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6 Ways To Gear Up For Cold & Flu Season

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping, and the annual pumpkin spice craze is in full effect. With cold and flu season just around the corner there’s no better time to get your immune system in check. Stay healthy this year by following these simple tips:

1. Clean up your diet. It’s true that a healthy diet sets the stage for proper immune function. When it comes to food, the more variety (and colour!) the better. Opt for whole foods that are packed full of nutrients instead of processed or prepared items. Make an effort to limit your intake of refined sugars as much as possible, as they prevent your white blood cells from adequately targeting and fighting off any invaders that enter your system. Aim for about 2L of water per day to stay hydrated and deter the bugs from adhering to the lining of your respiratory tract. For extra defense, stock up on foods that have immune enhancing or antimicrobial properties, including garlic, ginger, bone broth, citrus, onions, mushrooms, and oregano.

2. Replenish those nutrients! Sometimes dietary measures aren’t enough and additional supplementation is needed. In this case, up your game with nutrients that are vital for proper immune function, including vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, selenium, and zinc. If you haven’t already, ask your doctor about measuring your vitamin D level (the “sunshine vitamin”). Studies consistently show that individuals with low or insufficient levels of vitamin D are more prone to a number of illnesses. Given the widespread deficiency of vitamin D in Canada, this nutrient should not be overlooked. Visit your doctor to determine what types of nutrients are most appropriate for you.

3. Keep your gut happy. Since 70% of your immune system resides within your gut, it is imperative that your digestion is optimal. Your gut lining serves as a barrier between your bloodstream and the outside world. Ideally the cells that make up this lining should adhere closely to one another and allow only select molecules to pass freely into circulation. With regular exposure to irritating foods, stress, toxins, and pathogens the cells can become ‘leaky’ and permit the passage of larger substances into the bloodstream, including the bugs that make you sick. Support the functioning of these cells and keep your immune system strong by removing the foods that you are sensitive to, drinking homemade bone broth (a great source of glutamine), and supplementing with a quality probiotic.

4. Battle with botanicals. A number of immune boosting herbs exist in nature, each with their own set of medicinal actions that can be used to prevent and treat those nasty cold and flu viruses. Botanicals such as elderberry, echinacea, astragalus, licorice, andrographis, goldenseal, garlic, ginger, and ginseng can be combined to strengthen your immune system and fight off infection. Be sure to speak to your doctor about what ones may be most appropriate for you. Feeling adventurous? Make up a warm pot of Change of Season Soup. Change of Season Soup is used traditionally in Chinese medicine and is made from a blend of herbs that serve to tonify your immune system as you go through the change of seasons. Kits can be found in most Asian supermarkets.

5. Catch some Zzzzzz’s. There’s no question that sleep deprivation compromises immune function. Countless studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick when exposed to a virus. Their ability to clear the infection is also weakened, resulting in a longer time to recovery from the illness. So what does this mean? Listen to your body when you are feeling run down and be sure to take some time to rest. It will only help you in the end!

6. Manage stress. Doesn’t it seem like colds and flus always seem to strike whenever you are feeling stressed and overworked? That isn’t a coincidence! Under heightened periods of stress the body releases large amounts of cortisol, which is meant to help you “fight” or “flee” from the threatening situation. During this time several of your body’s day-to-day functions become halted, including your immune function. If the stressor is ongoing the immune system will not work as it should, making you more vulnerable to infections. While it’s not possible to eliminate all stressors that come your way, there are definitely ways to help you control your response to it and the overall effect it has on your body.

Do you need some help preparing for the upcoming cold and flu season? To schedule an appointment with Dr. Geil, please call the office at 905-769-4100 or click the following link:

Dr. Jessica Geil, HBSc, ND

Naturopathic Doctor

Vitality Smithville

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