I hate to say it my friends, but cold and flu season is upon us. While many of us deal with it once it's happening, I like to take a more preventative approach. I'm not on board with the flu shot for our family (nor am I dissing on people that are) as I like to take a more holistic approach.
Curious to see which foods/products/supplements/tactics I recommend? Here are some of my favourites! (Side note, I had about 10 when I started this post, but I wanted to keep the length within reason so this month I'll share five and next month I'll share five more).
1. Wash your damn hands! (And wash your kids' hands too!)
How many people have gone into a public washroom, have been washing their hands, only to find someone come out from the stall, and walk straight out! Sick right? How many disgusting poo/pee hands have touched that stall door and now that person's bathroom door stall hands are touching everything in sight? Common sense people! And likely one of my biggest pet peeves (seriously, ask my husband, son, parents, in-laws). It drives me crazy. It's a simple habit that everyone has the time to do to protect their own health and the health of others. Some who may have very weakened immune systems that may not just catch a simple cold or flu.
A healthy immune system starts in the gut; no ands, ifs or buts! (see what I did there?) Poor gut health can show up in many different ways for many different people. In some, the issue can be chronic constipation or diarrhea, eczema, acne, frequent colds/flus... the list goes on. Eating a balanced diet of healthy fats and proteins, and loads of fruits and veggies can definitely help our gut microbiome by increasing healthy bacteria, but oftentimes a massive boost of probiotics can help.
Some benefits of probiotics: they help prevent infections, help with digestion (proper digestion is one of the main keys to overall health), help us digest food more efficiently and therefore help us get more benefits and nutrients from the foods we eat.
Things that can throw off our gut's healthy bacteria: a course of antibiotics, stress, an infection (such as a bout of the trots), as well as many commonly prescribed drugs like contraceptives, steroid drugs and even over the counter medications like aspirin. And of course a diet that's high in sugar and processed foods (this allows for much more bad bacteria than good and can lead to other issues such as a candida (yeast) overgrowth in the gut).
Now not all probiotics are created equal. Some brands barely contain any while others contain a lot, so it's important to chat with someone who can help you choose the right product for you. Not everyone will be interested in taking a probiotic supplement, so if you're one of those people, adding in fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, etc. can help! :)
3. Vitamin D
Studies have shown that people with low blood levels of vitamin D are much more susceptible to a cold or the flu. Unfortunately we don't live in a climate where it's warm and sunny year round, so it's important for us Canadians to be vigilant about keeping our Vitamin D levels up. Even in the summer, especially if a person works indoors and wears sunscreen every time they go out. Levels will vary from person to person, but I normally take one 1,000 mg capsule once every other day between May and August and come September I'll take 2,000 mg every day. Between November and March I'll often up that to 3,000 or 4,000*.
*If you're concerned about vitamin D toxicity (remember it is a fat soluble vitamin so your body won't excrete it nearly as quickly as Vitamin C for instance), taking a Vitamin D supplement that also contains K2 can drastically reduce this risk.
Oh how this area is missed by so many who struggle with low immunity, inability to lose weight, anxiety, etc. Sleep is something we all need, and while the amount needed by everyone varies, it's something that many people don't give enough importance to. Our body heals when it sleeps, and if it doesn't sleep, guess what: it can't heal! And I'm not talking about going to bed, tossing and turning all night and getting some form of sleep. I mean good quality, uninterrupted Zs.
I'll share some of my favourite sleep tips in a later post (if you need this info NOW please contact me, I'll be happy to share).
As you may well know, not getting enough sleep can turn us into stressballs, which leads me to my next section...
5. Stress!!! (reduction)
Do you feel stressed just reading that title? What if I had written the word "stress" without the exclamation marks behind it? It's all about perception isn't it? You could have two people in the same situation and while one could be highly stressed, the other might be as cool as a cucumber. Ever see this quote by William Shakespeare?
"There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."
Now we've all been a little stressed from time-to-time, the kicker though is the "fight or flight" feeling of stress we've all experienced. I read a great book recently called "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" by Robert Sapolsky. It was pretty eye opening and really focused on the way many of us lead our day to day lives and how we actually do live in this "fight or flight" response for long periods (I'm talking years!). This puts an incredible amount of stress (sorry) on the body and simply just drains us, making us more susceptible to illness. Work deadlines, kids, day-to-day stress, shouldn't make us feel the same way that we would if we were being chased by a lion; so why does it?
How many of us just cruise along on autopilot without actually taking time to enjoy what we're doing? We're so busy thinking of the next thing on our to do list and while this may make us feel productive, it stresses us the heck out!
I'll be writing a separate blog post on this as well in the near future so stay tuned. In the mean time breathe in... and out..... in.... and out... and keep an eye on your stress triggers. Are you saying YES to too much while what you really want to say is NO? Keep these things in mind because if you can control your mind, you can control your life (well, at least the way you perceive it anyway).
I didn't go too in depth with any of these topics as this post could have easily been the length of a book and I really want this blog to be reader friendly. Also, if you are taking any medications or have any serious health issues please consult your doctor or own health care practitioner before adding probiotics or Vitamin D to your lifestyle. This post was simply meant to give information about what I have found useful personally and in my practice.
If you would like more information on the topics mentioned above, or would like to arrange a chat with me, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 506-433-5911. I'd be happy to chat with you.
Here's to another great month! :)