With cold and flu season being well underway we are constantly being asked how to stay healthy with all the germs being spread around. There are many Naturopathic diet, lifestyle, and supplementation tips that can help you avoid catching that cold or flu. Here are some of my top tips to support your immune system naturally:
- Address Your Gut Health. The gut has a large impact on our overall immune system. Maintaining proper gut health is one of the foundations to ensure you have a strong defense system during cold and flu season. It is key to optimize digestion so that you are absorbing adequate nutrients, calming inflammation, and maintaining the right balance of healthy gut flora (i.e. probiotics). However, treating the gut is different for each individual person. At Spark, we provide comprehensive stool analyses so that we can support your gut and your individual needs. It gives a deeper dive into what’s happening in your microbiome so if you do need a probiotic we can target the exact dose and type that your body needs.
- Quality Sleep. Sleep is another foundation to overall health and especially our immune system. Life gets busy but it is more important than ever to prioritize 7-9 hours of sleep during cold and flu season. Ensuring good quality sleep is also something that I instruct all my patients to pay attention to and this means staying away from blue light before bed. Turn on the blue blocking apps on your phones, TVs, computers or get yourself a pair of blue blocking glasses to put on in the evening so that you get high quality sleep and wake feeling rested.
- Stress Management. Stress can be a trigger for numerous diseases as it can suppress our immune system. When we are under more stress we are utilizing more nutrients, like B vitamins, and our bodies need that extra support. Removing all stress may not always be possible but what we can do is improve our body’s response to stress. Meditation, breathing exercises, IV therapy, vitamin injections, sleep, exercise, and massage are all different ways to incorporate self-care to help your stress response. Choose something that brings you joy and try to incorporate it daily – whether it’s 5 minutes or 60 minutes.
- Optimize Nutrient Status. Nutrient deficiencies can put us at risk for many disease processes and there are a few key nutrients that are crucial in order to support the immune system during cold and flu season. Vitamin D is something that we test for all of our patients because despite living in southern California it is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin D, however, is stored in fat so we always want to test to see where your levels are to recommend the proper vitamin D dosage. We always instruct our patients that it is better to test instead of guess when it comes to supplementing for nutrient deficiencies. At Spark, we can test for individuals nutrient levels that we may suspect or run an larger micronutrient panel to see exactly what you are missing and target your levels appropriately with diet, IV therapy, vitamin injections, supplements, and more.
- Smart Supplementation. There are certain supplements that can help us get through cold and flu season. At Spark we love to use an anti-microbial formula called Bio Vegetarian to support the immune system all season long. It has a combination of botanicals and nutrients that can be used to prevent getting sick as well as when you already are feeling those cold and/or flu symptoms. I often suggest to patients to start taking this prior to getting on a plane when traveling or when you come in contact with others who are sick. The amino acid N-Acetyl Cysteine is another supplement we often use during this time of year because it acts as a mucolytic and helps with congestion. This amino acid is the precursor to our favorite immune supportive antioxidant, glutathione.
- IV Therapy and Vitamin Injections. IVs and vitamin injections are a great way to get high doses of vitamins and minerals that bypass the gastrointestinal system for 100% absorption. Our immune IV is packed full with high doses of vitamin C, B vitamins, electrolytes, and amino acids to help support your immune system and can be used preventatively or when you are feeling sick to reduce the length of a cold. I always recommend to my patients to come in for an Immune Boost before and/or after traveling because our bodies are under more stress and you are coming into contact with more germs when your traveling on planes.
- Anti-Inflammatory Diet. At Spark we often recommend an overall anti-inflammatory diet for our patients to feel their best, but during cold/flu season this becomes even more important. In general, we want to reduce consumption of processed foods, sugar, dairy, gluten, and alcohol to protect the body from unnecessary inflammation. I recommend my patients aim to eat the rainbow to ensure they are getting adequate nutrients and to incorporate bone broth or a collagen protein. Diets rich in colorful fruits and vegetables have been proven to help to support the immune system and prevent disease. Choosing red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple foods increases your chance of getting all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Bone broth and collagen protein are not only nutrient dense but help to support your gut health as well.
- Magic Socks. It may sound uncomfortable, but actually it is so relaxing that kids will often ask for this when they get sick! Soak cotton socks in ice water, wring out quickly, and slip them on your child’s feet. Then, over this, put on dry wool socks (the natural fibers of wool trap heat in much better than cotton). Leave the double socks on for at least 15 minutes, during which time your child’s feet will warm both layers of socks up. You can wrap a blanket over the feet to help warm them faster if they like. The act of warming the socks helps relieve congestion in the head and chest and is very relaxing. It often helps sick kids fall asleep. Do not remove the socks until they have been warmed (rub the feet vigorously to help warming if it takes longer than 15 minutes. You can do this multiple times per day, and keep on overnight.
- Hydration. Water increases your body’s ability to eliminate toxins and perform its important immune functions. Adequate hydration also allows the body to more easily transport nutrients through the blood to the cells that need them most. Sometimes it is challenging to ensure we are getting adequate water intake throughout the day or even if we are drinking plenty of water we are still not feeling hydrated. IV therapy is a great way to boost your hydration during the winter months especially when you are feeling sick and it is challenging to keep up with your fluid intake. Another great way to increase your hydration is by adding electrolytes to your water. Our favorite is Ultima Replenisher because it has a great electrolyte formula without all of the added sugar! Stop by Spark to pick up a bottle and try it today!
- Humidifier – Running a humidifier at night is a great way to keep kids hydrated when they are sick. The extra moisture in the air not only keeps the throat and nasal passages hydrated and soothed, it also increases hydration in the body. This is especially important if there is fluid loss from vomiting or diarrhea, but even with the average cold it can sometimes be hard to get enough fluids in.
For more information about how to keep your body healthy and help prevent yourself and your family from getting sick, please call Spark Health at (858) 228-4188 or send us an email at Spark@MySparkHealth.com .
Spark Health is conveniently located so we can serve patients in San Diego, and all of North County such as Del Mar, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Escondido, San Marcos, and Poway. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals!
` The Spark Team