Seven Steps To Staying Healthy During Flu Season
Happy Chinese New Year! I want to send a follow-up email next week to describe the qualities of the Metal Rat but first I want to write to you about how to support your immune system at this time of year. There is so much in the news about cold and flu season, and now the panic around Coronavirus traveling from the Wuhan province of China to just about everywhere, including Chicagoland.
The fact is that the flu is a much greater threat to us than Coronavirus, and some simple steps will help protect you from contracting the flu (and colds!), and if you do catch it, these steps will also help to shorten the duration.
1. Wash your hands.
Wash your hands whenever you come into your house from work or any errands, using the washroom, cooking, etc. https://www.chp.edu/for-parents/health-tools/parent-resources/parenting-tips/hand-washing
2. Wash all 'contact points', i.e. doorknobs, light switches, cell phone covers, drawer pulls, etc.
Do this once a week right now, and it's always a good practice at any time of year. For cellphone case, wash in soapy water once a week, and wipe down daily or more often with a disinfecting wipe Avoid bringing it into the bathroom. Here's more information here: https://www.merrymaids.com/cleaning-tips/seasonal-cleaning/house-cleaning-tips-to-not-spread-germs/
3. Wash bedding once a week.
The article above also mentions washing sheets daily when sick. If you have the time! :D
4. Hydration and Humidity
Some studies have indicated that having a level of 43% humidity at home can help prevent cold and flu: https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20130228/higher-indoor-humidity-levels-might-slow-flus-spread#1
Also, drinking enough water will help keep mucous membranes stay properly hydrated. Avoid ice water and drink room temperature water and warm/hot fluids like tea and bone broth. Here's a good article about why we recommend warmer temperature liquids and foods all year round.: http://www.montoyamed.com/blog/coldfoods
5. Vitamin D3
My life went through a big change when after several years of chronic upper respiratory illnesses (bronchitis and whooping cough), I went to a functional medicine doctor who tested me for blood levels of vitamin D3. It turned out I was very, very low. She recommended that I take a loading dose of 10,000 ius and switch to 5000 ius per day. I didn't get sick again for two more years! And probably because I slacked off of taking it every day. Now during winter, I take 10,000 ius per day. I love the Ancient Nutrients brand sold at Whole Foods and before that brand was introduced, I took the Superior Source sublingual brand. Both have been very effective for me!
I recommend getting a Vitamin D3 blood test from a good functional medicine doctor. If you would like a referral, please contact me and I can give you one. If you are catching colds, etc., easily and you aren't taking this yet, this may make a big difference!
Your PCP/MD can also test D3 levels but I have seen that there is a lot of variation on dosage recommendation. There is at this point not a consensus on how much is a good level to take. I decided to poll all of my friends who are doctors and nurses, as well as one friend who is an editor for the Journal of Epidemiology. Our conclusion was that it is safe to take the 10,000 iu dose per day and that most of us take that amount ourselves during cold and flu season, but I still recommend having your levels tested to see where your levels are.
I will write another post on Vitamin D because it is helpful for so many health issues. For example, a physician friend of mine also tests D3 levels for all of her patients who initially come to her for arthritis pain. She often finds the pain will resolve if there is a deficiency and it is addressed.
6. Eat Well and Sleep Well!
Slow down, stay in and cook your own meals. Eat as many in-season vegetables as you can, like squash and root vegetables. If you notice, many of these vegetables are bright in color because they are loaded with beta carotene, another essential immune-boosting vitamin!
Here is a link to my favorite recipe service, The Fresh 20. I've been using this website for meal planning for years. https://oq209.isrefer.com/go/TF20Home/lisameyerson8/ and here is a shareable link to a menu in December that was really amazing: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5iYLFrbeZDNZ1FueVg1LTJ6SFJlN3ZZbTVMYlNVQ0ttZFI0/view?usp=sharing
And regarding sleep, turn off screens an hour before bed. And if you can, go to bed earlier and wake up later. We are meant to sleep quite a bit more during this darker and colder time of year. There are studies that show that sleeping more now is even better for your metabolism!
Here are some cool (:D) articles about hibernation!
7. Get acupuncture!
As some of you have experienced already, acupuncture can provide relief to symptoms like cough, scratchy throat, achy neck and shoulders, and stuffy/runny nose. It can help prevent symptoms and shorten the duration of symptoms. We can also prescribe herbal formulas to help relieve the symptoms. Many of my patients have told me that they often have complete relief from symptoms after their sessions, so please don't hesitate to see me!! (Except in cases of diarrhea and vomiting.)
In clinic, I often recommend all of the points above and will encourage you to come in and see me when you first begin to come down with symptoms. (I also recommend seeing me for regular health maintenance.) And if you follow the first six points, you will likely not need to see me nearly as much. But when you do experience these symptoms, I will be very happy to help you find relief!
May you have a very healthy, cozy and warm New Year!
Warmly (and Cozily),
*Also, please note that I am not mentioning the flu shot here because it is out of my scope of practice. Please consult with your MD about any medications.