It’s that time folks…the dreaded sniffles, body ache, fever…yup, cold and flu season is upon us.
It seems that each year people start getting hit earlier and earlier. This year is definitely following that trend. I continue to see patients in clinic who are wiped out with severe colds and debilitating flu-like symptoms. There is a lot that Naturopathic Medicine can offer to help speed healing and manage symptoms, but the real value of Naturopathic Medicine is its ability to help prevent disease.
I have constructed a checklist of 10 tasks that will help you stay well this cold and flu season. Simply print the attached document and each day, complete at least six of the 10 tasks. That’s not bad right? And the icing on the cake is that these healthy lifestyle habits will contribute to overall health and well-being!
There are tons of other things that can be done to help keep you well this cold/flu season. Everything from supplements to herbs to hydrotherapy techniques. However, in order to make sure you’re taking what’s right for you, and in the right amounts, I’d need to see you in clinic. If you’re ready to take control of your health, I’d be more than happy to help guide you on the right path. Book an appointment today!
Click on the image below, print it out, and post it on your fridge for daily tracking!
Below, you will find a deeper explanation to each task on the checklist:
- Wash your hands properly and frequently
- Whenever possible, use warm water with soap. Hand sanitizer is not a good first option…it can dry your hands out and lead to cracks/fissures which allow bugs to get in! Lather both sides of your hands with soap all the way to the wrists for 15 seconds (this traps and loosens the germs); rinse thoroughly for another 15 seconds, making sure to get in all aspects of your hands and fingers (this washes the germs off). Make sure to wash hands before eating and if possible, after spending time in public spaces. If you are prone to dry hands, keep moisturizing lotion near by.
- Drink lots of fluids (water, teas, soups)
- Sufficient fluid intake helps promote healthy circulation, detoxification, energy, and immune function. Opt for water, herbal teas (like ginger), and vegetable or bone broth soups. Warm fluids are ideal and avoid sugary drinks, as they can do more damage than good. A general rule of thumb is to consume the equivalent of eight 250mL glasses of water in fluids per day.
- Eat at least five servings of vegetables and fruits
- The recommendation for vegetables and fruits from the Canada Food Guide is now eight to 10, however five servings is a good place for most people to start. If you’d like to go for more, please do! B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin A are nutrients found in produce that are very important in healthy immune function. Go for dark green leafy (kale, spinach, Swiss chard), bright yellow/orange (peppers, squash, sweet potatoes) and cruciferous (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) vegetables. Also, don’t be afraid to increase your consumption of raw onions and garlic, as they have anti-microbial properties.
- The amount of sleep each person needs can vary. Most resources will stress six to eight hours as being sufficient. Listen to your body and respect the amount of sleep you need given the current circumstances. Adequate sleep allows for healing, growth, and eradication of unwanted bugs. If you feel a cold coming on, your need for sleep will increase. If you have trouble falling asleep, Naturopathic Medicine can help…but for now, you can try to relax with breathing exercises or guided meditation.
- Get protein with every meal
- Protein provides the body with the building blocks for well, everything…including your immune cells! It is hugely important to get protein with every meal, especially during the winter months when the demands on our bodies can be slightly higher. Of course, aiming for organic grass-fed animal protein or non-GMO vegetable sources would be ideal, but work within your budget and do your best to find cleanest sources of protein available to you.
- Practice mindfulness for 5-10 minutes
- This could be deep breathing, meditation, or simply practicing an activity in a mindful state (for example, practicing mindful eating by eating without any distractions/stimuli like TV or phone, paying attention to each bite, and remaining seated for a couple minutes after finishing your meal…essentially, trying to stay present with the activity and bring the brain out of overdrive and into a calmer state). Mindfulness has been proven to enhance immunity by regulating stress and promoting optimal immune cell activity.
- Be physically active for 30 minutes
- To promote circulation and boost immunity, prioritize being active for 30 minutes. Circuit style training that combines resistance/strength exercises with cardiovascular training is a great way to maximize results. However, if a brisk walk is more appealing to you, that can be enough to start to get the juices flowing. Just be mindful to not push yourself too hard if you’re feeling run down.
- Take a contrast shower
- This has got to be my favourite on the list! I don’t know what compares to this as far as getting blood flowing, boosting energy and mental alertness for the day, and promoting healthy immune function. Basically, you hop in the shower and run warm water for three minutes, at which point you switch to cold for 30 seconds. This contrasting routine is then completed two more times for a total of three rounds, ending on cold. The greater the contrast in temperature, the greater the effect…but that being said, if your tolerance for cold is low, you can start by switching between warm and lukewarm. However, try to increase the contrast in temperature as you go from the first round to the third. Disclaimer: you will curse my name for the first couple sessions…but stick with it and within a week you will never look back. Medical disclaimer: I recommend speaking to a Naturopathic Doctor before engaging in this if you have diabetes, arthritis, or cancer.
- Say no to sugary treats
- Simple sugars, as well as processed foods, can suppress the immune system. Opt for fruit or dark chocolate (70% or greater) to fix the craving.
- Say no to something that is too much for you to handle right now
- Overextending oneself is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get sick, especially during cold and flu season. When you are faced with a new choice, take a breath and ask yourself if you can honestly take this on without it compromising your health before making the decision to say yes or no.
I wish you a happy and healthy fall and winter season!
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