Cold and Flu Season – Are You Prepared?

Whether you’re just coming out of cold and flu season in the southern hemisphere, or you’re just going into it in the northern hemisphere, healthy habits like eating well, getting extra rest, and managing stress go a long way towards prevention against these yearly virus threats. Of course, the holidays tend to create an imbalance in those areas, so it’s best to go into them as healthy as possible, so they’re not the “straw the breaks the camel’s back!” Let’s discuss each of these habits in a bit more detail.


There is so much conflicting information about what to eat (and not eat) and fad diets to go along with it. Solid nutrition is really quite simple—eat a balanced diet of real, whole foods with quality proteins, vegetables and fats as the majority. The type of food and drink that tends to come around with the holidays, such as sugar, processed foods, fruit juices and alcohol, should really be limited to protect the immune system. If you’re looking for additional guidance, many people like Dr. Mercola’s nutrition plan (Beginner Nutrition Plan).


There are endless studies regarding the importance of consistent sleep to maintain a healthy body. Even that extra hour of sleep is crucial for the immune system. One study found that people exposed to the cold virus who sleep less than six hours a night are four times more likely to get sick compared to those who sleep more than seven hours a night.


Perhaps one of the most overlooked, but greatest aspects of overall health is our level of stress. Some experts believe stress is to blame for as much as 90% of all illnesses and diseases! During the holidays especially, it is helpful to set boundaries, keep meals and gifts simple and of course don’t skimp on sleep. Meditation, even as short as 3 minutes once or twice daily, can also strengthen the immune system and help cope with stress.


A favorite supplement for both prevention and treatment of cold and flu is elderberry syrup. Elderberries contain compounds called anthocyanidins, which help stimulate the immune system. Although not a surefire way to prevent cold or flu, using elderberry has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Elderberry syrup can be bought online or in stores (look for organic options made without refined sugar), or it can be easily made at home using a recipe such as this one (Elderberry Syrup Recipe). Other beneficial supplements include vitamin D (sunlight and cod liver oil are great sources), zinc (Foods High in Zinc), vitamin C (Foods High in Vitamin C), as well as fermented foods and quality probiotics.  If you cannot find elderberries in your local area, try cranberries as a possible alternative.

In summary, try and follow the 95/5 rule—not just in terms of diet, but also your daily habits—choose the healthiest option 95% of the time. Those choices will go a long way in keeping you healthy this season!



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