Top 10 Tips to Stay Well this Winter

1 – I know it sounds rote, but I’m surprised at how few people do it…GET PLENTY OF SLEEP! Just try it. Aim for 8 hours/night. During sleep your body does most of its repair and restoring. You can’t fight pathogens well if you are depleted. And with the stress of the holidays, it could be the greatest gift you give yourself. Not to mention feel more energetic and happier.

2 – WASH YOUR HANDS a billion times/day. Don’t use antibacterial soaps – those just improve the bacteria’s odds that it will become resistant and generally also contain chemicals (chiefly triclosan) that your body will just have to work hard to detoxify. Sing a little tune to keep you there longer – I like “Zippity Doo Da” - having a positive outlook is also good for our immune system. Try it – you can’t be glum singing that song! Foaming the soap and rubbing your hands together vigorously and thoroughly for about 20 seconds is the most important part of washing hands. (Hand sanitizers you ask? Well – if you want to smear those chemicals all over your skin – sure go ahead. Not my cup of tea. But better than nothing in a pinch.)

3 – EAT A WHOLE FOODS DIET – including organic foods. See the list of the “dirty dozen” from www.ewg.org to find out which foods are most crucial to eat organic. If it has a bar code, most likely it is not a whole food. Aim for whole grains (rather than breads, cakes, and muffins) lean meats such as chicken and fish, and lots of fruits and vegetables. This is another one that I feel like we give lip service to. Everyone agrees. But to make it happen takes some planning. So sit down and write out your weekly menu and include more soups and whole grains, and less pasta and dessert.

4 – MINIMIZE SUGAR – it depresses the immune system for 4 hours after consumption. Consider also cutting down on dairy products, as many people have a sensitivity to dairy products even if they haven’t been diagnosed. Even if you are in the minority that can actually tolerate dairy, it does form mucus in most people, so for sure cut it when you feel sick.

5 – DO REGULAR SINUS RINSES or use a Neti Pot for nasal irrigation. In the dry, forced hot air heat of most of our homes and offices, our sinus passage dry out and become more susceptible to pathogens. Keeping up with a regular sinus rinse will not only help you feel better and breath easier, it will keep you well. The saline mixed in the water also is excellent at getting rid of bugs that may want to harbor in your sinus passages. Do frequent rinses if you feel that you may be getting sick.

6 – I have always been a big fan of homeopathic medicine. One that I have both at home and at the office is INFUENZINUM 9C. I dissolve a few pellets under my tongue daily (or when I remember – maybe every other day) to prevent the flu. Influenzinum is developed annually by Boiron (homeopathic company) using the same flu strains found in the flu shot. In homeopathic medicine, the product is diluted and titrated down so that there is no active flu virus left in the tablets that we take.

7 – In the fall I start taking a combination Vitamin A and Vitamin D product. (Caution if you have the potential to become pregnant – high dose Vitamin A has been shown to cause birth defects when taken early in pregnancy – so skip this one if you are planning on becoming pregnant.) Vitamin A is a fantastic immune system booster and virus-fighter. Most of us are low in Vitamin D, which is also very important for immune function, and they are many times found together in an inexpensive little capsule. It is fat-soluble so take with a meal for best absorption.

8 – Take a ZINC lozenge at first signs of an oncoming cold. Zinc is in many immune formulas, which you can also take, but sucking on the lozenge not only increases your whole body zinc load, it also works at the site where the infection is beginning – usually in the upper respiratory passages.

9 – I always have a few little vials of homeopathic OSCILLOCOCCINUM and take this also at the first sign of getting the flu. It works best if given in the first few hours, so it is a good idea to have it on hand in case you can’t run out right when you really need it.

10 – When you actually do get the bug, I tend to lean on herbs for easing symptoms and decreasing duration. My favorites are ELDERBERRY SYRUP which is safe even for kids, has good anti-viral properties, and can help with associated cough; MAITAKE MUSHROOM extract which boosts immune function, fighting both viruses and bacteria; AHCC (Active Hexose Correlated Compound) is a more recent development in mushroom extract shown to be highly beneficial to immune functioning; and ASTRAGALUS ROOT for enhancing immune function while also supporting the adrenals.

If you end up getting sick, the best thing you can do is take time off and take good care of yourself. Going to work or continuing your usual activities is just hard on your system and spreads the germs around. Stay home, put in a funny movie, and rest!

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