The inevitable is upon us...cold & flu season. BUT, just because it’s the “season” for sickness, does not mean that it has to be your destiny. There are countless ways that you can protect yourself, naturally, from bacteria and viruses that seem to be having their hay day! First off, incase you weren’t otherwise aware, the “flu season” in the North America usually begins in October, and gets into “full swing” so to speak, during December. While it may be fairly obvious that the cold & flu season must be caused by the cold...it’s actually a common misconception - although it may very well be a contributing factor. In actual fact, the lack of sunlight and/or the different lifestyles people lead in winter months are known as the more likely primary contributing factors.
So, what can you do to protect yourself? Here are my top 5 strategies - with the optional adaptogenic support herb included for your reference.
Keep your gut the good kind of dirty. In other words, ensure you have healthy gut bacteria that will help to fight off infections. Your gut is essential to optimal health, as nearly 80% of your immune system is located in your gut. Turkey tail is an adaptogenic mushroom that is often used to people who are battling gut issues, and makes a great addition to your healthy gut regime.
Reduce your sugar & alcohol intake. While cold & flu season is usually right around the time of stuff-your-face season, consuming too much sugar can suppress your immune system and make it more difficult for your body to fight off infections, including the flu virus. It also leaves you open to gut infections such as Candida and SIBO, which suppress your immune system and cause leaky gut. In addition to steering clear to too much extra added sugar (stay away from the artificial stuff, but need not fear fruit!), you may want to incorporate licorice root into your diet - an adaptogenic herb that has been used for years as a common remedy to help heal leaky gut syndrome since it is both soothing and anti-inflammatory.
Practice good sleep hygiene. And that means getting enough of it! Seven to nine hours each and every night is what you’re aiming for. If you want some extra sleep support for the occasional sleep disruption, or if you feel like you are constantly “tired and wired” by the time you get to bed, try ashwagandha, as it has the ability to regulate cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, making it a powerful calming tool to have on hand.
Get plenty of exercise. Physical activity has been proven to boost your immune system by increasing your circulation. Increased circulation allows antibodies to travel throughout your bloodstream faster, making it easier for your immune system to fight off an illness. Exercise can also elevate your immune system by reducing stress and slowing the release of stress hormones in the body. If you’re looking for some exercise support tools, maca root has been used as a caffeine-free, plant-based performance enhancer since the days of the Inca warriors. The best-known traditional uses of maca are support of healthy energy and stamina, but it’s also been shown to reduce recovery time from more strenuous training.
Supplement with an immune booster! Okay, I couldn’t resist throwing this final one into the mix. While all adaptogens are immune-regulating (and thus support your immune system for optimal function), when it comes to cold & flu season, there is no other herb more perfect than astragalus. This adaptogenic plant has strong immune-boosting abilities, and has been used to help restore immune function for people with weakened immune systems from cancer treatments or chronic illnesses. In addition, it has powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties.
So whether or not you supplement with adaptogenic herbs (but, like...you might as well!), I invite you to become a little more conscious with your “winter” lifestyle, and be mindful to practice just as much (if not MORE!) self-care throughout the colder months, when our bodies could do with that extra bit of love.