Back-to-school, cooler temps, more time spent indoors…. We’re about to enter the season of nasty germs that can wreak havoc on our bodies and our precious little ones. It is no fun being sick for anyone, but its especially true for our children. Having sick kids is stressful enough for parents, but then we also have to juggle work schedules to care for them, which compounds our stresses. Stress, of course, can itself lead to illness and other challenges, so let’s do everything within our power to prevent ourselves and our loved ones from becoming ill this winter! Here are my top six ways you will avoid illness this year.
- Manage Stress: Our modern lifestyle is causing us to use our “fight or flight” stress response nearly all the time, but our bodies were designed to use it only for short-term dangers. This overuse leads to high cortisol (stress hormone) when we are in our 20s-40s and low cortisol when we are in our 50s-70s. These cortisol imbalances weaken our immune systems, making us more vulnerable to disease. Those of us who are under long-term stress tend to suffer disproportionately from cold and flu viruses, as well as bacterial infections and cancers. Deep breathing, exercise, and quality sleep are proven to significantly help the stress response. I also recommend adaptogen Herbs such as rhodiola, ginseng, ashwagandha, or schisandra to modulate the stress response. Rhodiola decreases cortisol levels during acute stress and exerts stimulating and anti-depression effects, according to a study published in the January 2007 issue of the journal Phytotherapy Research. According to the study, rhodiola is one of the most effective adaptogen herbs and has been credited with reducing fatigue, improving work performance, and reducing anxiety. On the other hand, rehmannia or licorice root help if you need to increase cortisol after adrenal fatigue. Don’t let this be you:
- Get Enough Sleep: As we move through cold and flu season, the key to staying healthy might just be getting a good night’s sleep. Research shows a direct link between sleep and the immune system. Specifically, sleep deprivation weakens immunity, leaving us less protected when the next bug comes along. One reason sleep is integral for immunity is that disease-fighting substances – hormones, proteins, chemicals – are released or created during sleep. When sleep deprivation creates deficits of these substances, we’re more susceptible viruses and bacteria we encounter. This can also cause us to stay sick for a longer, as our bodies lack resources to properly fight illness. I recommend Kava Forte, valerian, or Min-Tran for sleep issues – ask me which would work best for you. Ensure sleep is at the top of the list of things to do to stay healthy this fall!
- Exercise Regularly: When you exercise regularly, there are myriad benefits for your body. Your heart gets stronger and pumps more blood throughout your body. Your lungs more efficiently process and deliver oxygen to your cells. Your muscles become stronger as you use them more often. Your immune system is no different. Doctors find that exercise improves immunity by providing a boost to the cells that are assigned to attack bacteria. These cells work more slowly in people who don’t exercise than in those who do. When you regularly exercise, your immune system is better equipped to handle bacteria that cause illness.
- Get Enough Vitamin D: I learned I had low vitamin D about five years ago when I was consistently coming down with infections in the winter. Since I started supplementing with 10,000 IU daily, I have had significantly fewer infections. It is well established that vitamin D enhances the immunity and that production drops during winter due to lack of sun exposure, resulting in weakened immune systems and more sickness. Taking at least 5000 IU a day during the winter is a good thing. However, if you have your level measured (via blood test), I can recommend a more precise dosage recommendation.
- Limit Sugar: Scientific studies show a decrease in immune system function from frequent ingestion of sugar, and this decrease can have many effects on your body. Eating cereal and milk for breakfast, a soda/candy for a snack, and a sugary snack at night will keep your immune system running sub-optimally throughout the entire day.
- Be Proactive: We are inundated with nasty bugs during the winter months because we are trapped inside more than usual, breathing and recirculating nasty germs. I recommend carrying a natural, alcohol-free hand sanitizer, such as one made from On-Guard by Doterra, and diffusing On-Guard oil at home (or at school, the office) to decrease the germs in the air. I also personally use Immuplex and Immunberry liquid to boost my immune system with vitamin D during the winter. St. John’s Wort is a supplement I add as an extra anti-viral. If I do contract an infection, I take Congaplex and Andrographis to knock it out quickly, with additional support from Sinus Forte, or Bronchfect, plus X-Clear Sinus Spray. For teachers, I’d suggest using Xlear sinus spray three times a day (morning, afternoon, and evening).
The above recommendations are for adults, but they can be easily adapted for children. As you probably know, I have a precious seven-year-old daughter whom I hate to see sick. We do the following at our house to maximize her immune function. I adjust her spine and give her Congaplex chewables, liquid calcium/magnesium/vitamin D, Immnuberry Liquid, and Catalyn multi-vitamins. We also diffuse On-Guard in the house and her bedroom. This at least minimizes the number of times she gets sick, plus she typically gets back to normal within a few days after she shows her first signs of infection!