With cold and flu season upon us it’s a good time to start boosting your immune system to prevent infections and to know what natural remedies you can keep in your medicine cabinet to speed recovery time if you do get sick.
But first lets talk about the flu shot because I’m often asked about this. I don't get a flu shot nor do I typically recommend them unless someone is immune compromised. The flu virus mutates very rapidly so the vaccine changes every year based on which strain researchers believe will be most prevalent that year. Because it's a guess it's not always accurate (the statistic ranges from 25-70% efficacy). Another con is many people fill sick from the vaccine. Even if the flu vaccine is accurate this year it only protects from the flu virus not all colds. As an alternative I recommend following the guidelines below to not only prevent the flu but other viruses that cause colds.
Foods that support the immune system:
Raw fermented vegetables, these must be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery stores, not on the shelf: sauerkraut, kimchi, beets, carrots, etc. 1-2 forkfulls every day
Cultured dairy: kefir, greek yogurt, etc. If you are dairy intolerant look for dairy free kefir and yogurt
Supplement: UltraFlora Immune Booster *If you’re a patient you can get this on FullScript for a discounted rate.
Bone broth: You can make it yourself (recipe here) or buy premade at whole foods (Epic Brand is great), online, a local butcher or your farmers market. Get creative with it’s use, I sauté vegetables in bone broth, add it to soups and even drink it on it’s own.
Maitake, shitake and reishi: mushrooms are excellent for the immune system. Reishi isn’t commonly found in grocery stores but you can find maitake, shitake and other mushrooms at your local grocery store or farmers market. Make an effort to eat mushrooms at least 3 x per week. They are best cooked in fat (grass fed butter, coconut, avocado or olive oil) to activate the medicinal polysaccharides. If you have kids and they don’t like mushrooms you can buy dried ones and grind them up and sprinkle them in their food.
Supplement: M/R/S take 2 during cold and flu season
Ginger: you can make a tea or cook with the root.
Turmeric: you can really add turmeric to anything. I add it to my spaghetti sauce, tacos, soups, meat/fish and sprinkle on veggies.
Garlic and onion: cooked and raw
Vegetables: veggies are where we get a lot of our antioxidants and vitamins/minerals. Make an effort to eat at least 5 cups per day. Eat a variety of different colors such as carrots, bell peppers, purple cabbage, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, etc.
Foods to avoid:
Sugar! Sugar suppresses the immune system for hours after consuming it. Read packaged food labels carefully and look for sugar as an added ingredient.
Food allergies or intolerances: If you’re regularly eating food your body reacts to as it would a pathogenic organism, it can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infection. If you haven’t been tested for food allergies or intolerances make an appointment with myself or your functional medicine doctor.
Sleep: Make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep deprivation is a quick way to lower your immune defenses.
Stress management: Like sleep, if you’re stress levels are high (holidays, family, year end deadlines- ah) your immune system is weakened. Remember to engage in your self care even during periods of high stress.
Hand Washing: This is common knowledge but a reminder can be helpful.
Vitamin D: ask you doctor to check your vitamin D levels and read them carefully. Although “normal” reference range is 30-100, optimal vitamin D is 50-80. If you’re deficient I recommend taking 5,000 IU per day with food and recheck in 2-3 months. If you aren’t deficient you can safely take 1,000 IU per day with food to keep your immune system supported.
What to do if you get sick:
Keep these natural medicines on hand to start at first onset of symptoms:
*if you’re a patient you can order these from fullscript or pick the up at the clinic
Silvercillin: 1 tsp 3 x per day for no more than 1 week. For prevention take 1 tsp per day
Elderberry Syrup: 1 tsp twice per day. For prevention take 1 tsp per day
Rapid response: take 2 capsules every 2 hours
Oil of oregano: Take 1 capsule every 2 hours
Hydrotherapy sock treatment: Start this right before going to bed. Take a pair of thin cotton socks and soak them completely with water. Be sure to wring the socks out thoroughly so they do not drip and place in freezer. Warm yourself first by taking a bath (or at least a foot bath) as hot as you can stand it to bring up your core body temperature, stay in bath for approximately 15 minutes. Dry off feet and body with a dry towel. Place frozen socks on feet. Cover with thick wool socks. Go directly to bed and under the covers. Avoid getting chilled. The socks are only cold for a minute or two. Keep the socks on overnight. You will find that the wet cotton socks will be warm and dry in the morning. The magic sock treatment is best if repeated for three nights in a row.
Avoid dairy, it increases mucus production
Come in for a nutritional IV to improve recovery time