With the recent global and local scare around Coronavirus, having a strong immune system is our best defense. Our advice is to keep your medicine cabinet and pantry stocked with supplements and medicinal foods ready to treat the first signs of scratchy throat, fever and sniffles. You will not only prevent colds, coughs and flus, but you will shorten the duration and severity of illness in the event that you do get sick. Keep in mind these interventions work best when applied promptly at onset of symptoms of a common cold or flu. Coronavirus COVID-19 appears to have a long incubation time when people are without symptoms, so prevention is still key. These remedies are not a replacement for medical care in the event that you have a serious illness: please seek medical attention when appropriate.
12 tips to boost immunity throughout the next few months!
1) WASH YOUR HANDS! Yup, so basic. But seriously, this is number one, even when facing highly contagious flu strains. Washing hands in warm water + soap for at least 20 seconds is the best way to wash away germs. Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes, unless you’re doing so with clean hands. According to the CDC, if soap and water are not readily available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at lease 60% alcohol may be used as a substitute.
2) SLEEP + STRESS REDUCTION we have to rest to let our bodies do this natural healing thing! Make sure to get 7-9 hours of restful sleep per night and let go of any unnecessary stressors. Deep breathing, meditation, long walks and yin yoga are all great ways to curb stress.
3) GUT HEALTH it’s said that up to 80% of our immune system is rooted in our gut flora. Improve your gut health by taking probiotic supplements, eating fermented food (kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, miso, yogurt), eating prebiotic fiber to support probiotics (bananas, chicory root, onions, leeks, asparagus, apples, flaxseeds). Avoid taking antibiotics unnecessarily, reduce stress, eat less sugar and sweeteners, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and avoid consuming conventional meat and dairy products because these animals are often treated with copious antibiotics.
4) EXERCISE it’s no secret that regular exercise will help keep your body healthy, including your immunity. But what about when you’re feeling the onset of a cold? If you usually exercise, then you should definitely exercise when starting to get sick. Break a sweat and get the blood flowing, but don’t push yourself too hard if you’re feeling especially run down.
5) VITAMINS supplements should be started right away at first symptoms of a cold or taken preventatively when exposed to illness. High-doses of Vitamin C, A and D taken for short duration can nip the bad bugs in the bud (say that 5 times fast!). Get your supplements ready to go:
6) ZINC this mineral kills bacteria and reduces inflammation. Zinc lozenges are easy to carry around in your pocket or keep in your office desk. I have skipped countless colds by having this supplement on hand when I get a sore throat; I always keep Zicam stocked for home and travel. Higher doses of this supplement are best used when trying to aggressively prevent illness for a short time. If you take for longer periods, you may need to supplement with copper as well.
7) ELDERBERRY this magical dark purple berry has been used for centuries to combat symptoms of colds + flus: preventing and shortening severity and duration of these common illnesses. Modern research has shown that the flavonoids in elderberry extract binds to the H1N1 human influenza virus and to the H5N1 avian influenza virus in order to carry it out of the body. Bonus: Elderberry also effectively treats sinus infections. It’s best used preventatively or within first 48 hours of onset of symptoms and is safe to take daily throughout cold + flu season.
8) DIET cut out inflammatory foods -gluten, dairy, sugar, fried foods, alcohol and your personal food sensitivities- when you feel the fist symptoms of a cold coming on. I know, all the fun stuff, right? These foods feed viruses and bad bacteria, compromise our gut flora, weaken immunity and are mucus-forming.
Instead, focus on eating colorful vegetables, homemade bone or vegetable broths, shiitake mushrooms, healthy fats (like coconut oil, raw nuts + seeds, fatty fish, and grass-fed butter), organic eggs, pasture-raised meat, and wild-caught fish, and of course, the classic: homemade chicken soup.
9) IMMUNE-BOOSTING NUTRIENTS there are so many household immunity superstars that you’re probably already including in daily cooking. To prevent cold + flus, make sure to stock your pantry and fridge with these anti-viral/anti-bacterial nutrients! Raw garlic, onions, mushrooms and local or Manuka honey are immunity boosters. Turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and cayenne are healing herbs. Apple cider vinegar, green tea and echinacea are natural antibiotics. Citrus fruits, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and kiwi are rich in Vitamin C. Meat, shellfish, nuts + seeds, and lentils are high-zinc foods. Stay hydrated with plenty of water, herbal teas, electrolytes and broths.
10) ACUPUNCTURE + CUPPING Acupuncture has anti-inflammatory and anti-stress effects, helping regulate immunity and helping your body get back to a balanced state. Patients may come in for preventative care or once they start feeling symptoms. We frequently hear stories of patients coming back to tell us that acupuncture at onset of a sore throat or congestion successfully prevented a full-blown cough, cold or flu!
Cupping research indicates that cupping engages the immune system because the microenvironment is changed when cups are placed on the surface of the skin. Physical signals at local areas turn into a cascade of signals that involve the nervous, endocrine and immune systems; having a whole body effect. Clinically, we place cups over the chest and upper back to stimulate the immune system, help the lungs to clear out phlegm + fluids, and relieve tight + achy muscles.
11) HERBAL MEDICINE echinacea, astragulus, reishi and cordyceps mushrooms are all herbs commonly taken before you get sick to prevent illness. You may stock up on tinctures or capsules in the months leading up to cold + flu season to prevent occurrence. Once sick, Yin Qiao San is a very effective Chinese medicine formula used to treat middle-high grade fever with sweating, chills, cough, sore throat and body aches. The herbs in this formula contain antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, immuno-stimulative, detox, and antitussive pharmacological properties. Additionally, we have Chinese medicine formulas that treat the specifics of your symptoms if you do get sick- we can treat dry cough, phlegmy cough, nasal congestion, fever, chills, GI issues, etc. Herbal medicine can be miraculous for shortening duration of nasty viruses, but it’s best to get on top of it sooner than later.
12) STAY POSITIVE our immune systems are enormously influenced by our thoughts, so keep that in mind when navigating the media hype and making decisions about your and your loved one’s health. Invest in the things you have control over: eating well, managing stress, healthy lifestyle, seeking out the kind of medical care that best suits your needs. Let go of feelings of helplessness and fear as best you can; they diminish our reserves and weaken our immunity.