This is my favorite post to write every year as it brings in the most people into my clinic. Enjoy!
Many of you know that I stopped getting the flu shot for multiple reasons. But the big one was after having a severe reaction to one in PA school and never fully recovering. It has been four years in a row now and though I work with people who are diagnosed every day during flu season, I haven’t gotten the flu myself. You know I’m a food as medicine fanatic, but I’m also really into resilience, stress-relief, community and play as well as the biggest fan of self-care and good, long, high-quality sleep. The combination of all of these health pillars will keep you from getting the sicky- ickies.
Since flu vaccines only have about a 27-56% effectiveness rate, I would rather feel good and make my body happy through natural prevention. I’ll go into the six pillars that I use and perhaps they can help you to prevent falling sick this season.
For those who are debilitated, have respiratory or developmental issues or those who are prone to getting very sick and possibly die from the flu, I do think a flu shot is necessary. It may not be effective, but it may provide some benefit to those populations.
First, we start with food. Food, as I have said time and time again is the Gateway Drug to whole health. If you start to eat whole, real, unprocessed, home – cooked or home – prepared food, you’ll feel better. Once you start feeling better, you’ll feel more motivation to get out and move, leading to exercise. Exercise and healthy diet lead to better mood and less anxiety and stress. The three together allow you to eliminate the worries that keep you up at night leading to better sleep. Better sleep, less stress, good food and energy from exercise make you look good, feel good and encourage you to branch out and play and connect with others. You see that beautiful whole health cascade??
Nutrition also allows you mitigate anxiety and depression through probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut and kombucha. There have randomized trials on this very issue. The right food helps keep your immune system healthy and ready to fight infection, no matter how much you encounter sneezes and coughs. Sugar suppresses our immune function and decreases its ability to do its job right. I encourage my patients to stay away from white foods when they’re sick or worn down and susceptible to getting sick. These include bread, tortilla, sugar, potatoes, flour.
Eat lots of vegetables of all colors and shapes. Eat and drink fruit without additional sugar in them. Bulk up on healthy proteins like beans (avoid soybeans), eggs, seeds, nuts, kale, sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli. Once or twice a week eat grass-fed beef, organic chicken and fish. Drink tons of water so your body and mind can function properly.
Then figure out a way to get your body moving. Whether you take a walk with your loved ones or you get to the gym to crank out a 30-minute weight lifting session, get going! This is one that you’ll eventually get to once you start eating better. But increasing your heart rate, getting a flush of endorphins through your body will help boost your immune system and keep it fighting off infection.
Try mindful experiences or meditation. You can even make a daily mantra that keeps you from getting sick and repeat it to yourself every morning. It can be as easy as “I am well, I feel good, I am healthy”. If you make this part of your priming daily routine, it eventually reorganizes your brain patterns to making these thoughts your reality.
In addition to preventing, if you do start to feel run down and like a virus may cause more symptoms here are seven easy to eat, do, take immune boosters that will keep you a healthy as a horse.
- Ester- C is which is a more bioavailable vitamin C. When I or a patient starts to get sick or have the beginnings of a cold, I recommend taking 2,000 – 3,000 mg of Ester-C for 3 or 4 days in a row as long as you don’t have any history of kidney stones. Then for maintenance, take 500- 1000 mg daily.
- Drink your morning veggies. Drink a green juice with parsley, celery, kale, cucumber, green apple and a lemon. Add some turmeric and ginger root or the powder if you don’t have access to the real thing.
- Gargle with Thieves and drink hot water with honey and 2 drops of Thieves. Thieves is a strong anti-bug blend that Young Living makes and is of therapeutic grade, which means that you drink or eat it. I use it in toothpaste, household cleaner and I just made a tea for my supervising physician on Wednesday because he felt like he was getting sick. If you want to get some, here is a link.
- American Ginseng is an herb that has been studied to boost immune function, but should not be used for a fever or acute infection. Use for prevention in 200 mg twice weekly during the winter months.
- Probiotics. Obviously something that I prescribe for most everyone on a daily basis, but when people come in sick, I start them on a daily regimen to shorten duration of symptoms.
- Elderberry Tea. My mom and aunt have been cutting these flowers and making tea for both allergies and viruses since I was in high school. If you’re not lucky enough to have these trees in your area, you can buy an syrup or supplement and take the recommended dosing.
- If it hit you or its about to hit you, stop everything, DO NOT go to work, drink some hot tea with peppermint, put on your pjs, get under the covers, sleep, sweat, rest and repeat all day and night.
These are all recommendations and should be used with caution in case you have sensitivities to certain ingredients or supplements. Obviously stress is a BIG immunosuppressor, so take time to chill out throughout your day. Take 3-5 minutes to sit in silence and just breathe every hour if possible. Even if it means going to the restroom to do this. It is imperative to turn off the busy-ness throughout the day or else you’re going to get sick despite doing the above recommendations.
Prevention is key!! Take care of you, remember self-care is healthcare and pass it onto your loved ones just the same.
photo credit from freedigitalphotos.net by David Castillo Dominici