4 Ways to Avoid That Summer Cold
plus Herbs For Immunity
Have you ever wondered why some people are always sick and some seem to never even cross paths with the flu-bug? Lifestyle plays a large part of who gets sick and who stays healthy. Here are 4 ways to keep yourself from getting a summer cold, and staying healthy all year long.
For most of us, the normal week is a hectic time, full of running to meetings, social obligations, school activities, meetings, and household chores (to name just a few). We all seem to have a never-ending to-do list!! With our busy days, getting any illness at all can throw us completely out of sync.
I’m injured right now, with a 5-pound lift restriction on my right (dominant) arm. Do any of my chores or obligations change? No… I just have to adjust and move on. Most of the time we can figure out a way to survive, but often with a cold or the flu, it’s hard to find the energy!
The best way to not get sick?
To slow down and treat our bodies right, getting the nutrition and rest that our bodies so desperately need.
*singing in Alanis Morrisett’s voice*
Isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya think?
So how do we stay well without giving up our lives in general? By eating a wide array of antioxidant-rich foods, boosting our resistance with herbs, and getting adequate sleep and relaxation.
Eating To Stave Off Illness
Our nutritional intake is one of the most important ingredients to staying healthy. It seems like a no-brainer, but with the availability of fast and convenient foods with little to no nutritional value, and our massive intake of these “foods”, it’s no wonder we are an unhealthy society.
The absolute first step to maintaining a healthy body is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I know people who work out regularly, eat like crap, and wonder why they never seem as healthy as their workout partners. There is absolutely no way to exercise away a bad diet. Your body knows that, and it knows it cannot heal itself as well if it is not being treated well nutritionally.
Just making sure that you intake at least 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables daily can go a long way in maintaining your health. Always remember that to get the most antioxidant intake, the darker the vegetable, the higher the antioxidant content, with the most being in dark, leafy greens such as kale and spinach.
One of the most crucial vitamins to maintaining a high functioning immune system is Vitamin A. This wonderful vitamin acts as a barrier against harmful bacteria, increases white blood cell counts, and is a very potent antioxidant, helping the body to defend against harmful free radicals. But getting enough can be tricky since too much can be toxic. Instead of attempting to load up with supplements, add carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cantaloupe and other deep orange or red fruits and vegetables to your diet. The beta-carotene in these fruits and veggies can be converted into Vitamin A by your body when it needs it.
Other Necessary Vitamins and Minerals
Other vitamins and minerals needed for a fully functioning immune system include zinc, vitamin C, and selenium. Zinc (a powerful antioxidant) helps the body produce white blood cells and encourages healing.
Zinc (a powerful antioxidant) helps the body produce white blood cells and encourages healing. Good sources include whole grains, red kidney beans, green peas, and meats- mostly dark-meat chicken and lean ground beef.
Vitamin C helps the body produce white blood cells and defend against harmful pathogens and microorganisms. In additions to citrus fruits, broccoli, and red peppers are two great sources of this vitamin.
Selenium (much less well-known than the two above) is also an antioxidant, best consumed by eating brazil nuts and lean chicken or turkey.
Work It Out
Besides the benefit of giving you more energy throughout the day, regular exercise is a critical element in maintaining a healthy immune system. At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily can lead to a 23% reduction in upper respiratory tract infections¹. It also helps us maintain our immune systems better as we age.
How do you know whether you should continue working out when you are sick?
A general rule of thumb is that if symptoms are from the neck up (such as the common cold0, moderate exercise is acceptable and may even be beneficial. But if your illness is systemic in nature, meaning that they affect your entire body (such as the flu) then bed rest is best.
Remember, as in all things, exercise is best in moderation, as there as been evidence that prolonged heavy exertion lasting longer than 90 minutes may actually weaken your immune system.
Stop Being So Stressed
Stress reduction has been found to enhance immune function. When we are stressed, our bodies put out more neuroendocrine hormones which have a highly negative effect on our immune function. The longer that you are under stress, the greater it’s negative effects. The longer you are under stress of any duration, from a few days to a few month, the larger the decline in all aspects of your immune system.
Stress is not the only “emotional” detriment to our immune system. There have also been signs that social isolations and loneliness, depression, and other anti-social disorders can weaken immune function. So (attention all you loners!) having close family and friends to help deal with not only stress but depression may actually keep you healthier.
Get Some Rest!
Getting enough sleep is one of the most overlooked aspects of the human condition in today’s society and lifestyle. Sleep, which is also crucial to mental function and weight management, is vital for proper immune function. The less sleep you get, the more at risk you are of contracting a cold from a friend or co-worker. Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep for the body to function well, while most American adults typically average 6.8 hours during the week.
Recommended sleep amounts for your children to stay healthy??
Teenagers: 9-10 hours
Making their rooms “screen free” is actually making them healthier, if you need an argument on this one.
Children 12 & under: more than 10 hours
Immunity Boosting Herbs
Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata): Traditionally a Chinese Medicinal herb, this herb has been used to treat colds, fevers, bronchitis, diarrhea and liver disorders. Also acts as a liver protectant.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus): an adaptogenic herb; stimulates our natural killer cells. Has been shown to reduce the number of colds and reduce cold symptoms once a person is sick.
Berberine: a plant alkaloid with a history in Indian, Traditional Chinese, and American Indian medicines. Can be found in several herbs, includes Oregon grape root (Berberis aquifolium), barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis).
*Please Note: If you buy goldenseal, verify that the producer harvest using sustainable practices, as the plant is endangered.*
A powerful antimicrobial, berberine is effective against bacterial diarrhea, intestinal parasite infections, and chronic bacterial conjunctivitis.
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.): a top selling herbal remedy, it has a number of antioxidant and immune-stimulating abilities. Most effective when taken at the first sign of illness, and you must dose heavy to see effects. One of two 300-400 milligram capsules every 1-2 hours across the first 24 to 48 hours may be necessary to beat off a cold. After the initial dosage, take on to two capsules 4x daily for 3-5 days. (Seems like an overdose, but it’s the only effective dosing found so far.)
Medicinal Mushrooms: we aren’t talking about the psychotropic ones here. Shiitake, maitake, cordyceps and reishi are all potent immune boosters, and may also be able to fight off cancer cells. You could consume these, or find a blend in an immune stimulating supplement.
¹Britsh Medical Bulletin Oxford Journals March 7th, 2009 http://bmb.oxfordjournals.org/content/90/1/111.full