Lots of viruses and infections are going around right now. Partially, due to the time of year; the colder, wetter months tend to stress our immune systems. Partially due to re-introduction to more people again after being isolated from the pandemic. It probably also has to do with other factors like diet, eating more sugar from Halloween to New Years (in my house), less fresh vegetables like we have in summer, maybe less exercise.
I, myself, just got over my second round of COVID. I’ve been vaccinated and I’m obligated to wear a mask at work, but I don’t isolate, and I don’t always wear a mask when I’m out.
I believe in the importance of sharing air with others to strengthen my microbiome, the pool of bacteria and other organisms that inhabit my intestines. I also believe that getting a virus from time to time can “exercise” my immune system. But I’m healthy and strong, and so far, without any serious chronic illness. So, I can usually manage a cold or flu or even COVID. This may not be advisable for you if you have an underlying illness or weak lungs.
But really, what I want to do is remind you of what you can do to strengthen your immune system and reduce your vulnerability to bad infections. The keys are prevention, resilience and recovery.
The first thing is to eat your fresh organic mostly green vegetables. Not just peas (which are actually legumes). Broccoli, chard, green beans, brussels sprouts, lettuce…etc. Try and get a variety and try and get a lot in your diet; 5-9 servings per day. (1/2 cup = 1 serving). Keep in mind that a salad for lunch can be 3-4 servings in itself. Vegetables are rich in nutrients and antioxidants and fiber that are better than any vitamin you can take.
Drink clean water. Not water in plastic bottles – it’s actually worse than tap water and creates a lot of waste. If you can afford a water filter or have one on your fridge, filter it. And change the filters at least once per year. No…. soda, coffee, sweet tea and cocktails do not count as water. Sorry.
Reduce funky, processed foods and sugar. Limit dairy (especially milk and cheese) which can generate phlegm. If you need something sweet, bake a carrot cake with butter and coconut sugar or maple syrup. Or make “healthy” rice crispy treats. Or better yet, eat a piece of fruit.
I know all the above are obvious, but sometimes it doesn’t have to be complicated.
If you get sick, stay home and rest. Hydrate. No sugar. Soups are great (esp. homemade). Herbal teas are great.
Nutrients that help the immune system are probiotics, vitamin C, vitamin A (avoid if you are pregnant), zinc (take with food), vitamin D. If you like to take herbs, there are a number of immune support formulas with herbs like echinacea, Oregon grape root, elderberry which can be helpful. For a cough: water, yerba santa, thyme, osha, wild cherry bark is all generally safe and can soothe a cough.
Seek help if things are bad. If you have a deep cough or wheeze, get it checked out sooner, rather than later. You may need pharmaceuticals.
OK! Happy New Year! Be Well! Stay Warm! Spring is around the corner!
By Dr. Jennifer Means ND, LAc