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7 Ways to Stay Healthy This Flu Season

Let’s face it- getting sick is a real drag!  My 9 month old son was recently sick for the first time, and it made me think about illness in a whole new way. Seeing him in such a vulnerable position made me objectively see just how awful it looks to be really sick! And it made me think- what are the MUST HAVE immune boosters everyone should store in your medicine cabinet during flu season?
I’ve compiled a short list of things you can do when you get sick to boost your immune system. These are best if started early in onset- even if someone around you is feeling sick and you know you’re at risk for acquiring it! If you follow even 3-4 of these, you can ward of colds that haven’t settled in yet, shorten the length of your cold, and decrease the severity of how awful you would have otherwise felt! Here goes-
 1.) Start sipping bone broth! OK, this is a BIG one! So, if you’re not already making bone broth, start! I’m not talking about the stuff you buy at the store, I mean the old-fashioned broth/stock you’re grandmother spent a day or two simmering on her stove. The benefits of bone broth are many- if made properly (my recipe is here), minerals from the bones are extracted and are then available for your body to use to both support our immune system and our digestive system.

It’s a good idea to incorporate bone broth into your diet before you feel sick, especially in the fall/winter when there are fewer fruits and veggies available. The nutrients from bone broth is fortifying and hugely beneficial for preventing/fighting illness.

I had (thankfully) frozen some chicken broth and had it in the freezer before my son came down with the bug. So, all I did was defrost it, saute onions and garlic (also great immune boosters) in coconut oil, add the broth and let it simmer a few minutes. Then, I put some warm, strained broth into a glass bottle and let him go to town. He (surprisingly) liked it and would drink that alternately with his milk for the days he wasn’t well and didn’t want solid food.

2.) Use Elderberry Syrup. I have found this useful for people of all ages and even gave it to my 9 month old son for his stomach bug. It increases lymphocyte production, which is a marker for how the immune system is functioning. Taking it with warm water at the onset of getting sick is the best thing you can do to prevent getting sick or shorten the length and severity of the illness. **I highly recommend this for children** You can order it here.

For adults, Flew Away Elixir is an alcohol-based tincture that works wonders! It has a combination of herbs that support the immune system, including Elderberry,  Echinacea, unfiltered honey, and Astragalas root. Astragalas root has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for centuries to tonify a person’s vital energy and support the body’s ability to fight illnesses.It is great for fighting a cold!

3.) Let the fever work! Fevers are the body’s way of killing the pathogen (certain bacteria aren’t as virulent when heated to temperatures above our normal body temperature). Our body is intelligent and uses the fever to weaken the pathogen. So, unless the fever spikes above 103 degrees Fahrenheit for over 12 hours, or the person’s not staying hydrated, let the fever work! Monitor the progress of the fever every 2 hours or so and be sure to stay hydrated. If needed, here are some natural ways to bring a fever down- put a cool, wet washcloth across your forehead, take a lukewarm/cool bath, drink plenty of room-temp/cool water, find an  acupuncturist to lancet the apex of the ear so that you shed a few drops of blood and your fever comes down (yup, sounds crazy, but works like a charm!). All this being said, I’m not a doctor. Consult your doctor regarding your health/illness decisions.

4.) Stay hydrated! Drink broth, tea, and plenty of water. Often when we don’t feel well, we don’t want to drink as much as we should. But it’s important to stay hydrated, especially if you have a fever! Drinking half your weight in ounces is a good rule of thumb. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water per day.

5.) Take extra Vitamin C. Vitamins C is necessary for the immune system to function optimally. And since many of us don’t get enough through diet alone, it’s a good idea to take extra while fighting an illness. As long as you’re not pregnant, taking up to 5,000mg per day for up to 3 days is safe.

6.) Avoid sugar at all cost! If you can do this, you are ahead of the game! It’s not easy though, as sugar is in almost everything these days. The best thing you can do is avoid processed foods. Make you own meals. And be selective about which sweeteners you choose to use them in moderation! The sweeteners I recommend are ones that are the least refined and still offer nutrients. These include black strap molasses, raw honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and stevia (the whole leaf without added ingredients!)

7.) Reduce Stress. Have you every noticed that you get sick on vacation or over holiday break? Well, cortisol (the hormone released when you’re stressed) actually suppressed the immune system. So, often when we’re stressed, we are not sick. But as soon as we relax after a stressful period, our cortisol levels come down and our bodies say “ok, we’re finally in a decent place where we can take care of this sickness”. The body is smart! It knows that when you’re most stressed (because your life is in danger or something serious is going on), it’s not the time to experience symptoms of a cold. So, the body waits until the body is relaxed (unthreatened) to express these symptoms. Of course, this doesn’t always feel so generous when we’ve finally caught a flight to the Caribbean and we begin to get a cold. But, it’s our bodies way of making sure we’re not over-taxed or threatened to give us a cold to nurse. If, however,we can reduce stress (and therefore the cortisol hormone) in our daily life, our body will not suppress the cold symptoms until we’re on vacation. Meditation is one great way to relax and reduce stress. And there are wonderful apps that can help guide you through meditation if you’re new to the practice. Headspace is one of my favorite!

This list is certainly not comprehensive, but includes my go-to immune-boosters that I’ve found work best for me, my family, and my patients. What other immune boosters do you use when you or a family member comes down with a cold? Leave your comments/thoughts below!