Wishes for Winter Wellness

For most of us, the typical week can be pretty hectic. From busy work schedules, school and sports activities for those with kids, spending time with family and friends not to mention making time to exercise and eat well, life can seem like one long to-do list. With these busy schedules, catching a cold or even worse, the flu, can really throw us off track and be a real setback. There is a lot we can do to preserve our health and maintain those on-the-go lifestyles. It is important to give ourselves the time we need to slow down and treat our bodies right, to get the proper nutrition and rest we need. By eating a wide array of anti-oxidant rich foods and boosting our resistance with a few Super-hero herbs and getting the rest and relaxation we need, we can make it through cold and flu season healthy.

 

Sleep is a big deal for me. Any time I have gotten sick I know the root cause is inadequate sleep. It happens easily enough, a night or two of restless sleep or I’m ripping myself off on the amount of sleep I’m getting. Throw in some overwhelming stress and some poor food choices and it amounts to a recipe for illness. Getting adequate sleep is vital to a properly functioning immune system. If you get less than 6 hours of sleep a night you are going to be more at risk for contracting the flu. Personally, I’d rather make the time now to sleep than lay in bed for days miserable with the flu!

 

Stress reduction enhances immune function. When we experience stress, our bodies increase our output of neuroendocrine hormones which have detrimental effects on immune function. When this happens there is a reduction in the production of antibodies and the activity of NK (natural killer) cells. Not only does this make us susceptible to colds and flu, but it delays wound healing and impaired responses to vaccinations.

 

Eating well is one of the main ingredients in preventing illness and there are certain foods that go a long way in maintaining good health. Vitamins and minerals required for a fully functioning immune system include zinc, vitamin A and C and selenium. Zinc helps the body produce white blood cells and encourages healing. Good food choices would be red kidney beans, green peas and dark meat chicken. Vitamin C also helps the body produce white blood cells and defends against pathogens and microorganisms. Food choices include citrus fruits, broccoli and red pepper. Selenium offers antioxidant activity and food choices include brazil nuts and lean meats like turkey and chicken. Vitamin A acts as a barrier against harmful bacteria and helps defend against free radicals that can damage cells and weaken the immune system. Eating foods rich in beta-carotene such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and cantaloupe is a great way to get that extra vitamin A.

 

Sugar can be devastating to your immune system because it causes inflammation which creates the perfect environment for pathogens like the flu virus to thrive in. Sugar disrupts the balance of gut flora and since the majority of the immune system is in the GI tract, it is really important to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system during cold and flu season!

 

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria vital to helping the body manage illness. Probiotics regulate harmful bacteria in the intestine and colon. Good food sources of these probiotics are kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, miso or anything fermented. Taking a daily probiotic can benefit, ensuring that good bacteria’s exist in the right proportions.

 

Exercise is still a great idea! Especially as we age, exercise helps moderate reductions in immune function. Higher amounts of physical activity also support a reduction in upper respiratory infections.

 

Herbs have always worked well for me and my family. Some of my favorites are Andrographis, Astragalus, Berberine, Echinacea and Elderberry. Medicinal mushrooms are potent immune boosters as well.

 

Andographis has long been favored in Chinese medicine and has been used to treay colds, fevers, bronchitis, diarrhea and liver disorders. It is included in some of our most popular wellness formulas here at Winterridge and I think of it as one of the “Big Guns!’ in treating colds and such.

 

Astragalus acts as a tonic to protect the immune system. It promotes healing and provides energy to combat fatigue and prolonged stress. It helps reduce cold symptoms once one does get sick.

 

Berberine is a plant alkaloid with a history of use in Ayuverda (traditional Indian Medicine). Chinese Medicine and American Indian Herbalists. Berberine is a potent microcrobial and helps get rid of bacterial infections.

 

Echinacea and Goldenseal are the most famous of the class of immune system herbs. Echinacea fights inflammation and bacterial and viral infection. It is supportive of both the immune system and the lymphatic system. Goldenseal Fights infection and inflammation and cleanses the body, it increases the effectiveness of insulin and strengthens the immune system.

 

Elderberry combats free radicals and inflammation. It relieves coughs and congestion, builds the blood and cleanses the system and it is very effective against flu viruses.

 

Medicinal Mushrooms such as Reishi, Cordyceps, Maitake and Shiitake are just a few of the mushrooms that support our natural immunity. We as humans share more DNA with mushrooms than we do with plants and because of this connection, we can easily utilize compounds from beneficial mushrooms for total body support. Definitely worth taking a look at and considering for your winter wellness toolkit.

 

Another very important component to winter health is good ol’ vitamin D. It has some very big jobs in the body such as contributing to bone strength, heart health and cancer protection. Vitamin D plays a hugely important role in your immune system and can even be a determining factor in whether you develop an autoimmune disease.

 

And I’m going to squeeze one more in, Bee Propolis. Propolis is a resinous substance collected from various plants from bees. Bees use propolis, together with beeswax, in the construction of hives. As a supplement, it is an excellent aid against bacterial infections. Bee Propolis is believed to stimulate phagocytosis, the process by which some white blood cells destroy bacteria. Propolis fights inflammation and stimulates the immune system.

 

Let’s face it, when it comes right down to it, nothing is more important than your health. Making the right choices can determine how long you will live and how well. I wish you all the healthiest of winters!

 

Christina Kettenring

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