August and September mark the beginning of a new school year. As parents, we brace ourselves for more than just the new routine. We know that with school also comes those dreaded germs. And if your like me, your not afraid of germs, but you don't relish the thought of that cough and runny nose either. Plus, "flu-season" is just around the corner.
Speaking of flu-season, have you noticed that flu-season tends to go right along with "candy season?" You know, that time from Halloween to Easter when candy and sweets seem to be in abundance. Course, if you have school-aged kids, it may actually start earlier with all those birthday parties! Let's face it, it seems to be harder during the holidays to always eat nutritious foods when those yummy homemade goodies are shared with you. And who is going to turn that down, right?!
To successfully fight back during cold and flu season, your battle plan should include a healthy diet, plenty of water, sleep and exercise, sunshine, with some natural remedies and supplements sprinkled in. Did you know that about 80% of our immune system is found in the gut? This is why our diet is so important in the health of our family, especially during times of stress (this is anything from a hectic pace with little sleep to eating processed food.) When we are stressed, our gut is also impacted.
A variety of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables should be front and center of your battle plan. Followed by whole grains and meat or other protein sources. Refined grains (white bread, flour, pasta) are quickly converted to sugar during digestion and should be limited along with sweets.
Adequate hydration from plain, clean water also helps the body function well. Plain water doesn't have to be broken down before it used, and is the only beverage that actually exchanges nutrients for waste in the cells. It seems most kids and adults have traded water in for soft drinks, energy drinks, colored sports drinks, or sweet tea. I commonly hear that any liquids will hydrate. I have even come across websites stating this. But not all liquids are created equal. You don't water your plants with coke or sweet tea and expect them to grow and flourish, do you? That sounds so unreasonable, right? And we all know that animals and plants need WATER to grow and flourish. So why do we think we are any different?
Next time you grab a coke, check out the nutrition label. A 12oz Coca-Cola contains about 39 grams of sugar. With about 4 grams of sugar in 1 tsp, that's almost 10 tsp of sugar in one drink! So why am I pointing this out? When we consume just 10 tsp (40 grams) of sugar, our immune system function drops by up to 50% for about 2 hours! Since most kids drink way more than 1 coke a day, can you see how challenged the immune system is even before adding in the extra sweets and refined simple carbs? I challenge you to read labels on everything you or your child consume for a day and see how much sugar is consumed by the end of the day.
Sleep, exercise, and good ole sunshine also begin be in short supply during this time of year. In other parts of the country, outdoor activities tend to be exchanged for indoor activities due to inclement weather. This is just the opposite in Florida and many parts of the south. Here, fall is a time for airing out the house and enjoying the break from the intense summer heat. However with days getting shorter, our sun exposure is often less, which in turn limits the amount of natural vitamin D we absorb from the sun. Vitamin D plays an important role in our health. Not only is it important for strong bones, It also impacts our immune system and how much inflammation may be present in our body. Studies are showing that vitamin D may even protect against colds and flu.
With school and extra activities, the amount of quality sleep is often compromised. When we sleep, our body is busy cleaning house and performing necessary maintenance and repairs. Similar to the regular maintenance and cleaning that is performed on our computers and other electronics to keep them working properly. Without proper nutrition and hydration, our bodies don't have the essential tools to perform necessary tasks, including sleep. And when you mix together a poor diet, inadequate hydration, and poor sleep, every part of your body begins to suffer. This is why no matter your age or the age of your kids, its important to set up and maintain a regular bedtime routine as best you can. When we loose sleep, our body's ability to maintain and repair itself is greatly affected. This in turn adds stress to our body which will affect the immune system.
Physical activity is also important to staying healthy. The lymphatic system helps move toxins from your body. Since it doesn't have a pump and only one way valves, the best way to move lymph fluid is through exercise, especially up and down movements. Without movement, lymph fluid gets stagnant which in turn creates a perfect environment for bacterial growth. Have you ever seen a green pond?
Several years ago, I would dread the first month of school because of the illness that went along with it. And if my kids somehow escaped the sore throat or cough, I did not. I would reach for the over-the-counter cold medicine until it went away or we made a trip to the doctor. Then, when we learned my oldest had an intolerance to corn, I sought other options since (corn is found in many OTC and prescription medicines. That's when I was introduced to the world of essential oils. I felt they were a safe alternative to the over the counter options I had been using. Plus they seemed to actually boost the immune system while killing germs. Over the years, I have added Health Max 10 (a nano-silver solution which I commonly refer to as colloidal silver), colostrum, olive leaf extract, elderberry, vitamin D, and some incredible homeopathics. This year, I have also added oil of oregano. And let's forget about vitamin C, fresh garlic, raw honey and fresh lemon juice.
My main focus is to help the immune system do its job rather than just managing the symptoms. So now, my medicine cabinet looks a bit different than it used to. I have my "arsenals" that I keep on hand as my initial "go-to's" if one of us is coming down with something.
What are your favorite "go-to's"? What have you found to be effective immune-boosting products, remedies, or routines for your family?