By Sarah Stevenson
It’s that time a year again! The kids go back to school and bring home all sorts of goodies, including germs that can wreak havoc on your winter season. When it comes to staying healthy, building up your immune system is the key to your bliss. There are certain things you must and mustn’t do to ensure you are being the healthiest you.
Watch how you wash.
Do: Disinfect your hands by washing them a bit more this winter with warm water and soap. This will ensure that the germs that do make it to your hands won’t set up camp on them for very long. According the Centers for Disease Control, washing hands can be our best defense against getting sick this winter (1).
Don’t: Use anti-bacterial soaps. Even though they’re convenient and smell so delightful, be aware that you’re going to be washing your hands more often than usual. Anti-bacterial gels dry out your hands because they are predominately made of alcohol. Aside from that, anti-bacterial products promise to kill 99% of germs. In that 99% you have both bad and good bacteria that is needed to keep you healthy. The 1% of germs that survive potentially become super germs that develop a resistant to anti-bacterial agents. So ditch those cutesy anti-bac gels and take the time to wash your hands (2).
Watch what you eat.
Do: Eat foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Load up on vitamin C-packed fruits like oranges, kiwi, strawberries and papaya. Also, foods that are high in Omega 3’s like fish, Flax seeds, flax oil and walnuts all help build your immune system. Finally, be sure to munch on all those brightly colored veggies like bell peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach, that contain carotenoids, which are vital antioxidants that help the immune system function (3).
Don’t: Eat foods that cause inflammation like simple sugars and starches. Your body is already working on overdrive to produce the proper antibodies to fight off the sickness that is trying to take over. When you load up on sugars and starches your body is unable to juggle all that at once. Also avoid too much caffeine because you are going to need your sleep to stay strong and healthy. Alcohol can put a lot of pressure on the liver, an organ we need to keep us free of toxins. When it’s busy clearing out the drink you had last night it doesn’t get the chance to also flush out the germs in your body (4).
To exercise, or not exercise?
Do: Get plenty of rest when you feel a cold coming on. Your body releases chemicals into your system that boost your immune system in the deeper stages of sleep. So getting good night’s sleep can help fight off germs and bacteria during the day. According to the National Sleep Foundation we should get between 7 and 9 hours of solid sleep a night (5).
Don’t: Continue with your rigorous exercise routine. Taking a little break from exercise when you feel a cold coming on can really aid in fighting off that cold. Trust me, you will be down for a lot longer if you don’t decide to relax for a bit. Your body needs time to restore itself.
Do: Begin to take over the counter homeopath natural remedies such as Echinacea, cinnamon, elderflower, ginger and licorice. These all aid in boosting the immune system in a very gentle non-invasive way. Is there much allopathic science behind them? No — just thousands of years of indigenous medicines. If that’s not good enough, consider this: they’re inexpensive and they don’t harm you. A worthwhile experiment, no?
Taking daily probiotics is also a good idea so that you can keep your gut bacteria in balance. Yogurt is also a great way to restore the healthy bacteria in your digestive track that help to keep the bad bacteria at bay (6).
Don’t: If your doctor suggests you take an antibiotic he may be making the right choice. Sometimes, they’re the best solution. However, there’s no denying that we, as a culture, have gotten a little carried away with their use. Antibiotics kill all the bacteria in your system–both bad and good. Your body has a beautiful symbiotic relationship with the good bacteria because it helps eat up the bad guys. If you kill the good guys you could be more susceptible to catching colds in the future (7). So if you do take antibiotics, make sure to follow up with plenty of probiotics, as well as fiber-rich prebiotic veggies such as broccoli, which will help rebuild your internal flora.
You will find that if you take a daily active role in your health you can avoid many of the common illness that walk in your door. Keep your hands clean, eat right, rest and build up those healthy bacteria in your system so you can have a happy and healthy winter.
Sarah Stevenson, a.k.a., The Tini Yogini, is a Certified Yoga Instructor in Southern California. She has a degree in Behavioral Psychology and teaches not only yoga classes but also life affirming workshops. She also writes for Beachbody, which provides effective and popular workout videos, including the Insanity Workout, a high intensity cardio workout for total body conditioning.
2. Larson, E. 2001. Hygiene of the Skin: When is Clean Too Clean? Emerging Infectious Diseases. 7(2) Mar-Apr 2001.
3. Fortin ND. Food Regulation: Law, Science, Policy and Practice. John Wiley and Sons, 2009, ISBN O-470-12709-0, p. 288
4. Francis, R., Diamond, H., & Cotton, K. (2002, September). Never Be Sick Again: Health Is a Choice, Learn How to Choose It. Hci.
6. Logan, M. H. (1986). Informant consensus: a new approach for identifying potentially effective medicinal plants. Plants and Indigenous Medicine and Diet: Biobehavioral Approaches, 1, 91.
7. Schmidt, M. A. (1994). Beyond Antibiotics: 50 (or so) Ways to Boost Immunity and Avoid Antibiotics Second Edition. North Atlantic Books.
This post is linked up at the Natural Mothers Network Seasonal Celebration Linky.