10 tips to stay healthy this winter, Part 2
This article is a continuation of a previous post. Read Part 1 of this article here
6. Get enough Zinc
Zinc has been shown to reduce the frequency severity of the common cold in humans and possibly shorten its duration, and this is for several reasons:
- Zinc is crucial for normal development and function of cells mediating innate immunity, including neutrophils, natural killer cells, macrophages, T cells and B cells
- Phagocytosis, intracellular killing, and cytokine production (essential biochemical aspects of the immune process) will all be affected negatively by a zinc deficiency
- Zinc helps protect healthy tissues while the bad guys (viruses/bacteria) are being destroyed during an infection
Groups of people that are at a higher risk for zinc deficiency include vegetarians and vegans, endurance athletes, alcoholics, people with gastrointestinal diseases, those who over-consume iron and/or copper supplements, and people taking diuretic medications. If this is you, you may want to make sure that you’re eating lots of zinc-rich foods, which include pumpkin seeds, beef & lamb, chickpeas, cocoa powder, cashews, mushrooms and spinach.
7. Oregano Oil
Oregano oil is derived from the leaves and flowers of the oregano (Origanum vulgare) plant, a hardy, bushy perennial herb, and a member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. The ancient Greeks and Romans have a profound appreciation for oregano, using it for various medicinal uses. Oregano oil has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, which makes it useful in preventing and treating all kinds of infections.
There are over 40 oregano species, but the most therapeutically beneficial is the oil produced from wild oregano that’s native to Mediterranean regions. Beware when purchasing oregano supplements – most of them aren’t made from this variety and therefore have much less medicinal value.
Oregano oil is high in phenols, which are natural phytochemical compounds with beneficial antioxidant effects including Carvacrol. This phenol compound is found to be effective against various infections like candida, staphylococcus, E. coli, campylobacter, salmonella, klebsiella, aspergillus mold, giardia, pseudomonas, and listeria. Nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, manganese, copper, boron, and niacin are also found in oregano oil.
Oregano oil can be taken orally in capsules, as a liquid, and as a dry herb. Additionally, it can be used directly on the skin for fungal rashes and warts (but needs to be diluted), as a mouthwash for oral infections, and in a steam inhalation to help clear the sinuses.
That being said, Oregano Oil, like all herbs, isn’t necessarily for everyone – some people may experience stomach upset when ingesting oregano oil (or even the herb itself). Those who are allergic to plants from the Lamiaceae plant family (mint, lavender, sage, and basil are also in the group) should avoid this oil, as they may also develop an allergic reaction.
8. Avoid Over-the-counter Cold and Flu Medications
You may be surprised to know that over-the-counter (OTC) medication ingredients like acetaminophen, NSAIDs, ibuprofen, dextromethorphan and pseudoephedrine (in products like NyQuill, Tylenol, Sudafed, Advil, etc.) can actually prolong your cough or cold, and increase the likelihood that you will become sick more often. Although these medications might make you feel better, they reduce the ability for your body to fight off the virus that is likely making you sick.
Common illness symptoms like fever, runny nose, fatigue, etc. are all created by the body in attempt to kill the foreign invader – these are signs that the body is fighting an infection. Most people don’t understand that these symptoms are NOT being created by the virus or bacteria itself; but rather, by the body. A higher body temperature (fever), for example, makes it more difficult for viruses and bacteria to survive in the body. A runny nose is a mechanism the body uses to flush out its mucous membranes, a common point of entry for viruses. Fatigue indicates the body’s need to conserve energy to fight the good fight. These symptoms are important to restore our health. OTC medications blunt these efforts by the body, thereby reducing the ability of the immune system to fight and allowing the virus/bacteria to survive and thrive in the body. So just because you feel better after taking an OTC medication doesn’t mean that the infection is gone – you’ve simply shut down your body’s defenses, allowing the invader to grow stronger. This is part of the reason why some people become sick multiple times over the course of a season, and why some people cant seem to get over a cold – they’re taking OTC medications which aren’t allowing the body to effectively create an immune response.
There is also evidence to show that people who take OTC medications while under the weather are much more contagious than those who don’t – firstly, they feel well even though they aren’t and are more likely to g o out I public and infect others. Secondly, fever-reducing drugs can increase a process called viral shedding, which is how viral particles that can spread the flu or a cold get released into the environment to get other people sick. The more viral particles people shed, the more infectious they are.
9. Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep and the circadian system exert a strong regulatory influence on immune functions. Over the last 15 years, research has accumulated surprisingly strong evidence that sleep enhances immune defence, in agreement with the popular wisdom that ‘sleep helps healing’.
Results from studies, many of them comparing the effects of sleep during the normal rest phase with 24 h of continuous waking, support the view that sleep is particularly important for initiating effective adaptive immune responses that eventually produce long-lasting immunological memory. This means that sleep helps the body remember when it sees a virus or bacteria that it has fought off before, making the immune process much faster.
Also, certain disease-fighting substances are created and released while we sleep. Our bodies need these hormones, proteins, and chemicals in order to fight off disease and infection. Sleep deprivation, therefore, decreases the availability of these tools that the immune system needs, leaving us more susceptible to each new virus and bacteria we encounter. This can also cause us to being sick for a longer period of time as our bodies lack the resources to properly fight whatever it is that is making us sick.
Additionally, fevers are higher at night during deep sleep, helping the body to fight more efficiently (see above paragraph on OTC medications).
Its recommended to get at least seven hours of sleep per night for optimal immunity. See my handout on Sleep Hygiene – How to get a better night’s sleep.
10. Make Yourself Dr. Tanya’s Honey-Lemon-Ginger Hot Drink
This lemon-ginger-honey hot drink recipe is wonderful to help boost your immune system if you’ve got a cold of the flu. All three ingredients are known antimicrobials. Additionally:
- Lemons are high in vitamin C, which keeps the immune system strong, neutralizes free radicals in the body, and helps to alkalanize the body (illness thrives in acidic environments, and by changing the terrain to a more alkaline ph, its harder for the virus/bacteria to survive).
- Ginger root supports the body’s sweat response, and helps to move toxins and waste out of the body
- Honey is great for soothing a sore throat, and if its from a source local to where you live, it can help reduce environmental allergies.
And there you have it – 10 tips to stay healthy this winter! By following these tips and tricks, you can reduce your chances of suffering from a cold or the flu this winter and beyond.