientists found disease-causing bacteria, but it was not making the people sick. The disease-causing bacteria was living in harmony with other bacteria in the body.
It seems that our bodies have an entire eco-system that works together!
When balance is not maintained in the body (because of stress, poor living choices, antibiotics, chemicals in food,etc.) the bad bacteria can take over, the balance of the eco-system is disrupted, and disease can occur.
These findings mean that the germ theory is probably less accurate than previously thought, or possibly even false.
Regardless of which theory is correct, there are easy steps we can take to support our bodies and stay healthy this winter.
How To Stay Healthy During Cold & Flu Season (Really All Year!)
According to the terrain theory, the best way to avoid sickness and stay well is by maintaining balance in the body.
How is that accomplished?
By properly nourishing and supporting the terrain!
(Otherwise known as our bodies (and our microbiome within) 🙂 )
11 Natural Ways To Stay Healthy This Winter
Here are 11 things you can do to help your body be as healthy as it can be so you can stay well through this cold and flu season, and all through the year.
1. Eat Healthy, Nourishing Food
Eating natural, whole foods that are full of vitamins and minerals is the best way to keep your immune system strong and your body healthy. Examples of healthy foods would be:
- bone broth
- grass-fed meats (organ meats are very nourishing too)
- wild-caught fish
A great way to incorporate quite a few of these at once is to make soups or stews. That way you can have a healthy meal that is also comforting on cold day.
2. Add Fermented Foods
Eating naturally fermented foods is great for digestion, a good source of probiotics and good bacteria, and can boost the immune system.
It is estimated that 70-80% of the immune system is found in the gut so giving it the nourishment that it needs is important!
Good sources of naturally fermented foods could include:
Just be sure that these products are not pasteurized because this destroys the good bacteria.
3. Say No To Sugar
Sugar suppresses the immune system. To stay well this cold and flu season a strong and robust immune system is necessary!
When you eat sugar it weakens or lowers the ability of the immune system cells that attack bad bacteria in your body. This alters the bacterial balance and leaves us susceptible to illness.
4. Reduce Or Manage Stress
We all have stress that we deal with in life, but if the stress is extreme, not well managed, or chronic, it can lower immune function. When immunity is lowered it opens the door for disease-causing virus and bacteria to take over and upset the balance.
If you’re feeling stressed consider trying one or more of the following techniques:
- re-evaluate priorities
- EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
- talking with a friend
- relaxing yoga
Incorporating any (or all!) of these techniques into your daily routine is a great way to lower stress and help your immune system!
5. Make Sure Vitamin D Levels Are Optimal
If you haven’t checked your Vitamin D levels in a while, you may want to consider having it done. It is not at all uncommon for people to have low levels of this very important vitamin (Interesting fact- it’s actually it’s a hormone).
Vitamin D plays a few important roles in the body, one of which is to balance the immune response. Low levels are associated with an increased risk of illness.
If you find that your levels are low, time in the sun is a great way to try to increase levels. If this isn’t possible, food sources are the next best thing.
These foods would include:
- Cod Liver Oil
- Fatty fish like salmon
- Beef liver (you can take capsules if you don’t want to eat liver)
- Egg yolks
6. Get Good Sleep
Lack of sleep, or not getting good restorative sleep, can affect how well the immune system works.
When you sleep your body makes and releases cytokines. These are proteins that zero in on inflammation and infection in the body. When you lose sleep, immunity is lowered because your body is not able to produce or release these proteins properly.
A few tips to help get a good nights sleep are:
- Stick to a sleep schedule- go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Make sure your bedroom is for sleeping- keep it cool, free from noise and extra light (like from tv and phones)
- Have a relaxing bedtime routine- take a few minutes each night to wind down and relax
- Reduce or eliminate blue lights before bed- electronics give off blue light that interferes with melatonin production. Turn off electronics 1-2 hours before bed or look into blue light blocking glasses.
- Avoid heavy meals, cigarettes, or alcohol- these can all cause sleep disruptions (and aren’t good for general health anyway).
7. Don’t Forget Movement
Exercise is a great way to get your blood pumping, lymph fluid moving, and your body sweating. In addition to all of that, exercise causes an increase in white blood cells, which are immune system cells, and causes them to circulate faster.
Moderate exercise is great for the body and immune system, just be careful because too much exercise can have the opposite effect and suppress the immune system.
Examples of moderate exercise may include:
- Brisk walking
- Bike riding
- Swimming- not competitive
8. Stay Hydrated
Drinking water and staying properly hydrated is essential to a functioning body.
For the body to function properly and detoxify through means of elimination and sweating, hydration is key.
It is generally recommended that adults drink 8-9 cups of water per day. Individual needs can vary though.
*Ideally, water would be well filtered and fluoride-free!
9. Open A Window
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air quality is a serious health concern.
In fact, due to chemicals in paint, furniture, flooring, and other sources of pollutants, the air in our home is often more polluted than the air we breathe outdoors.
Breathing indoor air with these chemicals and pollution has been shown to cause inflammation and suppress the immune system. Definitely something to avoid during cold and flu season!
One simple fix for this is to open a window, even in cold weather.
Allowing fresh air in for even a few minutes each day can significantly reduce pollution in your home that could be suppressing your immune system.
10. Listen To Your Body
So often we are busy and don’t hear the small whispers from our body telling us that something isn’t right.
These whispers could be in the form of feeling tired, overly emotional, irritable, anxious, feeling a dull ache somewhere, or any other feeling that is noticeable but doesn’t require immediate attention.
The thing is, we should give it attention. These subtle signs are our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. If we don’t listen, our body will start to yell.
So next time you feel tired, dizzy, a little extra emotional, have a headache, or experience any other symptom, stop for just a minute and give yourself some attention.
You may want to consider these questions:
- Have you eaten today? (Was it the kind of food your body needs?)
- Do you need to have a glass of water?
- Feeling stressed or overwhelmed?
- What thoughts are you thinking? Are they positive or are they negative?
- Have you had some moderate movement today?
- Were you able to enjoy a little sunshine and fresh air?
You will begin to notice what your body needs when you ask (and answer) these questions. And your body will respond quickly and positively when you give it a little love and care.
Being in tune with your body can help you recognize signs and symptoms of imbalance so you can take steps to head off illness before it starts!
Helpful Natural Remedies
The most important thing you can do to stay healthy this cold and flu season is to take very good care of yourself.
But, since none of us lead perfect lives, here are a few natural products and remedies that can be helpful in preventing infection and speeding recovery.
1. Beta Glucan
Beta-glucan stimulates, strengthens, and modulates the immune system. It is not naturally occurring in our bodies but we do consume small amounts from certain mushrooms, yeast, or other foods. To really aid the immune system, consider adding this in supplement form to your natural health regimen.
Elderberry is a great addition to any wellness routine. It is full of vitamins and antioxidants that support the immune system, lessen inflammation, and can be helpful in preventing and easing cold and flu symptoms.
*Be sure to read product labels. Many products contain large amounts of sugar 🙁
3. Oregano Oil
Oregano oil is a potent natural antibiotic, a powerful antioxidant, and has anti-inflammatory properties. This herb is a great addition to any natural medicine cabinet.
Although you can take oregano internally, I have found that it can be a little too spicy for me. I have found it very helpful externally though and often use a rubbing oil that is formulated for kids (but works well for adults too!)
4. Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is a great source of vitamins A and D. This product can help support the immune system and promotes optimal immune function. It is also high in omega 3 fatty acids which have been found to reduce inflammation.
Zinc is a nutrient that may not be as abundant in our diets as is necessary. To shorten a cold, take zinc within the first 24 hours of the onset of symptoms and it can help to shorten the duration.
6. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a great immune system booster! Our bodies need this vitamin to work optimally. It has been found that immune cells such as phagocytes and t-cells especially need vitamin C to work properly. If a body does not have enough vitamin C there could be a reduced resistance to infection.
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Here are a few common questions that often come up when someone is looking for information on natural ways to prevent or treat colds and flu.
1. I know I should eat healthy foods, but I just don’t know what that means. Where do I start?
It’s true, most people know that they should eat healthy but that can be a really confusing thing to do. There is a ton of conflicting information out there.
So where do you start?
Start with whole foods. That means fruit, veggies, grass-fed meats, nuts, and any other real food that isn’t processed (or very minimally).
Looking for a few quick and easy recipes to get you started?
Here are 5 easy weeknight dinners that are healthy and delicious!
2. Would plants reduce indoor pollution and help keep us well?
Yes! Plants have been found to be great at reducing indoor pollution. The less pollution there is, the less irritation you will have, the less burden on your body. All of that means that having plants could very well be a help in cleaning your environment and helping you to stay well.
Want to know which plants NASA found to be helpful in reducing indoor pollution? Find out with this free download!
3. I have heard that homeopathic remedies can be helpful to have on hand for cold and flu season, which do you recommend?
I love homeopathic remedies! They can be incredibly helpful for cold and flu season.
- Oscillococcinum– I use this at the first sign of flu-like symptoms
- Cold Calm– This is helpful when a cold strikes
- Fever & Infection– I have tried a lot of homeopathic combinations, but this product has always seemed to help the best
There are plenty of other homeopathic remedies that you could use. Sometimes single remedies are better suited, as long as you can match the symptoms to the correct remedy.
For people just starting out who haven’t built up their homeopathic remedy stash yet, these are the ones I would start with because they are easy to find, easy to use, and work well for most people.
A Few Last Thoughts…..
Cold and flu season can be a rough season for some. I know we have had years when I couldn’t wait until spring because with it came the hope of less sickness.
But that is not the kind of year this one will be!
By taking the steps above, taking care of yourself, and having a few natural remedies on hand, you are doing everything you can to ensure that this winter will be a healthy and happy one!
Do you have tips on how to stay healthy through cold and flu season?
I would love it if you shared! Feel free to leave a comment below 🙂
Agency, E. P. (n.d.). Improving Indoor Air Quality. Retrieved from EPA.gov: https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/improving-indoor-air-quality
Aranow, C. M. (2011). Vitamin D and the Immune System. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 881-886.
Cayleff, S. E. (2016). Nature’s Path: A History of Naturopathic Healing in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Health, N. I. (n.d.). Human Microbiome Project. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health: http://www.commonfund.nih.gov/hmp
Medicine, M. P.-U. (n.d.). Exercise and Immunity. Retrieved from Medline Plus: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm
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