Which of the following scenarios depicts the most healthy individual?
a. A 36 year old mother of three young children comes to the office for help with a common cold. This is the first cold she’s had since March of 2014 and she believe she caught it from her youngest daughter.
b. A 50 year old male (dragged into the office by his wife…) proudly states that it has been at least 10 or 15 years since his last cold.
c. A 25 y/o female comes to the office for help with her cough and cold symptoms. These are the same symptoms she gets every year, at the same time of year.
The “correct” answer is A! While many people are led to believe that the absence of disease is the equivalent of health, we should be careful to make such assumptions.
When the immune system is overburdened it doesn’t have the ability to mount a response to simple cold viruses. This was evidenced during the time of cholera (or other highly infectious diseases)…. when an epidemic swept through a community, those who did not get ill were often plagued with chronic disease: tuberculosis, syphilis, cancer, etc.
Similarly, a person who falls ill at the same time every year or struggles with the same illness repeatedly is obviously stuck in a rut with their immune health and needs help overcoming this burden.
It is a sign of a highly normal and healthy immune system to come down with a cold at varying seasons every 9 – 18 months.
With the changing of the seasons, it’s an excellent time to re-evaluate our defense against the dreaded cold and flu season. Here are five simple ways to keep your body healthy through the season of sickness:
- Sleep more. Arguably, the MOST important thing you can do for your health to prevent acute illness is to get adequate sleep. The average adult functions best on 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night. When we sleep, our body repairs itself. If we are in a sleep debt our body struggles to stay on top of repairs and healing. Some simple strategies to promote quality sleep: stay away from electronics an hour before bedtime, dim the lights an hour before bedtime, sip a cup of relaxing warm chamomile tea, and make sure your room is completely dark at night – avoid any lights from electronics if possible.
- Eat a real food, nutrient dense diet. Buy foods from the periphery of the grocery store (avoid the aisles and aisles of packaged foods!). Prepare and cook them in the warmth of your own kitchen. Squashes and root vegetables are seasonally fresh in the fall, so cook up an acorn squash soup, or roast a pan of pumpkin. Avoid too much sugar which can decrease the activity of your immune system for up to four hours after ingestion.
- Wash your hands. Although, we all know to wash our hands frequently to avoid the spread of cold and flu viruses, many of us do not take adequate time to wash our hands completely. A simple solution is to carry an alcohol based hand sanitizer and use after touching public spaces: door handles, shopping carts, public computers.
- Exercise daily. Even a simple, brisk, evening stroll in the crisp, autumn air will boost the body’s ability to fight certain cold and flu viruses. Grab your dog, your loved one, or just put on some headphones with music and walk out the front door. Walk for half an hour to obtain the minimum amount recommended by the US Preventative Services Task Force – simply walk out your front door for 15 minutes and turn around and head back!
- Boost your immunity. One delectable way to increase the activity of your immune system is to try one teaspoon per day of Elderberry syrup. The active ingredient, Sambucol, was shown to be effective in vitro against 10 strains of influenza virus. And it tastes delicious, even children will enjoy taking their medicine!
Homemade Elderberry Syrup
- ⅔ cup black elderberries
- 3½ cups of water
- 2 Tablespoons fresh or dried ginger root
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon cloves or clove powder
- 1 cup raw honey (we get from our farmer’s market)
Bring water, elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves to boil. Simmer covered for 45 minutes or until reduced by half, cool. Add honey and voila! Homemade elderberry syrup! 1tsp for kids, 1 TBSP for adults daily.
When the cold or flu strikes, take the normal dose every 3 hours until well.
Sometimes, it’s inevitable – we catch a virus and end up with a stuffy/runny nose, cough and body aches. The best thing you can do for yourself and everyone around you is to stay home and rest. Take a day or two off of work, drink at least half your body weight in ounces of clean water, and contact your local naturopath for some individualized care and symptom relief.
Happy Fall Season!