'Flu is not a season' is likely one of the best things I have seen on social media as of late. Influenza is acquired not because it's 'the season' but due to factors like low vitamin D, inadequate hydration, inactivity, and poor nutrition (too much refined sugar and not enough vegetables).
The best way to treat cold & flu is to... avoid getting it in the first place.
Now, I'm not saying it's a bad thing to get sick. On the contrary, it's actually good to have your immune system mount a response, but ideally it only lasts 2-3 days and then it's over. If you 'get sick' more than once each year, and it lasts longer than 3 days, then you may want to work on supporting your immune system this winter. Here are some simple yet effective ways to reduce your suffering in the coming months.
Make prevention your #1 focus.
- Stay hydrated. Keeping your mucus membranes (nasal cavity, throat, respiratory tract) moist will help limit bacteria and viruses from gaining access to your body. Your daily goal should be at least half your body weight in ounces. Eg. a 160lb person requires 80oz water daily. Herbal teas can be included in this number.
- Avoid refined sugars as they can impair your immune system from functioning in an optimal manner. You may think you don't eat much sugar because you don't eat cookies or candies, but check the ingredient list of your salad dressing, pasta sauce, mayonnaise, granola bar and breakfast cereal. If you see 'syrup', 'sugar', 'cane' or a word that ends with '-ose' then it contains added sugar.
- Increase your vegetable intake. Veggies are the most nutrient-dense of the food groups, yet the most lacking in the North American diet. Start with 2 colours at lunch and dinner. Increase your variety & volume as you get in the habit of including them with your meals.
- Wash your hands before touching food, face, eyes or nose. This is especially important when in public places, however simple soap and water will do. Avoid using antibacterial soaps for day-to-day use as they have been shown to contribute to antibiotic resistance and adversely effecting our water system.
- Get outside and move. Toboggan, snowshoe, walk, throw snowballs, build forts, go skiing... get out there to breathe fresh air, contract your muscles, and support your lymphatic system (there's not enough space to explain the importance of the latter, just trust me... do it!).
- Sleep at least 7-9 hours each night.
There are several supplements* which can be helpful for supporting your immune function over the winter months as well.
- Oil of Oregano: 1-2 drops under your tongue after a party is a great way to help fight bacteria or virus to which you may have been exposed. This is also really helpful on flights, as you don't want to 'catch' what the sneezer 10 rows behind you is sharing!
- Vitamin C: 500mg twice daily is a general daily amount. You can increase this, however you know you have reached your limit when your bowels become 'loose'.
- Vitamin D: 1,000IU daily is standard, but it's often not adequate for most Canadians. To know if you are taking enough, ask your Naturopathic (ND) or Medical (MD) doctor to test your blood level.
- Daily immune support with herbal combination products such as Ki Immune Defence (Martin & Pleasance) or Deep Immune (St. Francis Herb Farm).
- Monthly intravenous vitamin C therapy: speak to your ND about how this treatment may help you personally.
These suggestions for prevention are particularly important when you are around groups of other people, such as parties, après ski events, playing with children, or someone at work is clearly ill with a cough, sneezing, runny nose, or complains of body aches.
Have fun... Stay healthy!
*These are general suggestions and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Discuss this with your qualified healthcare practitioner, especially if you are pregnant, taking medications or dealing with a chronic disease.