WENDY CUNNINGHAM: Preventing Colds and Flu Naturally

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Colds are the number one reason for missed days of school and work. Adults average two to four colds each year while children average about five. As temperatures drop, we begin to congregate indoors, and we are more likely to spread viruses. Although viruses trigger your cold or flu symptoms, it is not the real cause of illness. The real reason you get sick is because of a run down, impaired immune system.

Why is your immune system impaired? It could be any number of issues: your vitamin D levels could be deficient due to decreased sun exposure, you are eating too much sugar and refined grains, you aren’t getting enough sleep, you aren’t getting enough exercise, you aren’t dealing with stress in your life, or any combination of the above.

Vitamin D is an extremely effective antimicrobial agent with the ability to kill bacteria, viruses and fungi, yet it is estimated that 85% of Americans are deficient in it. The best source of Vitamin D is direct sun exposure, but oral supplements are generally necessary during our dark Idaho winters. For vitamin D3 dosage, a good rule of thumb is to take 1,000IU per 25 pounds of body weight. The only way to know your vitamin D level is through blood testing, so ask your doctor to run one for you.

Address nutrition, sleep, and stress issues at the first hint of cold or flu symptoms. This is when changes will be most effective in boosting your immune system to fight off the infection. Hydrate well with herbal teas (ginger or Echinacea), bone broth, and lemon water. Eat lightly, so you your body can focus on healing instead of digestion. If you are hungry, eat prebiotic and probiotic rich foods like Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, citrus fruits, as well as fermented dairy and vegetables to feed your gut beneficial bacteria and encourage a strong immune system. Garlic, onions, and bone broth soups are also good options. Get plenty of rest.

There are many supplements that can be beneficial to helping you fight off pathogens. Some helpful options include Vitamin C, Zinc, and herbs such as Echinacea, Olive Leaf, Holy Basil, Ginger, Andrographis, Elderflower, and peppermint. Studies support that essential oils lower causes of inflammation and sickness by reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation, regulating natural killer cell response and lowering cortisol levels. Try eucalyptus, oregano, clove, frankincense, or citrus.

When it comes to prevention, focus on a healthy lifestyle. Aim for a diet rich in organic vegetables, healthy fats, and grass fed meats and dairy. Fermented foods and probiotics are great for your digestive and immune systems. Regular moderate exercise and effectively managing your daily stress both contribute to a resilient immune system.

For more information, contact Dr. Wendy at haydenhealth@gmail.com.

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