As the weather gets colder, and with many anxious about COVID-19 this year, practicing simple habits on a daily basis can make the difference between getting sick and staying well. Besides the simple tasks of hand washing and wearing a mask, which can reduce viral load, improving your health and resilience internally can also tip the balance of whether you get sick and how sick you get if you or someone in your family does get sick. Here are 7 tips that will help you through the winter months.
- Get enough rest
I’ve heard it said that whoever invents a cure for the common cold should bury it. Why? Because the body needs to rest and recover. Nothing can replace rest for an immune system boost, so if you need it, indulge! Nonetheless, if you’re going through a period of intense work or study, follow the recommendations below to help thwart a flu or cold–and allow your body to rest when the work is done.
- Top foods to eat for a healthy immune system
To fend off the cold, wet weather, eat warmer foods and herbs, such as garlic, onions, ginger, oats and soups. Chicken soup and bone broth have long been favourite to support the body throughout the winter months. Add cinnamon, thyme and oregano to your meals for their warming properties–but not all at once! Lean protein is necessary for a healthy immune system, so make sure you get enough regularly. Avoid white sugar, as research shows it disables immune cells and it’s addictive. It’s a great habit to always eat a good breakfast and avoid eating before bed—especially in the winter months when immunity is down. And finally, don’t forget honey, a natural antibacterial. For a natural throat soother, combine with lemon. Kids love it too!
- Herbs and supplements for immunity
If you’re feeling a little under the weather already or you are going through an intense period of stress, you may need some additional help. The International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine recommends taking vitamins C, D and zinc as a treatment and prevention of severe viral illnesses such as COVID-19. Typical herbs for immunity are Echinacea, Astragalus, Reishi mushroom and Siberian ginseng. Also popular is Elderberry syrup, which is safe for kids; in fact, one study on elderberry published in the journal Nutrients (2016) showed it can reduce the incidence of colds during and after air travel. If you need a short term boost, use Echinacea, since this herb is not recommended for the long term use. If you need something all winter, Astragalus is one of my favourites, as it’s safe over the long term. Nothing beats boosting overall health like a good constitutional remedy however, so a visit to your local homeopath for a personalized remedy is my best recommendation to stay healthy and happy.
- Cold water treatments
I learned this one from my grandfather, who lived well into his eighties. While it may not be for everyone, it is a cheap, easy way to build resilience against the cold—and it works. Next time you have a shower or bath, end it with a cold splash on the toes for 10 or more seconds. As you gain courage, slowly move up the body, increasing the time as is comfortable. Before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to it! Ending with cold water increases circulation and invigorates the whole body. If you have a heart condition though, check with your doctor first.
- Preserve a healthy indoor environment.
When was the last time you aired out your home? Dust harbours bacteria and viruses along with all those dead skin cells—and we lose 40,000 skin cells every minute according to National Geographic! It’s time to change those bed sheets, open the windows and remove clutter so dust can’t accumulate and cleaning is easy. Beeswax candles actually help clean the air because they produce negative ions as they burn—but do be careful when using candles, as it’s so easy to forget they’re burning. Whenever possible, avoid living in overheated indoor environments—put on a sweater and wool socks before turning up the thermostat. It helps your body adapt to the cold, thus ensuring your immune system is strong.
- Get active outside
Living in Vancouver has its benefits, and one of them is that it rarely cools down far below 0 degrees—which means there are no excuses for not getting outside—and don’t let a little rain stop you! Exercise ensures that body cells get lots of oxygen—whether it’s the brain or the immune cells that need the extra boost. By being active outside, not only are you getting more oxygen, but your body is better able to adapt to the cold winter weather—while keeping you balanced emotionally. You become resilient! Any exercise is better than none, and for those fitness addicts, remember that it’s best in moderation, so avoid overdoing it. Exercise is a great preventative measure, but if you’re feeling like you’re coming down with something, then it’s better to give your body a true rest.
- Stress less
Periods of stress are unavoidable and part of life, but be aware of them. You likely won’t want to be a couch potato in your life, so pay attention to what stress is useful (helping you grow as a person) and what is toxic (making you sick). If you’re feeling unduly stressed, use some of the tips above to avoid getting sick, seek out some stress reducing measures such as meditation, yoga and if problems seem elusive, find a counsellor to pin-point the source of your stress. Constitutional homeopathy is another excellent means to getting more balance, if the problem is chronic. To learn more about homeopathy and appointments for constitutional treatment, check out the FAQ section.
A final word:
These 7 tips above are excellent ways to support and strengthen your immune system. Remember that infection also depends on the strength and the amount of the virus or bacteria you are exposed to, so washing your hands frequently is always a good idea. Whether you suffer from frequent colds, or you just need remedies when you or someone in your family gets sick, homeopathy is an excellent choice. One study published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal in 2007, compared conventional medicine and homeopathy for acute respiratory infections and earaches, with the conclusion that there was significant improvement in speed of recovery after homeopathic treatment compared to conventional medicine in both adults and children. If you’re interested in learning more about homeopathy research, visit my evidence page. Want to learn more about homeopathic remedies to keep at home in case of simple illness? Stay tuned for my next blog!