Fall is here, yet despite the beautiful weather, it’s that time of year again when most parents are thinking about how to prevent the cycle of colds that can run through the household.
Small children in particular have immature immune systems and therefore run the risk of becoming ill each time they are exposed to new microbes. It can be quite challenging for families to manage the cycle of infection; just as one child gets better the next one is sick. While this can be good exercise for the child’s immune system, it can be tough on moms and dads. This cycle is the reason it is so important to prevent the spread of colds and flus, by supporting the caregivers who are essential to the recovery process. If mom and dad are happy and healthy their children will be happy and healthy as well.
From a Naturopathic perspective your immune system represents a complex relationship between you and the outside world. Optimal immune function is dependant on our overall health, and is 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
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.
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 help to keep our enzymes functioning optimally by promoting ideal body temperature regulation.
- Warm vegetable broth or chicken soup keeps us warm and nourished because of the minerals dissolved in and easily absorbed from the broth.
- Foods rich in zinc and selenium give our immune system the building blocks it needs to function well. Keep in mind that on average, whole grains contain 15 times more zinc than their processed counter parts!
- Zinc can be found in foods such as oysters, beef, turkey, wheat-germ, swiss chard, lima beans, oats, mustard greens, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, kidney beans, ginger root, leeks, lentils.
- Selenium levels will vary depending on the quality of soil that plants come from but can be found in 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 of 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.
Germs are ever present and will always evolve, and 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 by building resilience and the immune health to ensure a speedy recovery.