Staying healthy in the middle of flu season

It’s rough out there

I’ve been watching my healthiest, most cold-resistant friends drop like flies with the flu this season. Entire families have been taken down for a week or more and are returning to the land of the living with a wild, hollowed-eyed look and a hacking cough to match. This is rough stuff.  Especially in this dark corner of Maine where we’re already running low on sunlight, warmth and fresh, vital food (after five days in a truck, even the California kale looks like it has a head cold).

So far my family has resisted this plague. I really hope this post doesn’t jinx us, but even if it does, these tips will help us get through with a little less damage.

Nine Tips for Staying healthier in flu season

  1. Stick to an early bedtime, even on the weekends, even on holidays. According to Ayurveda your liver begins the all-important process of assimilation and detoxification around 10pm and being asleep by then lets it do this work more efficiently. A strong, healthy liver is important for a strong healthy immune system.
    • Adults: get yourself in bed by 10pm.
    • Children 9-11 years old need 11 hours of sleep. Every night. For most of us that means in bed by
    7pm.  As a bonus, a regular, early bedtime routine for kids makes parenting so much easier in
    so many ways.
    • Children 10-18 years old: need 9-10 hours of sleep. Every night. Especially teenagers. Do
    everything you can to get your teen to sleep by 9pm and I swear they will have fewer colds and
       better grades.
  2. Finish eating for the day by 7pm at the latest. The idea is to give yourself enough time to fully digest dinner before you go to bed. With digestion complete and your stomach empty, your body will have more energy to devote to nutrient assimilation and detoxification while you sleep.
  3. If you feel at all worn down or think you might be getting sick, stick to light, easy to digest meals and finish eating even earlier (by 5 or 6pm). The less energy you have to spend on digestion, the more energy you’ll have for fighting off germs.
  4. Drink a ½-1 liter of warm (or hot) water in the morning before eating or drinking anything else. It’s amazing what a little morning hydration can do for your overall health. Your digestion will be stronger (pre-hydrating your stomach lining helps with HCl production) your skin will be clearer (hot water helps thin your lymph, which carries nutrients to, and toxins from your skin) and you might even pass over that first cup of coffee (less caffeine = fewer colds).
  5. Eat less sugar of all kinds. Sugar stresses out your entire endocrine system and depresses your immune system almost as soon as it’s eaten. Sugary drinks and snacks make you super-vulnerable to any germs that are already in your system or your local environment.
  6. Eat simple, warm one-pot meals. This is the best time to break out your crock-pot or rice cooker. Soak two cups of beans in the morning before you head out to work and that night throw them in the crock pot with some stock and bunch of chopped celery, carrots and an onion – voila, fool-proof instant soup ready to go into thermoses to take to work or school the next morning.
  7. Avoid cold, frozen, dry, processed and hard to digest food combinations. The perfect storm is cold, pasteurized, fruity yogurt packs with granola sprinkled on top. This mom-favorite is a great recipe for poor digestion and reactive, snotty mucous. Eat your fresh fruit alone or between meals (oranges are great at this time of year!), if you must have dairy, keep it raw, fresh and warmed up (I love a little whole raw milk in my Earl Grey at this time of year.)  And hold off on vata-aggravating dry cereals such as granola until late spring or summer.
  8. Spend time outside everyday. Think of it as a daily nature-bath. Smell the moist piney air, feel the cool light on your cheeks, listen to the chickadees and nuthatches twittering in the distance.
  9. Spend time with family and loved ones and laugh every day. Laughter really is the best medicine.

And if the ship is already sinking  . . .

Let’s say you had/have the flu or feel that it might be imminent. Here’s what people are saying has been working well for them for this particular flu season:

  1. Elderberry and black current syrup (or pills) 2xday.
  2. Vitamin D3 – 5,000 IU’s a day
  3. Vitamin C – 2,000 mg per day (or more if tolerated)
  4. Ashwaganda  – two pills every morning
  5. Usnea tincture (to treat post-flu cough and prevent a secondary lung infection.)

And if you are one of the strong, healthy ones, make some soup for your sick friends, offer to help them with their laundry, bring them a funny movie and watch it with them, or dress up like batman and sing them a funny song. There’s nothing better for your health then being a friend to a friend in need!

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