Dr. Susan Rubin recently wrote a two part post about staying healthy despite what is being called a particularly bad flu season. She has kindly allowed me to post them here (as one post). I’ve added a few additional tips, just to make sure you have plenty of options.
The news media and the CDC are at it again. They are saying that this year is a bad one for the flu (here’s a map of current outbreak levels in the US). Hurry hurry, go and get your flu shot! I’m not here to convince you one way or the other on flu shots, the choice is yours to make. (For a more international perspective on flu vaccination, see CNN article here). Shot or no shot, there is plenty you can do to help avoid the flu. More than washing your hands and sneezing into your elbow as the CDC keeps telling us to do.
Here are a few things that can be done for little or no cost.
SLEEP I consider sleep to be a nutrient that we need every day. Scientists have shown that sleep is when we grow and when we heal. Parents know this first hand with their kids. When you’re sick, you sleep! Well, why not make sure you get adequate sleep BEFORE you get sick? This is one reason I have a zero sleepover policy, I want my kids home to sleep in their own beds at a reasonable time. Regular sleep hours are shown to be helpful in boosting immunity, and also in better brain function: retaining what you learn. Make regular, restful sleep a priority in your home and you’ll have happier healthier kids to show for it.
DARKNESS We are supposed to be in the dark in the winter. The more you can align with the rhythms of Mother Nature, they better off you’ll be health wise. Stay away from your computer and TV screens at night, turn down the lights, and get serious about getting to bed a little earlier. Start with 10 minutes earlier, build up to 30. It will make a huge difference in your energy level, your outlook on life and your resistance to illness.
SUGAR We all love sugar, and the holidays are full of it. Now that the holidays are behind us, it’s time to face the not so popular truth: refined sugar can deplete your immunity and can drain the body of much needed nutrients. I could show you all sorts of articles and studies to prove this point. The bottom line is, we all need to look at decreasing our consumption of refined sugar. Replace juices and other sugary drinks with water, preferably filtered, from the tap and you’ll be saving loads of money and helping the planet. Take a good long look at how much refined sugar you and your kids eat over the course of a day or a week. Get conscious and cut back on the white stuff!
GOOD BUGS One thing that many non-science people might not realize is that our bodies consist of all sorts of microorganisms living together in harmony. Bacterial cells outnumber human cells by a factor of 10 to 1. One group of bacteria that I’m particularly fond of is the Lactobacillis family of bacteria that lives in your gut. You can add to this happy family of bugs that helps your digestive and immune systems to work optimally by enjoying foods that naturally contain these beneficial bacteria. Miso soup, Kim Chee, Sauerkraut, Kefir and Yogurt come to mind. You can also take probiotic supplements. This is one thing I get my family going on when there is a flu bug going around. I think of it as a tonic, a small action taken once a day that will make a big difference over time.
DE-STRESS You absolutely must find ways to decrease your stress level. This is a big ask in these trying times but it is essential. Meditation, taking a regular walk, doing daily yoga, remembering to plant your feet on the ground and breathe. Reducing stress levels will help build up your resistance to illness and can also help you let go of unwanted weight.
LAUGH I heard a physician speak about this just last week when I was at a comedy show, of all places. Laughter lowers blood pressure, improves blood flow to the heart and other organs, and has shown to help improve resistance to disease. I set time aside every day for chuckles watching The Daily Show and Colbert Report.
GET OUTSIDE We weren’t meant to be indoor creatures. Acclimate to the colder weather by making an extra effort to get outside a little every day. Talk a walk, go sit in the park, enjoy a little fresh air. This will help your body make gradual adjustments rather than be stressed by a sudden change. Wear a scarf and protect your neck and upper back against the wind.
SOUP is a magical food during this time of year, it’s the best thing to be eating when its cold outside. I’m playing the soup for dinner game this month, I think you should too! I have too many soup recipes to count on my blog page. You can browse through them by visiting my blog, www.DrSusanRubin.com/blog, on the lower right side of that page, you’ll find a list of categories. Simply click on SOUP and you’ll find pages and pages of recipes. Here are my top 3 soup recommendations full of warming herbs and spices:
1. Magical Miso Onion Soup this combination of onions, garlic and ginger will help fight off bug that might be coming your way. The miso helps support your gut flora which is also essential to good immunity.
2. Thai Chicken Soup the Asian spices in this soup, turmeric, garlic, chili pepper make it spicy but not too hot. Mung beans add crunch, peanuts and cilantro help to transport your taste buds to Southeast Asia.
3. Curried Squash Soup curry powder, turmeric, ginger and garlic combined with roasted winter squash make this soup very nourishing and digestible.
COOK Not everyone can afford to take a sick day when they’re not feeling well. This is one of the ways that colds and flu spread. If you cook for yourself, you won’t have to wonder whether your take out, your frozen processed packaged food or even your high-end restaurant food was made by someone who was sick. If you make your own meals, you’ll know that the ingredients are good and you’ll be putting your own good energy into the food. There is nothing better than that. Cooking from scratch is the most effective investment of time and money you can make to ensure your own health.
IN YOUR KITCHEN Once in your kitchen cooking up flu protection for your family, let me (Deirdre, from Plan It Healthier) reiterate and highlight a few key ingredients for a preventive approach:
- fresh water, drunk at room temperature or warm, or brewed as green or herbal tea
- raw garlic
- raw honey
- onions (and other members of the allium family: leeks, chives, scallions, garlic etc.)
- ginger (ideally fresh)
- vitamin D (both from foods and supplements….or, if you can manage it, a vacation to the sun)
- vitamin C (from vitamin-rich foods, including squeezing fresh lemon juice in water and/or tea and supplements)
- vegetables – fresh, ideally organic vegetables with a good portion eaten raw
- herbal teas (peppermint, chamomile, cat’s claw, mullein, elderflower, echinacea and more). An extensive list with particular applications and herbal tea recipes available from Mountain Rose Herbs, also a good place to order high quality herbs.