Preparing for the Flu Season
Winter is the dreaded cold and flu season.
There always seems to be something ‘going around’ that we are trying not to succumb too. In an attempt to avoid those dreaded symptoms of body aches, a sore throat, runny nose, mucous congestion and fatigue, we need to be proactive with our health and give our body and immune system a little extra care.
There are many easy things we can start to incorporate into our daily routine to fight off those lurking bugs, and gently strengthen our natural defence.
We’ve put together a list of the ‘Top 5 wellness tips on how to avoid falling ill this winter’.
1. Herbs and Spices
Spices are little bundles of medicine. Most spices contain more antioxidants that fruit and vegetables and are rich in concentrated vitamins and minerals.
Spices like ginger, turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, clove, cayenne pepper, cumin are easy to incorporate daily into most meals. Try cinnamon in your porridge, season meats or spice up stir-fries with them.
Culinary and garden herbs are also packed full of phyto-chemicals (plant chemicals) that have antiviral, antimicrobial and immune boosting actions. Add herbs such as mint, basil, thyme, sage, and rosemary to pasta, stews, soups, or casseroles.
Garlic is considered Natures antibiotic. Raw garlic contains powerful sulphur-based antiviral and antibacterial compounds that can strengthen your immune system. Add it liberally to meals this time of year, especially if you feel like you are starting to come down with something.
2. Have a Cuppa
Sipping on herbal teas throughout the day is a simple and delicious way of including healing properties into your daily routine.
Herbs such as Echinacea, Siberian Ginseng, Lemon balm, Dandelion Root, Chamomile, Thyme, Licorice root, Astragalus, Elderberry and Ginger decrease your risk of catching the pesky cold by building up your immune system. These natural herbs also take the edge off if the virus does strike.
Even sipping on fresh lemon in warm water is a quick way to get a good dose of Vitamin C.
3. Use Food as Medicine
According to Ayurveda, winter is the season of the Vata and Kapha Dosha. To keep these dohas in check, we need to favour a warm, nourishing diet to pacify Vata without aggravating Kapha.
Eat more foods that are sweet, sour, salty/heavy, oily, moist, and warm. And eat less foods that are bitter, astringent/light, cold, dry. We’re designed to eat more in winter, adding a few pounds without guilt! However, it must be the right types of foods to nurture whilst minimising congestion.
From an Ayurvedic standpoint immunity-boosting foods include those that are fresh, organic, easy to digest, pure and wholesome. These include fresh organic vegetables, fruits, whole grains, culinary herbs and spices, warm organic dairy, healthy oils and lean meats, tailored to your individual dosha makeup (Prakruti).
- Basmati rice, barley, rye, quinoa, millet, healthy oils (ghee, coconut, linseed, avocado, hemp, olive), and seasonal root vegetables.
- Meals such as such as soups, stews, steamed veggies, warm herbal teas are best.
- Ensure a warm breakfast – porridge is excellent, drizzled with maple syrup and made with hot unhomogenised organic milk (or milk substitute) and warming spices (such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom).
- Non-seasonal food, salads, smoothies, cold foods and beverages, crackers and raw food in general.
- Foods that decrease immunity are processed foods, canned, frozen, and packaged foods, leftovers, foods grown with chemicals, and foods laced with preservatives.
- Avoid dairy in late winter and especially if suffering a cold, or you are prone to allergies and asthma.
4. Protect your Sinuses
Most colds enter the body through the nose’s mucous membranes. In cold weather the mucous membrane is especially sensitive. Protect the nasal membranes with nasal oil drops (Nasya), and nasal irrigating.
A Neti pot is a traditional Indian spouted vessel used to rinse the sinus passages with warm salty water. This helps to clear the area of excess mucus, environmental toxins and viruses which keeps immunity strong.
Nasya or nasal drops help to tone, strengthen and protect the mucous membranes in our nasal cavities – which is our first line of defence. To use, first thing in the morning or after a shower, place 2 drops of nasya oil, or black sesame oil, into each nostril and massage the sinus cavities. This is a wonderful remedy for those who suffer spring allergies.
Regular Steam inhalations can also be used to keep the area clear. Use pure essential oils of camphor, mint, and eucalyptus.
A lot of recent research shows the benefits of exercise and increased immune function. The more physically fit and active you are, the less likely you are to suffer colds in the winter months.
That’s the conclusion of US researchers from the Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina who published their results online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
They studied about 1000 adults and found those who exercised the most were least likely to suffer from colds in the winter months.
One theory for this is that increasing your heart rate speeds up the circulation of white blood cells, making it more likely they will seek and destroy germs early on.
Yoga is a gentle and easy way to activate your immune system. Heart opening Yoga poses such as Cobra, Fish pose and Bridge pose stimulate blood flow to the thymus, an organ nestled behind the breastbone that is instrumental in the growth of T-cells, the immune system’s frontline.
Start to incorporate these Yoga poses into your daily routine. A simple 5 minutes of slow stretching combined with 20 minutes of light cardio (walking, swimming, or jogging) daily, is enough for these immune boosting benefits.
Article Written By Tegan Wallis, Holistic Health Practitioner