Winter hasn't even officially begun and I'm already treating more coughs, stuffy noses, and scratchy throats! Boost your immune system this season, and stay ahead of the school/workplace germs that always seem to strike at the most inopportune times. Natural medicine has so much to offer to help us support our immune system.
1) Wash Your Hands. I know it is common knowledge, but no immune support works quite as well as reducing exposure. Wash up thoroughly before eating, after using the restroom, and as soon as you get home in the evening. This applies to kids too!
2) Vitamin D3. As we get less and less sun exposure your vitamin D3 intake needs to increase. Most of my patients need 5,000 IU daily year-round to have optimal levels in their blood. After you have been taking vitamin D3 for a few months, it is important to have your blood levels tested. The normal range is 30-100 ng/mL, however optimum is 60-80. More isn't always better, as too much vitamin D3 can cause build up of calcium in our blood.
3) Sambucus (elderberry). Elderberry has a long history of use in herbal medicine as an anti-microbial and immune stimulant. It not only lowers your chances of contracting a virus, but can reduce the duration of symptoms if you become sick. Capsules or an elderberry syrup both work great. Bonus- the syrup is delicious and easy to get children to take!
4) Ashwagandha. While not a classic immune herb, I often use ashwagandha as a preventative supplement during the cold and flu season. Ashwagandha is a traditional Ayurvedic herb that has many benefits medicinally, including lowering cortisol and balancing our stress response. Cortisol suppresses our immune systems, so ashwagandha can restore our bodies' natural abilities to fight off infection. It also has a role in autoimmune disease and allergies, supporting a more appropriate immune response.
5) Limit Sugar Intake. Our immune response is suppressed for hours after we consume sugar. So keep it to a minimum! Desserts should be a treat, not a daily necessity. Naturally occurring sugars in fresh and frozen fruit are always a good option for a treat that won't negatively impact your immune system.
6) Thyme. One of my go-to anti-virals, my favorite way to deliver thyme is as a steam inhalation. I add a drop or two of the essential oil to my kid's baths during cold season. If you are already sick thyme steam inhalation does wonders to clear sinus congestion and shorten duration of symptoms. If you don't like taking baths, place a few drops of thyme oil in a bowl of hot water, then cover the bowl and your head with a towel (make sure to close your eyes!). Breathe in the steam through your nose for a few minutes, taking breaks as needed.
If you find that you seem to be contracting every virus and cold that comes your way, or if your symptoms just won't resolve, come into the office for an individualized assessment and we will create a plan to help you feel your best!