With cold and flu season upon us it's time to be making sure your immune system is at its best to keep you well through the cooler months.
One of the most significant methods of reducing your risk of picking up a bug is by regular hand washing. It can't be overlooked! Also avoid cigarette smoke and other toxic fumes as they damage your airways reducing your body's ability to keep your airways clear which increases your risk of picking up a cold or flu.
Here are our top five tips to keep your immune system strong:
- Live with the season. This might sound obvious but as the days get cooler and shorter we need to change how we live. Keep yourself warm - be prepared for a cold snap or chilly breeze with a jacket or scarf. Eat warm - now is the time to replace the salads and juices with soups, casseroles, stir fry, curries and warming herbal teas. Go to bed earlier and rise later. Spend more time indoors reaping the benefits of your 'harvests' from the warmer months.
- Get enough sleep. As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler we have the perfect conditions to get a full eight hours sleep at night (Yes, that's the optimal amount of sleep for your body to recharge and keep your immune system healthy). If you struggle with getting good sleep it is imperative to address this problem, speak to your health practitioner.
- De-stress. Chronic stress increases your cortisol levels over a longer period of time than our bodies can cope with. The result, among many other health disorders, is a lowered immune system. Find ways to eliminate, reduce and manage stress in your life. Once again good sleep is important, and moderate exercise, meditation, herbal medicine, acupuncture and massage may also assist in stress management. Excessive exercise however can be depleting to your immune system. If you do high intensity, endurance exercise on a frequent basis you may require additional immune support.
- Eat well. A diet that is low in Vitamin A, E, C, zinc and selenium will not support your immune system. Make sure to include fresh, wholefoods in your diet. Fill your plate with foods representing many of the naturally occurring colours from the plant kingdom: white, yellow, orange, red, green and purple. Don't forget to be getting enough water - aim for your eight glasses a day to keep you hydrated. You can use herbal teas to supplement your water intake and the HealthWise Cold & Flu Tea is an excellent way to boost your immune system and stay hydrated.
- Take your echinacea. This wonderful immune modulating herb has been shown to reduce the frequency of respiratory infections in frequent long haul travellers. It can do a lot for prevention of colds and flus in the rest of us too. Echinacea works best as a preventative taken through out the cold and flu season (April to August). A note on echinacea: the extract that will deliver the best immune results is from the roots of the species E. angustifolia and E. purpurea.
If you seem to pick up every cold and flu going around you should seek advice from your health practitioner. We can develop a plan specifically tailored to the type of symptoms that you usually get (eg. "it always goes to my chest" or "I end up with sinus congestion and post-nasal drip for weeks afterwards".)
The biggest key to staying well is prevention. Look after yourself with these simple steps, and if you do pick up a cold or flu seek additional treatment including acupuncture and herbal medicine at the first sign of your infection (eg. an itchy throat or sneezing). We can even courier a personalised herbal formula to you at home.
Here are some more about Preparing for the winter cold & flu season.