It’s that time of year again! Autumn is my favourite season, but for many it means an increase in colds and flus.
It’s not exactly that there are more cold and flu viruses around per se, but that we get busy, we are outside less, getting less fresh air, less sunlight (which means less Vitamin D produced by our skin – an important nutrient for our immune systems).
We work a little more, stay up a little later, push ourselves a little harder.
And of course, the kids go back to school, so those who have kids have a lot more exposure to viruses than over the summer months.
I have a few tips for you here about how to prevent those viruses from getting the better of you and to speed up recovery if one breaches your immune system’s defences.
The best ways to prevent colds and flus are to simply take really good care of yourself.
- Getting enough sleep.
- If you have a lot of stress, learning how to cope or manage it better (how we perceive stress is just as important as how much stress we actually have).
- Wash your hands regularly to prevent spreading viruses that you come into contact with.
- Eat lots of vegetables, healthy fats and protein.
- Cut back on, or steer clear of, packaged, processed, refined and high-sugar foods.
- Get outside and be active as much as you can.
In terms of some added help for prevention, my favourite is mushrooms.
All have immunomodulating properties. There are varying properties amongst those I’ve listed, and I should point out that this is not an exhaustive list (there are many other helpful mushrooms).
You can increase your consumption of mushrooms by simply eating them (for the most part).
This means, adding brown crimini mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms to your meals; making sure to cook them in order to get the medicinal properties of the fungus out of it (you won’t get a lot of that if they are raw).
You can also explore taking mushroom supplements in the form of teas, tinctures, powders or pills.
Powders are fun because you can add them to smoothies, soups, teas or tea elixirs. I do this often and really enjoy it. You can find a 5-Mushroom Blend here that I love and use regularly.
And chaga tea is something I have brewing on the stovetop most days over the fall and winter months.
You Can Feel A Cold Coming On
If you feel like a cold could be coming on, my favourite go-to in this case is elderberry syrup.
I usually put a teaspoon of it into some hot water and have it as a tea.
Black elderberries have all kinds of medicinal properties (as do all other parts of the elder tree), including boosting the immune system. They are full of antioxidants, vitamin A, B, C and other nutrients and biochemical that help our immune system fight off viruses.
As a result, this is my favourite when I feel something coming on. You can also take it as a preventative – so if everyone around you is getting sick you can add this into your prevention plan!
If You’re Already Sick
Once a virus has gotten past the immune system we need to rest. That’s the number one thing. If you can, it would be best to at least take one full day and just sleep. At this point you want to shorten the number of days you have to deal with the symptoms of the infection. Rest is my number one recommendation. Stay warm if you’re cold or use herbs that dissipate heat if you’re feeling hot.
For sore throats my favourite is to have a tea that contains demulcent herbs. These are herbs that coat and soothe. Things like marshmallow root and slippery elm. They will coat the throat and make it feel a lot better.
In terms of boosting the immune system to help shorten the duration of the cold or flu, I tend to go for elderflower tea or some combination of herbs, depending on the symptoms.
Elderflower is bitter tasting as a tea, but it works. It has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that all help reduce the duration of colds and flus and it can alleviate congestion.
Getting a cold once or twice a year is normal and good for your immune system to get a bit of ‘exercise’. If you are getting sick more frequently than that, it’s probably best to go visit your healthcare practitioner and discuss the possibility of adrenal fatigue or something else that could be depressing your immune function.
The best medicine is prevention. As I mentioned at the beginning, the best you can do is to make self care a priority. Just like the concept of putting your oxygen mask on before helping others in the airplane safety instructions – you are of no use to anyone else if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
The herbs and supplements I’ve highlighted here are but a few of a great number of options we have to use from mother nature to help us heal. Some may work for you and others not – because we are all different. Enjoy exploring and playing with the bounty that we have in terms of natural remedies to help our bodies do the work they are meant to.
Finally, my best advice is to go back up to the top of the page and read over the prevention tips relating to self care again. Herbs and supplements can go a long way to help you out, but the real keys are rest, good food, fresh air and a positive outlook. 😉