Cold & ’Flu Prevention: Building a Healthy Foundation

By Mahalia Freed, ND

Maybe you are like me, and you have been wondering for years, “why do I always get sick in the fall?”. Maybe you are remembering the recent H1N1 ‘flu panic, or perhaps endless runny noses in your little ones. Maybe you are looking for a way to keep your family from passing colds back and forth this fall and winter. Read on, and learn how to nourish your body so that you are no longer susceptible to developing symptoms when you meet this year’s viruses.

While fall is a season best suited to inner focus, recharging, and retreating, it is often the time when we start new projects, and spring into action on things we have been planning over the summer. This conflict between being and doing, along with the physical change in weather, means that we are vulnerable to colds and ‘flus.

Terrain vs Germ Theory

It isn’t your exposure to a virus that determines whether or not you get sick, but rather how your body responds to that exposure. In other words, it is not the germ that causes disease, it is the terrain the germ finds itself in that either allows the germ to flourish, or quickly eliminates it from the body. Consider public transit, for instance: there is always someone coughing or blowing their nose on a bus or subway. Yet, despite close proximity and lack of fresh air to clear the viral particles away, we do not get every cold we are exposed to. Why?  Our own vitality – the health of our terrain – protects us.

It is entirely possible to stay healthy through cold and flu season. All we need to do is support our immune system to be as vital as possible, and cultivate our terrain optimally.

Building a Healthy Foundation

Sleep

  • While we rest, our bodies are engaged in important healing and repair.
  • People who get more sleep have better hormone balance, get less cancer, and, naturally, have more energy.
  • -> Have a regular sleep pattern, and sleep at least 7 hours each night, preferably 8.

Stress management

  • Chronic high stress measurably decreases your immune function and resistance to dis-ease. Luckily, functional stress management can measurably increase immune function and resistance.
  • How is your balance between doing and being? What helps you stay grounded and calm when things get crazy at work and at home?
  • -> Notice when you are getting wound up and pause to breathe, deep into your abdomen. Take time for you, especially when life feels overly full.

Nutrition

Your gut health, and what is absorbed from your gut into your body’s cells and organs, is foundational to a healthy immune system

  • Eat whole foods: lots of vegetables, especially the deeply colored ones, whole grains, beans/legumes.
  • Minimize sugar (decreases white blood cell activity measurably) and refined foods like cakes, cookies, white pasta, bagels.
  • When you are clearing a cold or flu, eat warm, easy to digest foods like soups.

Exercise

  • Regular, moderate exercise enhances immunity, helps relieve stress, allows for better sleep, and decreases risk of conditions from heart disease to diabetes.
  • Exercise 3-5 times per week; Move your body every day. Aim to get some of your exercise outside, especially near trees, for added benefit.
  • Note that intense and long workouts can decrease immune function by activating your body’s stress responses.

Supplements for prevention

  • Vitamin D: decreases incidence of ‘flu, as well as duration of symptoms.
  • How much to take? Test your blood levels first, then ask your ND what dose and form is right for you (from 400 – 6000 IU).
  • Probiotics: a healthy gut is foundational to a healthy immune system. Studies with specific strains of Acidophilus, Bifidobacteria, and other “good” gut residents have found that taking such a supplement results in fewer colds for both children and adults.
  • Ask Dr Freed for the right strain, brand and dose for you.
  • Adrenal Support: Supporting and enhancing our body’s ability to respond to stress will directly benefit our immune function. Naturopathic adrenal support ranges from Vitamins C and B5 to a long list of tonic herbs. Ask Dr Freed about the right adrenal support for you.

Herbs for prevention

  • Individual Formulation: The combination of herbs that is right for supporting your body may be quite different than the combination that is appropriate for those around you. Each of us is unique in the balance of function of our organs, in our weak points, in our strengths. And thus we need different herbal allies. Thus, I cannot say which one herb is right for you, or what combination will meet you perfectly, without speaking with you about your health. One person may get bronchitis whenever they get sick, while someone else may suffer from sinus infections.  Each necessitates a different herbal response.
  • Deep Immune formulas: a combination of herbs such as Deep Immune Activation (available for patients from Mahalia Freed’s dispensary) will nourish the adrenals, the liver, and the immune system to enhance your terrain. They will also act directly against viral and bacterial pathogens, and support the lungs in fighting off invaders.

If you do develop a cold or “flu

  • Make use of natural medicine to decrease duration and severity of symptoms: sleep better, cough less, get rid of the deep aches, bounce back sooner, etc.
  • Herbs, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, nutrition and lifestyle advice may all be part of your treatment.
  • Magic socks!
  • Book an acute consult with Mahalia – available by phone for existing patients.
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