No secret: people are sick more often with colds and flu during the winter. Possible reasons include loss of sunlight enriched vitamin D levels, exposure to cold and damp, indoor air quality, and greater indoor crowding. Most of these conditions are beyond individual control, but there are still things you can do for yourself to stay as healthy as possible during the winter. Some of the common wisdom prevails: stay warm and dry, get enough sleep and wash your hands frequently, using regular soap and water, not anti-bacterial wipes. Additional steps you can take:
Eat healthy! Winter routines of course include healthy meals, even if they are crowded out a bit by holiday celebrations. Keep in mind that a hefty dose of sugar disables parts of your immune system for about 24 hours, so better to keep your splurges infrequent rather than daily. Keep on hand: homemade chicken broth is wonderful preventive medicine as well as first aid. Save those chicken bones and brew up a good pot for drinking on its own or with blended vegetables in soups.
Keep moving. Whether you resort to the gym or head for the slopes, keeping up your activity level, well hydrated and adequately clothed, help keep you healthy, too. Check out Anna’s blog on the subject for a little winter exercise inspiration.
Supplement wisely. I recommend a few winter basics to keep on hand with daily dosing suggestions, but recommend double doses for folks who get sick or who are exposed to illness.
* I’ve realized recently that my favorite supplement was probably our first supplement as human beings: fermented cod liver oil (FCLO).I recommend almost everyone take FCLO on a regular basis, either the capsules or the oil, whichever is easiest, 2-4 capsules a day or ¼- ½ tsp daily. (Try the liquid! lots of tips underneath the label about how to take it. I just place 1/2 teaspoon on the center of my tongue at the beginning of a meal, add a bite of food, and swallow it without a problem. The container lasts longer than the capsules, but otherwise the cost and potency are the same.)
* Replace lost sunlight with vitamin D3 1-2 drops daily to keep your vitamin D levels normal.
* Antioxidants refuel a working immune system. Vitamin C is a standard and useful anti-oxidant: take 1-2 of Synergy Vitamin C daily and for a super support, take liquid OPC’s (oligoproanthocyanidins).
* Mushrooms are being increasingly recognized for their potent immune support, in both infectious and malignant disease. Fungi Perfecti Host Defense is available in either capsules (2-4 daily) or liquid (1 dropper daily).
* Zinc is a vital component of a healthy immune response. Foods rich in zinc include red meat, eggs and oysters, so include them regularly in your diet. If you eat them frequently but wonder about zinc absorption, you might consider adding a digestive enzyme or simply a zinc supplement, 15 mg. daily.
And what to do if the best of preventive measures fail?
* If you are a homeopathic patient and know your constitutional remedy, start with that remedy in a daily dose of that in a low potency (12C or 30C or LM), or select a homeopathic remedy from the list on the Flu Solutions page.
* Boost your vitamin D for 3 days, taking 25,000-50,000 i.u. of vitamin D3 daily, then return to your usual winter dose.
* Take zinc lozenges, 5 mg. every 2-4 hours.
* Stay home! You may be contagious for up to a week from the start of symptoms.
And finally, particularly if your illness is thankfully brief: continue your increased supplements for several days after you feel better to prevent relapses.
One might ask, what about the flu shot? I’ll write a full blog post about this later, but I don’t recommend the flu shot. Keep your immune system healthy year-round, perhaps some extra attention with the above supplements during flu season, and then ask it to work overtime if you feel yourself getting sick. Flu shots have shown to be of little value and have some considerable side effects. More about that soon.