5 Ways to Boost your Immune System this Winter
By: Dr. Dori Skye Engel ND
Does it feel like fall ‘til spring is a war zone with colds and flu swirling around every daycare, doorknob and handrail? The germs that cause colds and flu are unavoidable. The difference between the people who come down with everything and the people who don’t lies within their own immune systems. You don’t stop the common cold. You optimize your body’s reaction to it. Improve your innate defense, and your family’s, and fortify your immune systems to prevent the ship from going down when the virus comes aboard. We’re here to help. Follow along…
Teach your kids these simple tips from the start so they learn how their immune system works and how to protect themselves from colds and flu.
Wash well. Obviously you know to wash hands, but it really is so important, it can’t be overlooked. Germs can’t settle if you hose them off before they get in your body. Teach your kids to sing a whole song while they wash their hands - fronts, backs and in between the fingers. Washing well includes noses - it is so important to get the snotty bits (sorry to be graphic, but if you’re a parent - you know) out of your kid’s head. Steam them in the bathroom and let their noses run freely if they don’t know how to blow yet. Use a Nose Frida or a vacuum attachment or go old school and suck it straight out of their cute little green crusty noses. Any which way, you must get it out. Don’t let them sniff it back up! When mucus hangs out up there bacteria have a chance to take hold and multiply. It’s like stagnant water. Many ear infections and lung infections can be avoided simply by this one intention - don’t let your kid sniff all day - teach them to blow or blow it for them.
Drink Water. To avoid viruses & bacteria taking up residence in the mucous membranes of your respiratory tract you need to flush them. You’re not going to stop breathing them in, but staying well hydrated - with non-diuretic non-sugary drinks - water, herbal tea, coconut water and bone broth, NOT soda, juice and coffee - will let them slide right out, they can’t take hold, they just slip and slide on through your nasal passages, getting exhaled, sneezed and washed away.
Dairy + Sugar. Don’t rub salt in the wound - salt in this case being Dairy & Sugar.
Dairy is incredibly mucous producing, for everyone, not just those who are sensitive to dairy. Soy is too. Since we’ve already to dilute and flush out the mucous - why would you eat something that causes more of it? Gross. In my house, when anyone is sniffling - we all stop consuming dairy until the sniffles are gone from the house. Nobody wants the whole family to get infested. That’s silly. Switch to almond, hemp, oat or coconut milk. Cashew or daiya cheese, there are so many delicious non-mucous forming milks to enjoy.
Sugar isn’t mucus forming, but it does suppress your immune system. This is Science - 5g/ 1 tsp of sugar immobilizes your immune system for a full hour. Tell your kids - If you know there are bad guy germs trying to take hold in your body, don’t shut down the army! And that’s why there’s no ice cream while you’re coughing and sneezing.
Sleep. There is no magic pill to replace sleep. None. When you are rundown or fighting something the best possible defense is rest. Even if you think you don’t have time to rest. Cause if you don’t have time to rest you definitely don’t have time for the flu. Nobody’s got time for that.
Lastly - Reinforce your defense mechanisms. Take supplements when indicated. For individualized recommendations please see your health care provider.
Vitamins & Minerals:
Zinc: An essential mineral proven to greatly reduce the duration of a cold or flu when taken within 24 hours of first symptoms. Also helps prevent coughs from becoming pneumonia. Take with food or it causes tummy upset.
Vitamin D: In Canada, there are many months of the year that we just don’t see sunshine - most people should be supplementing with Vitamin D all winter long. Sufficient Vitamin D can prevent upper respiratory tract infections and improve the function of your immune system.
Vitamin C: Classic. Reduces duration of colds. Helps bring down a fever. Relieves chest pain and chills.
Echinacea – Nature's antibiotic, an effective immune booster that works both preventatively & curatively to help beat bacterial and viral infections, especially respiratory infections, sinusitis, ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis and fevers.
Garlic - incredibly potent anti-microbial. The less cooked = the more potent. If you can’t stomach raw garlic, take a high quality garlic supplement.
Elderberry - Immune enhancing, anti-viral, anti-oxidant, great for flu, common cold, fevers and other viral infections. Anti-adherence properties - makes your nasal & respiratory passages slippery so the germs can’t take hold.
A word about fever…. it serves a purpose. Viruses can’t survive at high temperatures, this is why your body, in its innate wisdom creates fever - so that the bugs will burn up and die. If your child is drinking sufficiently so they’re not dehydrated, and the fever is not interfering with their ability to sleep, let the fever do its job without suppressing it with Advil or Tylenol.
** Babies under 3 months & fevers above 41 degrees should always be assessed by your health care provider.