It’s that time of year again…. Cold and flu season is fast approaching. Everywhere we turn we hear reminders to get our flu shot.
I’m a strong believer in the idea that our body can heal itself and fight off most disease/illness when it is functioning properly. This means our immune system must be in top shape. Easier said than done given today’s lifestyle. Chemicals in our food and environment, compromised digestion and intestinal ecology, overuse of antibiotics and antiseptics, lack of sleep and proper nutrition, all impact our immunity. That’s why it’s so important to support our immune function.
Every year people ask me what I do to prevent getting sick, so I thought I would share my personal immune boosting routine, which doesn’t involve the flu shot. This is by no means the only way to build immunity, but it’s what has worked for me. Please be sure to check with your doctor, pharmacist or alternative health care practitioner before taking any vitamin or herbal products as they may interfere with existing conditions or prescriptions.
My prevention tips:
1) Take a daily probiotic – 80% of our immune system originates in our gut, yet most of us do not have sufficient “good” bacteria for proper immunity. If you don’t take a probiotic all year, then consider taking it over the course of the winter months starting now, as it takes time to restore proper ecology.
2) Vitamin D – a few years ago only the holistic health community touted the benefits of Vitamin D, now everyone is talking about it and realizing that the old RDI of 400IU is much too low. I like to take the drops in my morning Greens+ smoothie, but capsules of 1000IU are also good taken in divided doses with meals. Personally I take about 2000IU throughout the year and then increase to 4000-5000IU into the darker winter months. If you’re worried about over-dosing I would encourage you to see a naturopath and get your levels tested. Over 80% of the population has insufficient levels of Vit D so it’s good to know where you stand. “Know your numbers” as Dr. Oz says. It’s a vitamin that’s been linked to immune health and cancer prevention and is relatively cheap compared to other supplements, so there’s no reason to be deficient.
3) Vitamin C – There’s a lot of cool superfoods and antioxidants out there but vitamin C is still very important. I read somewhere that we are the only mammal that doesn’t produce it’s own vitamin C in the body. And it only stays in our body for 4 hours before being secreted out so it’s best to take in divided doses throughout the day rather than all at once. I started taking it consistently throughout the year and really noticed that I felt better and rarely got sick and stopped experiencing a mild onset of seasonal allergies which had started a few years ago. Antioxidants are also great for anti-aging, internally and externally so it’s a great all around supplement that isn’t super expensive like some can be. Just make sure to take a bioflavanoid complex for better absorption. (I like Progressive’s Adult Vit C Complex). I take 3 capsules a day, one with each meal.
4) Immune boosting herbal formula containing mushrooms and garlic. This is my secret weapon that I add to the regular supplements above. Certain mushrooms have been shown to have tremendous immune boosting properties and garlic is always a well-know immune builder. (I like Host Defense by New Chapter). I take this usually just one bottle (follow dosage instructions) at the beginning of flu season in September (now is a good time to start). If I’m feeling particularly run down or there seem to be a lot of people getting sick, sometimes I will take a second bottle. I usually repeat in January.
5) Wash your hands a lot, but don’t overuse those antibacterial hand gels. Our body ecology is self-regulating. We have good and bad bacteria all over our bodies and the good bacteria help to create the right balance, whether in our gut or on our skin. When we use too many antimicrobials we kill everything, including the good bacteria. I like to think of it as our little army. Do you want to destroy your own personal army? Over time, without the right balance of good bacteria, we can become more prone and resistant to bad microbes that are everywhere. Soap and water were used for centuries and we didn’t have the “superbug” scares we have today.
We don’t live in a bubble so when I do come into contact with someone who is ill and start to feel the first signs of a cold starting, I kick my immune boosting into high hear. This is when I give my body a little extra help and honestly, 9 times out of 10 it does the trick.
Here’s what I do immediately if I feel a cold coming on:
1) Double my vitamin C – I take 2 tablets with each meal and sometimes even an extra 2 in the AM or PM, I do this for 2-3 days until I don’t feel any signs of a cold coming on. The first time you do this, don’t exceed 4-6 capsules in the first day as some people experience a laxative effect from higher doses of Vitamin C. The body usually adjusts but fair warning : )
2) I add homeopathic remedies – I use the Oscillococcinum brand (it’s the white box with orange/yellow stripe you can find in most health food stores and even some regular grocery stores). I keep the flu one at home because you do need to start it right away for it to be most effective. I take all 3 vials as directed and make sure to get plenty of sleep that day. If it’s something that doesn’t feel like the flu, I take either the cold formula or the sore throat/hoarse throat tablets. I follow the full dose for 1-2 days.
So that’s it. That’s what I do. Depending on who you ask, you will likely learn about other remedies that work just as well. But most importantly, remember that the healthier your base, the more effective these remedies will be. Ultimately they all work to boost your immune system, but it matters in what state your immune system is to begin with.
So don’t forget that above all the pills and herbs, the best immune building strategy will always be the common sense advice you’ve heard forever: good nutrition, good sleep and exercise. Don’t underestimate how important these are in keeping you healthy.
Here’s to avoiding the flu this year!
Live fit. Live happy.
*The content in this article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace advice or prescriptions from your Medical Doctor. For specific amounts, usage, and drug interactions please see your personal health care practitioner.