I was catching up with my Dad on the phone the other day and he was recounting to me how he had gotten a nasty cold after visiting my brother’s family… again. It’s not surprising, my brother and his wife have three kids under the age of seven who all attend different schools and various activities and it always seems like at least one of them is sniffling or coughing during the cold and snowy winter months… And my parents definitely fall into the category of SUPER-grandparents, they are always very hands-on with the kids, often down on the floor playing with them, being human jungle-gyms and “horsies.” Frustrated to hear that my father was taken down yet again, I promised to send him a little care package with detailed instructions to help boost his immune system during future trips so that he could be Super-grandpa without ending up Super-sick after. And since I was already going to have to write all this out for my Dad, I decided it would be worth posting here too :-)
(That’s me, my brother, and my Dad back well before his Super-grandpa years…)
Hannah’s Tips for Staying Healthy during the Winter Months :
1.) Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and herbal teas. When it is cold and dry out, we don’t always “feel” thirsty, but we are very susceptible to becoming dehydrated. When we are dehydrated, bacteria and viruses can take up residence in our bodies. EXTRA CREDIT : Putting ConcenTrace Trace Minerals Drops in your water so that your body can absorb all that extra hydration you are taking in.
2.) Oil your nostrils. I know it sounds weird, but this was one of the easiest, most effective ways to avoid getting sick that I learned during the life-changing 9 Month Living Ayurveda class I took from my good friend Cate Stillman last winter. All you have to do is put a little oil (coconut or sesame could be a good place to start) on your two pinky fingers and rub it on the inside membranes of your nose. EXTRA CREDIT : Plugging one nostril and breathing in sharply and deeply through the other nostril to try to get the oil up into the membrane (and repeating on the other side.) My favorite oil to use is Cate’s Sinus Lube (because it has good herbs in it and smells nice :-)
3.) Boost your immune system by loading up on herbs when you are starting to feel the first signs of becoming run-down (or before you head down to spend the long weekend juggling small, snotty children.) There are a number of great options out there, my three favorites are : Wellness Formula, Paul Stamet’s MyCommunity Comprehensive Immune Support, and Kick-Ass Immune Activator. I prefer the liquid extracts and just put a dropper full in a small glass of water and shoot it. They also come in pill form if you prefer to take them that way. Jeff and I also found the Kick-Ass Immune Activator in a convenient little spray bottle which I was taking with me and squirting 6 sprays under my tongue periodically when I was fighting off a cold recently. If you don’t like the taste of these extracts you could put them into orange, or some other, juice to mask the flavor a bit, but I don’t find any of these too bad.
4.) There are also some great essential oil blends that help boost the immune system too. My personal favorite is doTERRA’s OnGuard formula. I just put a few drops in my big glasses of water and drink them throughout the day. You can also diffuse it into the air or rub it on the bottom of your (or your little ones’) feet. Best to dilute it with a carrier oil if you are gong to be putting it on your childrens’ sensitive skin and definitely test new-to-you oils cautiously when first using them to make sure that that they work for your body and constitution. Young Living also has an immune boosting blend call Thieves and I have friends who swear by it as well.
5.) Drink homemade ginger, honey, lemon tea like it is going out of style (or at least twice a day.) This was a recipe that I learned from my sweet, awesome, amazing, friend Lisa when she was staying with me a bunch of years back and has become my all-time favorite tea. You will need fresh Organic ginger root (fresh ginger root looks like a little stubby hand with extra fingers.) Ginger has become really popular in the past 5 years or so and should be relatively easy to find in most grocery stores. You will also need Raw Organic Honey (yes it is important to buy the high quality Organic stuff) and Organic lemons. First, peel the skin off the section of ginger that you are going to use with a vegetable peeler or a spoon works, then use a grater to make a small pile of ginger (I just have a little hand one that sits on the counter and looks like a mini-teepee.) Once you have your pile of ginger put it in a big mug, squeeze in some lemon, add a spoonful of honey, and fill the rest of the cup up with hot water. There is no set ratio, you can just add to taste, but generally I probably do 1-2 tbsp freshly grated ginger root, 1 tsp honey, and maybe half a lemon — it depends on how juicy the lemon is… To get a nice juicy lemon try to pick lemons that feels heavy for their size. I always pick up a bunch of them individually and bounce them up and down in my hand to compare their weights when I am picking lemons (or limes!) out at the grocery store. It makes a huge difference!
6.) Get lots of sleep (my favorite!) Often times our bodies can fight off a lot if we don’t push them to hard. I definitely take it easy if I feel myself starting to feel at all compromised. Who doesn’t love a good nap??? Or an excuse to read in the middle of the day??? It is also important to try to get to bed early so that you can let yourself sleep as long as you possibly can. (Which for me can sometimes be 10 or 11 hours straight if I am on the verge of coming down with something. I know, impressive right?) In winter, you might find that your body naturally craves more sleep anyway… it’s our time to hibernate and recharge so that we can take advantage of the long, summer days just around the corner.
7.) If I do come down with anything I reach for homeopathics. The science behind homeopathy is definitely a lot harder to wrap my head around, but all I can say is that I have had incredible results personally and I know a lot of friends and family that have as well. Boiron has two great formulas (Coldcalm for colds and Oscillococcinum for flus) that you can buy at most grocery stores now that cover the majority of common cold and flu symptoms all at once so that you don’t have to try to figure out which remedies to use. You can just follow the instructions on the box. I think it is 2 tablets under the tongue every 15 minutes for the first hour and then 2 tablets under your tongue every two hours after that until your symptoms are gone.
8.) Bonus super extract credit for the hardcore folks out there is to make a concoction of fresh lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and turmeric to drink first thing in the morning. You can add as much or as little water as you like. I do not like the taste (or smell!) at all so I prefer to just add a little water and try to gulp it down as fast as possible. If you don’t mind the taste, you could drink it like a tea or in a larger glass with more water so the taste isn’t as overwhelming. This helps to create an alkaline environment in your body, as well as having a myriad of other health benefits including being immune boosting, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer. (All disease states need or do best in an acidic internal body environment.)
Alright, I think that is all I’ve got for now.
P.S. For any moms out there that have small children like my brother and his wife do, my friend Cate has a two hour Healthier Kids workshop that I am sure would be well worth the $35 investment. Her site Yogahealer.com is an incredible resource all around and has tons of great free information on health and wellness.
P.P.S. Gargling sea salt in warm water is another easy fix that I forgot to mention if you find yourself with a sore throat!
P.P.P.S. Also, I just had a tip shared on Facebook from a friend in response to this post that black elderberry syrup can be very effective in shortening the duration of a flu or used as a daily immune booster. She also mentioned that mustard/Epson salt baths can be amazing if you are on the verge of sickness.