Many people are coming down with the cold and flu this season. We are mid-way through winter and there are still more cases, particularly affecting younger people. I often get asked what are some health tips to keep healthy. I want to share nine ways to keep you and your family healthy in the flu and cold season and what to do if you’re already sick.*
1. Make some broth
As you may know, I’m a big fan of bone broth because of its many health benefits. If you missed my post about the benefits of bone broth, here is a link.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can still make a healthy and delicious vegetarian broth. You can use whole vegetables or use some left-over parts of vegetables from other dishes and combine them to make a nutritious vegetable soup stock. In a future post, I will share a recipe for vegetarian broth.
Broth is nutritious to eat all year round and especially during this season. If you’re already sick with a cold or flu, it helps re-hydrate the body with electrolytes and fluids, soothes the stomach, and comforts the body.
To add extra immune-boosting power to your homemade broth, I often add Chinese herbs such as astragalus, dried reishi mushrooms, ginseng, Chinese dates, and goji berries. Some of these herbs can be found at Asian grocery stores. We also have dried herbs already mixed together to add to homemade broth if you want to come and buy some at the clinic.
2. Limit sugar and avoid preservatives in your food.
Excessive intake of sugar weakens the immune system. Eating too much sugar and preservatives in food takes the place of important nutrients the body needs to fight off germs. According to Chinese medicine, you should also limit dairy especially when you are sick. Dairy contributes to what we call “dampness” in Chinese medicine (which means too much wetness or moistness in the body) which can contribute to more mucus and phlegm production – none of which you want when you already have a cold and cough.
3. Eat whole foods according to the season
To protect and boost your immune system, eat whole foods according to the season. Whole foods are foods that are close to their natural form as possible. They are minimally processed and are more nutritious for you. They are foods that you usually find at the periphery of the grocery store in the vegetable and produce sections.
According to Chinese medicine, to maintain an optimum state of health, we should follow the seasons. As the weather changes, our needs for food and activity change. Eating foods that are in season will help your body keep with the rhythm of nature.
We’re in winter and the weather is colder. Include more foods in your cooking that produce heat in the body like garlic and ginger. Foods should be cooked and not raw. Foods that take longer to cook like soups and stews are more warming.
In the winter, energy is stored in the roots of vegetables. We can strengthen our inner yang (the warming energy in our bodies) by including more root vegetables in our cooking, like onions, carrots, parsley, and potatoes. Eat more hardy vegetables, cooked whole grains, beans and legumes. If you eat meat, foods to include this season are beef, lamb, chicken and duck.
Winter is related to water in Chinese medicine. The organs that are related to the water element are kidneys and the bladder. Foods that nourish the kidneys are especially good for this season like walnuts and red adzuki beans.
4. Get enough sleep
Keeping in harmony with the seasons, winter is the time to get more sleep. Our bodies naturally want to sleep a bit earlier and sleep in a little bit more. We must honor our bodies and get enough sleep.
Winter is the most crucial time to nourish and take care of ourselves, so that we can prepare for Spring. We must conserve our energy so that we have plenty of strength and reserve to emerge in Spring. Sleep is important to rest and recharge both our bodies and our minds.
This is especially true for children because they are constantly growing and they need adequate time to rest. It’s also important for adults to have enough sleep to protect against stress and build our immune systems.
5. Gently move your body
One of my favorite things to teach and recommend to patients is Tai Chi and Qi Gong. The gentle movements of Tai Chi and Qi Gong are in harmony with winter. Winter calls for less vigorous exercise and more gentle exercises. It’s a time of looking deep inside ourselves, of reflection and meditation.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong are ancient Chinese practices that integrate conscious slow movements, meditation, and breathing. It’s a gentle, low-impact moving meditation that can help your posture, circulation, and balance. It improves mental and physical health, relieves stress, promotes well-being, and longevity.
6. Diffuse essential oils
Especially if someone in your house is sick, you can diffuse essential oils that can help prevent the spread of germs. My favorite is Microbe X from Snow Lotus. We keep a stock of them at the clinic. I use it often at the clinic and at home especially during the cold and flu season. It’s an antiseptic and disinfectant essential oil blend. It helps purify the air and prevent the spread of illness. It can also be made into a diluted solution to clean surfaces. It is a non-toxic way to keep your environment clean.
7. Get cupped
Cupping therapy is part of East Asian Medicine where special cups, made of either glass or plastic, are placed on the skin to create a vacuum or suction. It promotes energy and blood circulation. Most people may be familiar with cupping to relieve aches and pains. Cupping is also good to alleviate the symptoms of a cold and help relieve chest congestion and wheezing.
8. Get acupuncture
Acupuncture is a method of treatment in Chinese Medicine that has been practiced in China and the Far East for thousands of years. Acupuncture works by stimulating your body’s natural healing response to prevent disease, restore and maintain health.
Coming in for wellness acupuncture treatments before and during the cold and flu season can help the whole family boost their immune system. This is especially good for kids in school where they are exposed to a lot of germs. Make sure to go to a licensed acupuncturist to get treatments. If you go to an acupuncturist who is a pediatric specialist, acupuncture for kids is gentle and safe. In my clinic, I utilize needle and non-needle techniques to treat kids.
9. Chinese herbal medicine
Prescribed by a trained practitioner, herbal medicine is very effective, gentle and safe for adults and children. Taking Chinese herbal medicine at the first sign of a cold can help boost the immune system and help the body fight against sickness. It can even reduce the severity and length of sickness.
Chinese medicine has a long and rich history of herbal remedies for colds and flus, some classic formulas dating back more than 500 years, which means it’s got a long track record of effectiveness. A lot of these classic formulas are still used by practitioners today to effectively treat cold, cough, sore throat, chills, fever, and other flu like symptoms.
An example of an ancient Chinese herbal formula to help boost immunity is Jade Windscreen Powder. It is one I commonly use at home and at the clinic. As the name implies, the formula’s function is to guard the body from pathogens. Especially for people prone to frequent colds, this is a good formula to strengthen the body’s ability to protect itself from sickness.
Another formula I like to use is Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder. At the early stage of cold with sore throat, it can alleviate symptoms and prevent it from getting worse. Many herbs in this formula have antiviral and antibacterial properties. It supports a healthy respiratory system.
Herbal formulas modified for children are also good at helping prevent and fight off colds and flus. I have two young children of my own. When my eldest gets a cold from school, my little one often gets it too. To support their respiratory health, I give them Chinese herbal medicine to shorten the duration and severity of the sickness.
For a proper diagnosis and dosage, you should consult a licensed Chinese herbalist so they can prescribe and modify these formulas to treat your specific symptoms.
There you have it, nine ways to stay healthy through the cold and flu season.
If you found this article useful, pass it along to someone you think can benefit from it.
I would love to hear from you, email us. Let me know what are some of the ways that you stay healthy during this season.
*Disclaimer: This article does not provide nursing or medical advise but is for informational purposes only. It does not replace seeing a licensed health professional for your particular health condition.