Practical Immune Support Through the Flu & Cold Season
- posted on: November 26, 2018
- posted by: Robin Crowder
We’re pleased to share this guest blog post by Sarah Sue Meyers, ND. Sarah Sue and her young son can often be spotted walking the 21 Acres Farm and enjoying all that it beholds. Sarah Sue graduated from Bastyr University’s naturopathic program in 2014. Her private practice, Journey Home Healing, is located in Bothell, WA, where she provides comprehensive, compassionate and holistic healthcare to her patients. She identifies her work as doctor, healer, holistic health guide, health care advocate, teacher and educator.
There are many ways to support your immune system, prevent yourself from getting sick, and stay healthy. Here are some simple tips for supporting your immune system throughout the flu and cold season.
Keep Your Mucus Membranes Moist
The mucus membranes of our nose, mouth, throat and sinuses, are our first defense against microorganisms in the environment. When these mucus membranes are moist, it provides a protective barrier between the external world and our internal world. When our mucus membranes get dry, our body’s defense is down. Here are some simple ways to keep the mucus membranes moist:
Adequate hydration, including keeping a glass of water next to your bed at night
Apply a simple, natural salve into nostrils, especially at night. I really like using salves made where the main ingredients includes – beeswax & oil (almond, olive, jojoba, coconut). Often, these kind of salves have healing herbs in them such as calendula, comfrey, or lavender. *I highly recommend avoiding petroleum-based salves. These are not good for the body nor the environment.
Keeping a humidifier in the bedroom at night. This is an important thing to consider with the drying indoor heating in the cold season.
Hydrotherapy: A Contrast of Hot and Cold
Have you ever done a cold plunge into a body of water or even snow(!?!) after sitting in a sauna or hot tub? Sounds crazy, but it is so good for us! The contrast of hot and cold applications of water is a therapy used in naturopathic medicine to stimulate the immune system, drain lymphatic fluid, and stimulate our body’s vital force. It also tones and balances the autonomic nervous system. This is the part of our nervous system responsible for sympathetic (“fight or flight”) and parasympathetic (“rest & digest”) states Our immune system responses are suppressed when we exist in a dominantly sympathetic state. In contrast, our body heals when we are in a parasympathetic state.
One simple way to incorporate hydrotherapy into your daily routine is to end your shower with 30 seconds of cold water rinse – the colder the better! Remember to breath when you do this, it helps.
For more information on hydrotherapy, check out my article on journeyhomehealing.com.
*If you have any serious, pre-existing health conditions, please consult with your local naturopathic doctor before engaging in contrast hydrotherapy.
So cliche, yet so important. It goes back to that topic of the autonomic nervous system, primary the parasympathetic state. This is the state we enter when we allow ourselves to rest. I know I mentioned this once before, but I cannot emphasize enough – the parasympathetic state is required in order for healing to occur.
Rest is incredibly important when one is sick, and immediately following an illness, such as the flu or cold. One scenario I see far too often is someone who has been sick, and as soon as they start feeling better, try to hit the ground running, picking up right where they left off. Before they know it, they are sick again. Or, the symptoms just never let up.
What does rest actually look & feel like?
For one, rest is getting a good night’s sleep… Speaking from a mother of a 6-month old, that is not always an option. That makes the waking forms of rest even more important! Sitting quietly on the couch as you scroll your phone does not count. Let’s be honest with ourselves – when there is a screen involved, especially one involving social media, news, commercials, stressful & dramatic cinema, or multitasking other of tasks – that is not true rest.
As a naturopath, I am always on the search for obstacles to cure & healing –
“What are the obstacles preventing you from taking the time to slow down & rest?”
What habits are we addicted to that prevent us from resting?
We are a culture that is addicted to being busy. In addition to that, with today’s technology & media, we are also constantly receiving messages & stimuli from the outside world. When first trying to slow down & rest, it is completely normal for it to be challenging. It requires setting boundaries. Rest can actually feel pretty boring. That does not make it any less beneficial. Example activities of true rest include breathing, meditating, listening to calm music, taking a bath or sauna, sipping tea, prayer, reading, eating, or snuggling a pet, babe or loved one.
Use Your Food as Medicine
The food choices we make influence how we feel and function. Our food is our daily medicine. Some examples of common antimicrobial, immune supportive foods include onions, garlic, mushrooms, as well as nutrient-dense foods like fresh vegetables, fruits & bone broth. Avoiding foods that create inflammation, like sugar, refined grains, MSG, industrial oils will also help to support the immune system. When we eat foods such as the latter, it occupies the immune system’s attention, allowing microbes to sneak right on by our body’s own defense system. Sneaky…
When I am making a soup, it feels like I am crafting a medicinal decoction of foods, herbs and spices… and really, that is exactly what it is. I recommend immune supportive soups to my patients frequently, especially this time of year. It is such a practical, nourishing, & hydrating medicine. In addition, it gives knowledge & empowerment to my patients.
To learn more about food as medicine & immune supportive soups, come say hello at the “First Saturday in the Farm Market” on December 1st, 2018. I will be there, featuring local immune supportive foods, sharing my immune soup recipe & answering questions & connecting with the 21 Acres community.
–Sarah Sue Myers, ND