As the heart of winter approaches and the snow begins to fall, many of us begin to get excited about things like skiing and holiday parties.
I mean, who doesn’t love building snowmen and enjoying hot cocoa, right?
But of course, with every good thing comes a challenge- and unfortunately, the winter months also drastically increase our chances of catching the latest cold or flu bug. Especially if your household includes small children- you are likely to end up feeling a bit under the weather at some point this season.
For myself, upon our return from Ontario last month, I found myself down for the count with a nasty cold that I was sure would last more than a week.
At the time I was overwhelmed with a busier-than-usual schedule, it was just a few weeks prior to our non-profit gala, and I was stressed right out. To top things off- my sleeping patterns were out of wack!
Toss in some air travel, forgetting my vitamins and a few days away from home… getting sick was definitely expected (and maybe a bit inevitable).
I mean, our bodies are only capable of so much… and I really burnt mine out last month!
And when the cold hit, well… lets be honest. I am really NOT a fan of winter. Snow was fun as a kid and all, and snow days were the best! But now? Well, winter as an adult sucks. There are no snow days- you still have to go to work; you are always shovelling and it’s always cold. And I am always cold! Lol. So, needless to say, I really just don’t enjoy these months.
Most people accept flu season as part of living in this snow-clad environment. But it doesn’t have to be! Without being prepared, those who fall ill often find themselves reaching for store-bought medications containing sugar, chemicals and body-harming additives.
Not to mention, a weak and injured immune system is at an increased risk of complications associated with the cold or flu. For example, if you are over the age of 65, pregnant or currently undergoing treatment for a chronic medical condition (such as asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure), you are considered high risk for these associated complications.
Considering this, and the prevalence of illness during the cold-weather months, protecting your immunity can be scary to think about. However, there are multiple ways to naturally boost your immunity- helping to protect your body and lessen your chances of the sniffles.
Now, between the stresses of gift shopping and family celebrations, and with nutrition coming primarily from the mall food court, sugary cocktails and comfort classics… our immune systems take a hit. But rest assured, here are FIVE simple ways to naturally boost your immunity and decrease your risk of illness this holiday season. And these tips are actually the exact things I did to get over my cold last month in less than one week!
So, without further ado, here you go:
1. In order to boost your immunity, it is essential that your diet is packed with nutrients! Getting enough vitamins and minerals is important and will help to keep your body functioning at its optimal best.
Eating whole foods is ideal, while limiting the processed items as much as possible. And eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is also key!
For instance, did you know that red bell peppers contain more Vitamin C than oranges? Double, actually. In addition, they contain beta-carotene and Vitamin E, making it a three-punch combo for your immune system, helping to increase white blood cells and ward off infectious agents.
Include at least 1/2 cup daily to get the full benefits! I personally, love to incorporate red bell peppers into my tofu scramble each day
2. We’ve all heard the terms ‘anti-inflammatory’ and ‘immune boosting’. But what do they actually mean? Well, inflammation is basically our bodies ‘immune system response’ (aka our natural defence mechanism) that turns on when something isn’t quite right. It could be an injury, an infection, an allergic reaction, etc.
Inflammation can be symptoms such as swelling, redness, pain- and in acute conditions, it’s actually a really great thing. But inflammation soon becomes a problem when it is ends up chronic- meaning, it lasts a really long time.
And unfortunately, with unhealthy diets and lifestyles, it is quite common in our western society. So, therefore, when something is anti-inflammatory and immune boosting, it means that it has significant healing properties in it. Cool right?
Well, one of the most potent immune-boosting foods you can find is surprisingly readily available. Ginger contains a ton of phytochemical compounds that act as an anti-inflammatory agent in our bodies.
Gingerols, one of the main antioxidants present in fresh ginger, has the power to filter out toxins from our lymphatic system and can actually fight bacterial infections better than conventional antibiotics.
Try grating it into herbal tea or hot lemon water for a delicious cold-kicking booster!
You can also enhance your antibody responses by consuming Turmeric as a flavour enhancer in meals. Curcumin, the orange-yellow component of the spice, is a strong immunomodulator which means it helps control when to turn our immune system on or off.
I personally LOVE turmeric lattes, or ‘golden lattes’ as some know it… and you can try my favourite recipe HERE. Other ways to incorporate the spice include adding it to smoothies, soups, stews, and even using it as a spice on roasted veggies or homemade kale chips!
3. Ditch the unhealthy, processed, marketed products to heal your body, and instead reach for natural, healthy options instead! For starters, I don’t know how many times I have heard someone suggest and/or swear by Emergen C as a ‘cold busting remedy’. Sure, it contains Vitamin C, which is great for our immune system. But, it also contains a heck of a lot of additives and a TON of sugar… which is probably why we love it and feel so good taking it.
If you seen my post on social media about this, then you’re one step ahead of the game. If not, I do suggest taking a stroll to my Instagram or Facebook, where you can get all caught up!
For the short(er) version, we shouldn’t be surprised that companies are doing whatever they can to ‘market’ their products to us and make us more likely to buy them. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t the wiser to all of their tricks, and we can still get swept up in the claims that packages make!
Now, on the Emergen-C package you buy in stores, you will only see the ‘medical ingredients’ listed in a nutritional panel, with other ingredients listed at the bottom. No where on the package you buy in stores can you see information like the amount of sugar one packet contains. So I did a little experiment- I went to their website (desktop version, not mobile), and pulled up the exact package that I was looking at in stores.
And guess what?
They list the full disclosure of that product on their website.
Shockingly, in one packet of Emergen-C, there is 6g of sugar!
Which is equal to 1.5 tsp. YIKES!
Not only that, but very clearly it states includes 6g of added sugar. Meaning that the ENTIRE amount of sugar contained in one packet of it has been added in and does NOT come from a natural source.
Sugar, as we know is toxic to our bodies.
And it sucks that products we have been lead to believe are healthy, are actually in fact far from it. This is exactly the reason why we need to take more control of what we are putting in our bodies (and our children’s bodies), and lean towards more natural options when we can.
Some of the things that I personally use to help me recover when I am feeling under the weather are:
– Echinacea tea (a great sore throat and fatigue reliever)
– Oil of oregano (tastes awful and it works! The newer, better, healthier, Buckley’s ad)
– Natural sugar-free cough drops (there are a few brands out there, or you can make your own)
– Feel Good Syrup (I absolutely SWEAR by this. Made locally here in St. Albert, AB. You can find it at many stores across Alberta- look it up online HERE to see where you can find it locally )
– Homemade chest rub (I love the site GARDEN THERAPY and all her natural remedies)
4. You wouldn’t expect a car to run properly without proper maintenance and filling the tank often… so why is your body any different?
We can’t expect our bodies to heal when we aren’t providing them the environment, or the tools needed to do so. We are human, we only have so many hours in a day, and we cannot run on fumes. Certain things (other than our nutrition) are required for us to function at our best.
Lifestyle factors and stress-management are key in this.
For starters, we should be having on average 7.5-9 hours of sleep per night. I’ve talked about the importance of sleep before (catch that blog post HERE), but just know that when we are feeling ‘under the weather’ that need and demand goes up. We will often require more sleep than usual for us to recover.
Secondly, stress-management is essential! We should be doing everything we can to turn off our ‘flight or flight response’ and instead, help us feel calm, collected, and rested.
I am a huge fan of incorporating activities like meditation, yoga/stretching, reading, and journaling on a daily basis- but when I am feeling off or low, I will also focus on implementing some self-care items like bubble baths and lymphatic massages.
Taking time to rest is so important, and if you can’t do it when you are feeling sick, when can you?
5. Learn from the experience moving forward. If you are someone like me who tends to overload their plate, say hi! Balancing day to day activities is one thing, but taking on so much that you feel overwhelmed and stressed is another.
I am definitely one of those people who likes to live a very busy life, and I am always taking on more than I can (sanely) handle. What can I say, I like having a full plate!
But, the thing is, if we continually take on too much… we eventually burn out.
It honestly is inevitable as I said before, unless we are putting the proper steps in place, and we are taking time for ourselves! My biggest lesson learned from this experience, was that I need to be better at asking for help- and that I need to slow down more frequently.
Daily self-care rituals are a natural thing for me yes, but I have clearly learned that it is not enough.
In order for me to stay my healthiest, I need to take a full day off each week where I ignore social media, connect with my husband, and drop all thoughts of work, commitments and my to-do list.
Since learning this lesson and working hard to implement it, I have noticed that not only am I way happier- I feel healthier and more present each day. So, you could say that there are multiple benefits!
As I always say, our bodies are the smartest machines on the planet, and they can teach us lessons each day if we are open to them and listening.
Therefore, we need to start appreciating our bodies for what they are capable of, and trusting in their ability to heal, naturally. There is a time and place for western medicine of course, but we don’t need to use it for EVERYTHING.
I, for one, love to support and heal my body with as little chemical or toxin load as possible. I encourage you to do the same and explore what makes you feel the best- inside and out.
In summary, hope this helps to make your next cold a little less disrupting, or that you can prevent yourself from getting ill this winter!