Cold and Flu Prevention – It’s a Family Affair!

January 14, 2013

63/365 - Full blown fluBy Dr. Erin Wiley

Winter has set in and this year’s cold and flu season seems stronger than ever! This influx has prompted many parents to think about how to prevent the cycle of colds  that can run through the household.

Small children do not have a fully developed immune system, therefore it is quite common for them to become ill 6-7 times a year as they are exposed to new microbes. It can be quite challenging for families to manage the cycle of infection, just when one child gets better the next is sick, and while this can be good exercise for the child’s immune system, it can be tough on moms and dads. That is why it is not only important to try to prevent the spread of colds and flus, but to support the caregivers who are essential to the recovery process. If mom and dad are happy and healthy their children will be happy and healthy.

Optimal immune function is dependant on our overall health, and significantly impacted by our stress levels. Naturopathic philosophy focuses on more than just killing germs; it additionally respects and supports the ecology of your entire immune system. From this perspective you and your Naturopathic Doctor can develop an individualized plan to help support your unique needs and manage your susceptibility to illness.

Here are some tips that can really help keep the family healthy this season:

Hygiene: Prevent the spread of Germs

  • Use a tissue or your elbow to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Keep your home and office clean using toxin free cleaning products

Toxin Caution: Many antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers contain Triclosan a synthetic agent implicated in many negative health effects including a weakening of the immune system and disrupting endocrine (hormonal) balance. It has also been shown to bio-accumulate in the body and belongs to a class of chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer in humans. No data has demonstrated that antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer provide additional benefits to regular soap and water.

Toxin free sanitizing products include: glycerin soap and water, vinegar, baking soda, tea tree oil, and lemon juice.

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Foods – Immune Supporting Foods include:

  • Ginger is a warming herb with anti-inflammatory properties
  • Garlic is a powerful antimicrobial that keep germs at bay
  • Warming spices like cayenne, tumeric, and cinnamon keep our enzymes functioning optimally by promoting optimal body temperature.
  • Warm Vegetable broth or chicken soup keep us warm and nourished by the minerals dissolved and easily absorbed in the broth.
  • Foods rich in zinc and selenium give our immune system the building blocks it needs to function well.

?   Zinc 30-50mg/day: oysters, beef, turkey, wheat-germ, swiss chard, lima beans, Oats, mustard greens, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, kidney beans, ginger root, leeks, lentils. Note: On average whole grains contain 15 times more zinc than their processed counter parts!

?  Selenium 200-300mcg/day: Brazil nuts, fish, scallops, clams, oats, orange juice, oysters, wheat germ, molasses, sunflower seeds, granola, beef, brown rice, turnips, chicken, egg, asparagus. Note: selenium quantities vary in foods depending on the levels in the soil.

Stress: Suppress your immune system!

There is a well known relationship between stress and immune suppression. Stop and consider whether your lifestyle is supportive to your physical, mental, and emotional needs. Practice stress-relieving activities daily like deep breathing and yoga, get plenty of exercise and rest. Plan back up childcare and get the rest you need.

  • Exercise: At least 30 min of cardiovascular activity 3 times a week
  • Sleep: 8 hours per night

Need something stronger!

Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor. When prescribed properly, high quality supplements and botanical medicines can go along way to treat and prevent the common cold and flu.

Germs are ever present and will always evolve, but the strength of your immune system will predict whether or not you get sick at all and how long you may be feeling under the weather. If you are feeling stressed, worn out or run down talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about immune support and treatment options before the season truly starts. Improve your health and decrease your chances of catching the common cold and build resilience and a speedy recovery if you do.

Dr. Erin Wiley is a Naturopathic Doctor, Clinic Director and Co-Founder of the Integrative Health Institute. Dr. Wiley has a special interest in digestive health, endocrinology and hormone balance with a clinical focus on fertility, menopause, anxiety, depression, healthy weight loss, detoxification and environmental medicine. Dr. Wiley practices downtown Toronto at the corner of King and Sherbourne St.

image via nataliej via Compfight

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