There are many simple things we can do to boost our chances of avoiding illnesses during the back-to-school cold and flu seasons. Here are a few:
STEP #1: AVOID SPREAD
Like Mom Always Said: “Wash your hands”
I recommend washing hands well with soap and water, and drying with a clean towel (because drying with a dirty towel defeats the purpose!). If soap and water are not easily available, hand sanitizer is a reasonable option, although I don’t recommend eating after apply hand sanitizer. Oral transfer of alcohol and or alcohol-based impurities can occur and is not a healthy practice. Here is a fairly recent review of the toxicology of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. As you may suspect, I am not a fan of the practice of slathering on hand sanitizer on the way into the cafeteria. (Especially for school children, who then end up basically licking hand sanitizer off their hands at lunch).
Cough Hygiene and Staying Home
Cough hygiene can help contain spread to others. I think we’ve all learned how to avoid coughing on others. Also, the simple practice of staying home if sick can also help contain spread.
YOUR AWESOME IMMUNE SYSTEM
God gave us an amazing immune system, and there are several things we can do to help it function most effectively.
Food as Fuel
Good proteins like meats, chicken, fish, eggs, as well as eating colorful fruits and vegetables can go a long way in supporting your immune system. Avoiding too much sugar and simple carbs like bread and cookies can also help your immune system function better. Here is an immune-boosting juice recipe that you can make at home
PINEAPPLE SPICE JUICE
(Adapted from Dave Sommers, True Health and Healing)
- Juice of 3 lemons
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon organic turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon organic ginger powder
- 1/8 teaspoon organic cayenne pepper
- 1 and 1/2 cups organic pineapple juice
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
Blend in a blender or shake in a jar. Drink 1/2 cup a day during flu season or three times/day if you feel you are starting to get sick.
Remember hearing that your grandma would make chicken noodle soup for colds? Part of the secret to that is in the bone broth. Drinking bone broth has health benefits for your gastrointestinal system, which can then help your body fend off illness.
The gut microbiome has a huge role to play in immune system function. Eating foods that contain natural probiotics (such as yogurts, kefir, kimchi, or other fermented foods) can be very important in maintaining a supportive microbiome. More and more research is showing that gut health is foundational for our overall system health.
Garlic and Oregano
Both garlic and oregano have proven immune boosting effects, and may be one of grandma’s secret chicken noodle soup ingredients. They are not a bad idea to add to foods, especially if you feel a cold coming on.
Optimal Sleep and Lowering Stress
Getting enough sleep and avoiding excess chronic stress are key to helping your immune system function at its best. You can read more about sleep and the immune system here.
Some vitamins are truly superheroes for your body. In particular, maintaining a healthy vitamin D level is key for your immune system. I recommend that my patients aim for a level of between 50 and 70 mg/dl. If sick, higher doses of Vitamin C, zinc and omega-3s (like in fish oil) can be helpful in revving up your immune system function. Of note, I generally recommend against daily zinc supplements unless you have a documented zinc deficiency you are treating. Zinc and copper need to be balanced in your body and if you obtain too much zinc without balancing the right amount of copper, you can cause problems.
Elderberry syrup is a powerhouse of polyphenols and antioxidants and has shown some benefits in immune system boosting. Here is a good and fairly recent review of elderberry syrup in viral respiratory infections, which is supportive of its use overall. Bonus: it tastes good!
Get up and move!
Exercise has tremendous benefits for your immune system! It moves lymphatic fluid, and generally boosts your entire system. High intensity exercise for short periods of time are generally helpful, although running 26-100 miles has been shown to have a short term detrimental effect on immune system health (some of us, myself included, don’t need to worry about this though!). Going for walk is always a good idea. Just the practice of getting outside, soaking in a little sunshine and breathing some fresh air, can go a long way toward improving not only your mood, but also your immune system function.
Osteopathic Manipulation Techniques
I like to recommend lymphatic drainage and pump techniques for my patients, as these can help with fluid movement and immune system function. Generally these are simple and easy to do at home.
What About Masks?
Should you wear a mask? I frequently wear a mask in patient sick visits simply because I am going to be looking directly into that persons nose and mouth (and if I had a nickel for every time I have been covered with “spray” after asking someone to “say ahhh”…). However, in general, most people are not at risk of droplet spray, and masks are not shown to mitigate risk as much as we were recently told. A recent Cochrane review showed no reduction in respiratory infections with masking. In addition, there are studies demonstrating increased CO2 levels and toxin exposures with prolonged masking.
These are just a few ways to take care of your immune system, so it can take care of you. In general, what you eat and how you take care of yourself are key to staying your healthiest.
If you have any questions about taking the best care of yourself during the back-to-school season, you are welcome to contact Dr. Koski’s office.