I really dislike being sick and so usually do my best to avoid it. Though over the last month or so I let things slip. After a month of complete sugar abstinence, I fell off the wagon on Easter Sunday and have not looked back! I encountered two people in one week with sore throat-type colds and I didn’t take my usual precautions (mental declaration that I don’t get sick from other people, increase Echinacea and vitamin C). Coupled with some late nights and early mornings, a change in the weather and here I am with a throat like sandpaper and a nose running like a tap. Argh!
Anyway, my motto is that all crisis (no matter how small) leads to transformation so I figure this is my learning opportunity. No point learning alone, I thought I’d share the love with you.
Today I realised that this relatively mild cold is just a practice run for my immune system – warming up for a winter onslaught of cold, wind, bugs and bacteria. Over summer my immune system hasn’t had to do much. Warm weather suits me well and I don’t suffer hay fever so it’s been on low revs for a few months now. Our immune systems have evolved to be reactive – feeling a little hot and flushy, inflamed and runny right now are all signs of my immune system reacting to an invader. It’s a good thing.
The best thing to do when your immune system needs to fire up this much is to get out of its way and let it do its job. Take even just one day off (no-one at the office wants your germs anyway) and rest quietly, doing all the traditional things like keeping up your (sugar free) fluids, taking your garlic, Echinacea, zinc, C and whatever else your naturopath recommends and just let your well supported immune system have its moment in the limelight.
Sleep, sweat, drink, eat plenty of ginger, keep warm, stay hydrated, rest a little more, eat light nutritious foods. These are the things that have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of the flu or a cold because it lets your immune system just do what it does best – macrophage (what a great word: literally meaning engulf the nasties).
If you have struggled with your immunity in the past or if you are a little more vulnerable this year (more stressed, dealing with existing health issues, pregnant, etc.) AUTUMN IS THE TIME to get working on your immune system so it is ship-shape for getting you through the winter.
Many people are getting flu injections and trusting that it holds the answers to their winter health blues. Sadly there will only be a few of the ‘most likely’ strains included in the flu vaccines so you can still get the flu even if vaccinated. It also will not prevent you from getting a range of other winter ills, in particular, an annoying cold like the one I have now! In my experience as a health practitioner it is those lingering coughs and repetitive cold cycles that can really zap your energy over winter.
- If you have or get a sore throat, you must get this: PIC OF THROAT SPRAY. It tastes like hell but it really reduces the pain of a sore throat and also has strong anti-microbial action to have an impact where it is most needed. One spray lasted me almost all day.
- See your naturopath if you haven’t in a while and top up with remedies that will see you through the winter – preventative stuff for now (esp Echinacea and adequate zinc) and an acute treatment for if something crops up unexpectedly.
- Maintain your vitamin D – hopefully you’ve been getting outdoors enough this long warm summer to boost your vitamin D level? But this nutrient is low in so many individuals right now. Make sure you get 20 minutes outdoors every day with as much skin exposed as you can (tricky in a Melbourne winter!). Check with your naturopath to see if it is worthwhile getting tested to check your levels (recommended if pregnant or if struggling with ongoing immune issues).
- Even better, get your Vitamin D hit while getting some exercise. Regular exercise and a regular good sweat are essential to health and wellbeing. Exercise helps with stress management, weight control, physical fitness, sleep quality, and importantly, sweating is one of the mechanisms our body uses for detoxification.
- Remember Quick Scripts so when you feel the first signs of something developing, give us a call so we can make recommendations for a speedy recovery. Quick scrips cost $40 which is a great price for a quick acute action and remedy check.
- Be conscious of your sugar, alcohol and coffee intake. In different ways all of these adversely affect our immunity – by upsetting our blood sugars, directly impeding our immune system, dehydrating us and affecting sleep quality – all factors that can reduce and/or compromise your immunity.
- Aim to be asleep or at least in bed with lights off by 10pm. Eight hours of sleep is ESSENTIAL for almost everyone and certainly helps boost immunity. A very dark room helps to boost melatonin levels and as many hours as possible asleep before midnight have proven health benefits that I don’t have room to explain here.
- Rug up – protect the areas we refer to as Wind Pools in Chinese Medicine. The lower back and back of the neck are particularly susceptible to ‘cold wind invasion’ which can scatter protective Qi and leave us vulnerable to pathogenic invasion. Isn’t Chinese Medicine poetic? Anyway, it just means that nana was right: tuck in, wear a singlet and do not be seen without a scarf around your neck between April and November.
- Most importantly, remember that good health doesn’t mean you don’t ever get sick. It means when you get sick, you respond appropriately, recover quickly and reap the benefits of an immune system work out. Push through and ignore this opportunity and illness and a lack of good health is bound to follow. It all just mounts to looking after yourself, and it is actually not that difficult.
Thanks for the reminder immune system. Thanks for all the good work you are doing to look after my body and kick this invader right out of here. I am duly reprimanded and reminded to look after you better.
Health is very often about choices and there are many we can make to support our own wellness and greatness. Let us know if you need a little extra support in preparation for this winter.
with all at FGHG