Please note that www.newpinehealth.com does not intend to dispense medical advice. Take all health claims and suggestions at your own risk, and never substitute information found on this blog for medical advice. The suggestions given below are directed towards those who are generally in good health. You can find my full disclaimer [here].
It seems like no matter the time of year there is always some bug going around. Colds, flus, and infections are floating around all over the place and are super easy to catch. I personally never get a flu shot (mostly because I’m lazy, but also because I’m unsure of their effectiveness...but let’s not start a vaccine debate here!), am embarrassingly careless with hand washing (after every bathroom trip is enough, right?), and am not the world’s best sleeper by any means. Yet I never seem to catch whatever is going around, and on the rare occasion that I do, symptoms only last about a day.
Below are some suggestions to consider if you’d like to prevent illness and protect yourself from getting sick, and I’ve included a sample few days of meal planning to show how these suggestions might all fit together daily. As always, be sure to consult your doctor before making any big changes or including any new supplements into your health regime.
Nutrition is huge when it comes to immune system support; keep reading to see what foods to include and to view the immune system supporting meal plan.
Sleep: Most people are not getting anywhere near the recommended 7-9 hours of nightly sleep. If you’re one of the lucky ones that thrives on less than this, yay for you, and I’m jealous. I personally do best on about 9 hours, which NEVER happens. I’m guilty of not having the best sleep hygiene on most nights. Sleep is wildly important for your body’s ability to rest, recover, and fight off any ailments. A few tips for improving sleep quality include powering off electronics at least an hour before bedtime, ensuring your sleeping space is quiet, cool, and dark, and avoiding vigorous activity in the hour or so before bed.
Exercise: Appropriate exercise can improve circulation, lower inflammation in the body, help to regulate hormone production, and lower stress. Bonus points if you’re able to exercise outside in the fresh air. 30 minutes daily of moderate activity is enough for general health; walking, hiking, jogging, biking, and swimming are all great options.
Stress reduction: Stress really does wreak havoc on the body, weakening our immune system and opening the door for sickness to sink in. There are many coping strategies available to help reduce stress, and different things will work for different people. Yoga, meditation, exercise, religious or spiritual practice, hobbies (music, art, etc), and socializing are all great options. To read more about the ways that stress affects the body I totally recommend checking out "When The Body Says No" by Gabor Mate.
My belief is that we get the most out of food when it is as close to its natural state as possible. In most cases, choosing raw foods will ensure that you are getting the most out of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients available. Including raw ferments (we’ll talk about this more below, and check out [this post]) is fabulous for gut health, which is essential for disease fighting. Paying attention to our acid-alkaline balance can help create an environment where diseases either thrive or wither, and helps to keep inflammation in the body at bay. Including medicinal foods such as raw garlic, certain herbs, or raw honey (if you are not vegan) can be a great addition to any meal plan.
I’m a big fan of smaller meals more often and including liquid nutrition like smoothies and soups that are easy on digestion. If you practice intermittent fasting, adjust meal times to suit your needs. There is a ton of literature on both sides of the fasting debate; I personally would never recommend a full water fast, and believe that your body absolutely requires a steady influx of nutrients to prevent and fight illness.
Sample Meal Plan
I've shown 3 very different days; choose examples that fit your lifestyle, cooking abilities, budget, and comfort level.
Include lemon water or water with a splash of apple cider vinegar throughout the day. Green juices are great to sip throughout the day as well and could replace AM or PM snack. Golden milk is a lovely, soothing drink that’s great before bed; try not to drink more than a cup or so to avoid middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks.
Find my favourite Golden Milk recipe [here]
While I’m a big advocate for food>pills, some supplements can be appropriate when coming down with a cold, or for prevention if you know there’s a bug going around. Check with your doctor before starting any new supplement, especially if you are taking medication as some herbal or nutritional supplements may interact.
Probiotics: if ferments aren’t your thing, a probiotic supplement can be taken. Look for one that says “live cultures”, and that is kept refrigerated. Probiotics (and ferments) should be incorporated slowly into the diet to avoid digestive upset.
Zinc: taken at the first sign of a cold. Available in pills or lozenges (I use the lozenges if I feel a sore throat coming on)
Ginger capsules: have been said to be an effective pain reliever, sometimes used for headaches
Vitamin D, B-complex, and Vitamin C: check specific supplements for dosage instructions. Megadoses of vitamin C may cause digestive upset.
Elderberry syrup: preventative and remedial for colds and flus. May help lower fevers.
Echinacea: jury is still out on the effectiveness of echinacea, but some people swear by its cold prevention abilities. Some great info can be found [here]
Phew! That was a ton of information. If I had to wrap it up into a sentence I’d go with “keep your diet simple, stay hydrated, reduce stress, and rest”. Some sicknesses are unavoidable, but by taking some of the steps listed above into consideration you should be able to avoid many bugs, or at least shorten the duration of the illness.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to email me via my [contact] page.
Until next time,