Tips for Staying Healthy During the Winter
and All Year
While it is not possible to avoid ever getting sick, there are many
things that can be done to avoid getting sick some of the time. In
one study, researchers incubated a cold virus and then put the virus
directly into the nose of the subjects and monitored who got sick.
It turns out that only 12% got a cold. This means there are factors
other than exposure to cold viruses that determine whether or not
you get sick. The most important of those other factors in my experience
are the following:
- Get plenty of exercise. Exercise boosts immune function.
While particularly vigorous exercise, such as running a marathon,
actually suppresses immune function, other forms of exercise are
very effective at keeping you healthy.
- Avoid sugar and white flour. In one study researchers found
that 100 grams of sugar suppressed the activity of white blood cells
by 50% for about 6 hours. So if you just had a soda and your child
or coworker sneezes next to you, it could make the difference between
getting sick and staying healthy. Since white flour is rapidly converted
to sugar by your body, it has a similar effect.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. In addition to having
little to no effect on your blood sugar, these foods are loaded
with vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, antioxidants, bioflavonoids,
and other substances that help to fight infection.
- Get your vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is very common
(90-95% of the people in Vermont that I have tested are borderline
or deficient), and is a big contributor to lowered immune function.
Since we get less vitamin D from the sun in the winter, it is thought
by some that lower vitamin D levels at this time of year may play
a role in why we get sick more frequently in the winter. An appropriate
dose of vitamin D for most people is 4000-6000 IU daily.
- Consume omega 3 oils. These are mostly found in fish and
flax, and deficiency of these is very common since most people don’t
eat these foods. A daily dose of 1/2 tablespoon of cod liver oil
or 1500 mg of EPA/DHA from fish oil in capsule form is appropriate
for most people and will also help to reduce your risk of heart
attack and stroke.
- Watch your stress. Stress significantly reduces immune
function. You can either reduce your stress at the source by removing
the cause, or you can engage in activities such as physical activity,
meditation, yoga, tai-chi, or deep abdominal breathing to change
your reaction to stress.
- Avoid your food allergens. Recurring childhood ear infections,
sinus infections, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and strep throat are
all frequently caused by food allergies. While most people think
of a food allergy when someone eats a peanut or strawberry and then
can’t breathe, a much more common type is called a delayed
hypersensitivity reaction and can cause all of the recurring infections
mentioned above and many other problems as well. If you get these
infections or you have asthma, arthritis, headaches, irritable bowel,
eczema, or seasonal/airborne allergies, there is a good chance you
may have food allergies.
- Get plenty of sleep. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep
every night. Sleep deprivation increased the production of cortisol
by your body and cortisol suppresses immune function.
Addressing the factors described above will generally prevent frequent
colds, flu’s, or other illnesses. For the occasions when you
still get sick despite taking the above precautions, I recommend a
combination of the herbs propolis, goldenseal, licorice, and lomatium.
If taken at the first sign of cold or flu, it frequently will prevent
a full-blown illness.
Naturopathic doctors are physician
experts in treating the underlying cause of disease and using natural
medicines to help people get and stay well. To see a naturopathic
doctor for help with addressing immune function, please make a selection below.