7 Natural Ways to Stay Healthy (or Recover Faster) in Cold and Flu Season
Every year around this time I remind myself that I should have started my “home remedy ramp-up” weeks ago to get ahead of cold and flu season. But any time is a good time to implement one or all of these remedies into your family’s routine.
Obviously, this is the first course of action in staying healthy! The first place we head when coming in the door from daycare pickup is the sink to wash our hands. It’s the easiest preventative for illness. Door handles, gas pumps, money, grocery carts…they’re all ripe for passing on the germs of the many people who came in contact with them that day. We carry hand sanitizer to use in a pinch and I wipe down my cell phone frequently since I’m in contact with it all day long.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
ACV is potent stuff with seemingly endless uses! Just search online and you’ll see people using it to clean their counters, clear their skin and control blood sugar. Even Hippocrates used it way back when. The key is to buy the unpasteurized kind with “the mother” (aka the floaties) which is a sediment of beneficial bacteria and enzymes. ACV is a natural probiotic and expectorant, helping to thin mucus secretions when you’re feeling stuffy. My go-to drink when I’m sick or struggling with allergies is 1 tbsp ACV in 8oz. of water, a squeeze of lemon, 1 tsp local honey, a pinch of cayenne and black pepper, a dash of ginger and turmeric. I drink through a straw to avoid the acid on my teeth and never take it undiluted (it can burn your esophagus).
Did you know 80% of our immune system lies in our digestive tract? When it’s not healthy, neither are we. Although no amount of probiotics can offset a poor diet, supplementing helps to keep the ratio of good to bad bacteria optimal. I like sourcing from foods that are natural probiotics - greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi. We also take a high count probiotic (at least 15+ billion live cultures) daily from a reputable brand like Garden of Life, Klaire Labs or Jarrow. Sometimes it’s trial and error to find the one you respond to best. If you must take an antibiotic during illness, be sure to take a probiotic in between doses (not at the same time) so the good gut bacteria is replenished.
Known as nature’s flu shot, elderberries are high in antioxidant and immune supporting properties. Research has shown elderberry syrup helps the body recover about 4 days faster from the flu. I get mine from local moms who make their own mix with local honey, cloves and other ingredients that tastes much better than store-bought (and I’m convinced it’s more effective too). We don’t consume it every day throughout the year, but when I know something is going around or when I start to suspect any symptoms. If one of us does get sick, I up the dose frequency to several times a day until we’re feeling better.
It’s not very fun to use, but works well to clear the sinuses of excess mucus and irritants! It’s safe enough to use every day to rinse out any bugs before they take hold, but is also a great addition to your routine when you have the sniffles. Besides following the basic instructions on the box, be sure to use distilled water or boiled and cooled water you're not introducing any bacteria. If your child is too small for a neti pot, one of my favorite products is the Nose Frida Snot Sucker. The thought of using it can be intimidating, but it’s much more effective than the bulb aspirators!
As the temperature drops, the air becomes dryer and more irritating to the respiratory system and sinuses don't drain and function properly. To combat this, many people turn to a humidifier to add moisture back into the air. We have cool mist humidifiers in every bedroom and they've helped to avoid the discomfort of a dry nose and mouth while we sleep. Saline spray is also great to lubricate the nasal passages and can even be added to a lot of humidifiers if you can’t get your little one to cooperate for the nasal spray. Make sure you empty the basin daily and clean it out with diluted vinegar weekly to ward off mold and bacteria growth.
Minimizing or avoiding inflammatory foods
I try my best to limit added sugars (which can be challenging this time of year!) and really only indulge in my favorite treats if I have to have something. Eating cookies at the office or a play date just because they’re there isn’t going to help the body function optimally! Secondly, try limiting or removing dairy from your diet, especially when you're sick. Dairy products may thicken existing mucus or exacerbate symptoms and many people notice improvements in their or their children’s asthma, eczema, ear infection occurrences, and upper respiratory issues when not consuming dairy products. If you know you’re also intolerant to any other foods or substances, it’s a good idea to avoid those as well to allow your body to focus on fighting off whatever is making you sick.
Getting enough sleep
Did you know cheating yourself out of at least 7 hours of sleep a night can make you more likely to get sick? It can also decrease your recovery time by suppressing your immune response. Set yourself up for success by winding down an hour before bed and unplugging from tv or phone screens. I like to change into comfy pants and socks, drink some tea and read a magazine. Find something that relaxes you and puts you in the right mindset for a good night of rest. After a full day of giving of yourself to others, you owe yourself this time of replenishment.
Wishing you a healthy holiday season!
A designer for 10+ years and now also a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Jessica Beaver is the creative soul, North Carolina native and wellness advocate behind Foster Wellness Health Coaching. She is passionate about helping busy women and families take charge of their health through small changes rooted in real foods, fewer toxins and self care. Visit www.letsfosterwellness.com for more resources designed to take the confusion and stress out of living a healthier lifestyle.
Jessica Beaver, CHHP
Foster Wellness Health Coaching