Monday, January 26, 2015

*HEALTH & WELLNESS* Staying Healthy During Cold + Flu Season

by Arja Pennanen Lytle

The perfect recipe for tea!
It’s that time of year again, and everywhere you turn you hear of another person battling a cold or flu bug. Even if you don’t have kids in school, unless you live in a bubble, it’s unlikely that you can avoid coming in contact with germs of some kind.  We all know that washing our hands well is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of bacteria that causes all these ailments, but what else can you do to keep you and your family healthy?

The best way to take care of any illness is to avoid getting it in the first place.  Keep your immune system strong and your body will be able to fight off many illnesses before you really start to feel their effects.
Keep your immune system in fighting form with a few of these strategies:

Avoid sugar.  I hope you’re not tired of hearing people preach the ill effects of sugar yet, and even if you are, I’m going to add one more reason to the long list of why sugar isn’t good for you.  It suppresses your immune system.  Each time you consume sugar you’re lowering your body’s natural defenses, and hampering its ability to fight to keep you healthy.  Look for added sugar in yoghurt, cereal, granola bars, dried fruit, and even canned/jarred sauces, 4g of sugar on the nutritional facts label is equivalent to 1tsp of sugar.  Yikes!  Don’t be fooled into thinking that fruit juices are any healthier just because they don’t contain added sugar. Fruit naturally contains sugar, and without any fibre from the whole fruit to keep things balanced, those natural sugars hit your blood faster and have the exact same effects as added sugar.

Make friends with garlic & onions.  Don’t use much of either when you’re cooking?  Time to change that.  These vegetables do more that just add depth and flavour to anything you cook, they also contain potent compounds that are antibacterial, antiviral, and play a role in a strong, healthy immune system. Don’t bother with jarred, minced garlic though as you won’t get the health benefits, just the flavour.  Chop it or mince it fresh.

Make sure you have a happy gut.  If you’re not already on the probiotic train I highly recommend that you get on board.  Probiotic-rich foods are an easy way to start, though I wouldn’t rely on flavoured yoghurts as the sugar in them will actually feed the bad bacteria, negating any positive effect that the probiotics will have in your body.  Beneficial bacteria can be found in fermented foods like plain yoghurt, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir, but be aware that the amounts you’ll find in these foods won’t be enough to truly alter your gut bacteria.  You should definitely consider taking a probiotic supplement, which is also available for kids.  For more information on why you need probiotics, and what to look for, check out my “Healthy Gut, Healthy Body” post.

Get enough sleep.  If you’re not getting enough sleep at night you’re automatically more vulnerable to illness.  Haven’t you ever noticed how a cold seems to take hold right after you start feeling run down?  When you sleep your body regenerates and repairs itself.  It’s tempting to stay up a bit later at night, especially after a busy day where it feels like you haven’t had a moment to yourself, but try and to be by 10:30 each night to ensure your body gets the rest it needs.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, a cold or flu strikes.  Once you start feeling the symptoms it’s time to step up efforts to make sure that you don’t end up feeling too rotten, for too long.

Drink some tea!  As soon as I feel a scratchy throat, or any other symptom that suggests a cold is settling in I start pumping myself full of fresh lemon tea with honey, and sometimes ginger.  I boil water, squeeze the juice of a lemon into it and add a touch of raw honey – simple as that!  If I feel like ginger tea I boil some sliced ginger in water for 5-10 mins then strain, and add honey and fresh lemon juice.  I swear it helps!  Raw honey is full of antibacterial properties and soothes scratchy throats and coughs.  Lemon is high in vitamin C, and is also very alkalinizing for the body, meaning it lowers our acidity making us less vulnerable to illness.  Ginger is warming and has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a great thing to have when you’re under the weather.

Eat garlic.  Remember how I said it contained antibacterial properties earlier?  Keep eating it!  You can cook with it, or better yet, plan in advance and make garlic infused honey that you can keep on hand as a natural cough remedy and throat soother.  I swear it tastes good enough to add to tea!  The Internet is full of ways to put honey and garlic together, but the way I’ve been enjoying most is one I saw on the Instagram page of Dr. Rachel Schwartzman, ND.  Fill a jar 1/3 way with garlic cloves (chop some if they are very big) and then fill the jar with raw honey, right to the top.  Put a lid on it and put it in a dark place for about a month. Strain the garlic out and voila!  An all-natural cough/sore throat remedy that tastes good!

If you do get sick listen to your body and get some rest.  Same goes for sick kiddos.  It may be inconvenient to keep them at home, but they’ll heal faster and you’ll help avoid the spread of germs to others in the process.

Stay healthy!

Learn more about Arja of Balance Body and Soul!
"I'm a holistic nutritionist & mama to a busy kindergartner with a passion for teaching people how to eat to feel good!  I love to help people sleep better, think better, feel sexier, and just generally more balanced by putting the focus on eating foods that make you feel your best.  I use whole foods, lifestyle adjustments, herbs, and some supplements to help people correct imbalances and achieve their health and wellness goals."

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