With whooping cough sweeping the country right now, along with influenza being injected into everyone and their brother (this is not going to turn into a vaccination rant however, have no fear.) and colder weather approaching this is the perfect time to build up your immune system and keep your body in the best condition possible.
My first tip is obvious, but it can never ever be stated too often -
As a general rule you should drink a minimum 8-9 cups (8oz cups) daily. Drinking water and lots of it obviously helps you stay hydrated, but it also helps your body flush toxins, helps nutrients make their way to your cells. You can find lots of other information out there on the benefits of drinking lots of water, so I won't beat a dead horse.
While I would recommend eating clean as a lifestyle, during sick seasons it is especially important to eat whole foods, - Meat and lots and lots of fresh fruits and vegatables. Cut out processed "foods" - make things from scratch, use real ingredients and organic if possible. Cut down on refined sugar.
Right now I am on a sugar fast for the week, and possibly for a few weeks.
I was finding myself coming down with cold-like symptoms anytime I ate refined sugary foods, and generally feeling blah. So out all those refined sugars went. -- Replace High Fructose Corn syrup, white and brown sugar with honey, and in moderation pure maple syrup (not maple flavored pancake syrup like mrs. Butterworth or those type but real syrup from trees!). You could also use agave, but I like to keep things simple and use what I have on hand. Cinnamon is also an excellent ingredient to use if you choose to go on a sugar fast. Cinnamon helps your body balance blood sugar and naturally heightens the sweetness of less sugary things. I'll put my recipe for a delicious coffee drink that uses no refined sugars.. Caffeine is also something that should probably be cut down on as it can lower your immune system. (though I've not done so good with that recently. I do like my coffee)
This section is becoming way long, so I'll continue the topic of health and food another post.
Exercise, garden, take walks, bike, run or skate and soak up lots of sunshine. Vitamin D is very important for staying healthy in the autumn and winter. I am an advocate of getting your vitamins naturally through sunshine and foods, whenever possible, rather than supplements - so take advantage of sunshine now while it is abundant (you must remember I am in Arizona, if gloom is already predominant where you are, please forgive me ;) ). Staying active will keep your body and immune system strong.
I'm not sure if this should go under eating clean or not. I think garlic deserves it's own section. We've recently started eating a more Mediterranean diet, with lots of olive oil, herbs and GARLIC! I use so much garlic every day it's pretty funny. Last week we went through two heads of it. When we went grocery shopping for the month this week I bought 9 heads. Just in case. :). I try to include up to 3 cloves of garlic in a dish a day, especially at dinner. Garlic contains lots of good things, and it is antibacterial which will help you ward off those sick germs!
Rest is one of the best natural cures for all that ails. When the immune system is stressed, especially, you should be getting plenty of sleep. My body always lets me know loud and clear when I need more sleep. Last night I got to bed right at 11 (when I try, but mostly fail, to get in bed) and slept in WAY late and still felt tired all day, which I know it my body's way of telling me I've not been sleeping enough lately. - Case in point - blogging at 11 pm..... in my defense I started about 2 hours ago. I guess I'm just too long winded for my own good.
Use Herbs as Helpers
Lastly, use herbs to help keep you in tip top form. Remember though, you cannot just use tinctures and syrups to stay healthy, you have to marry them with all the other things to reap their full benefit.
I'm running out of time so I'll just talk about Echinacea and Elderberry today as they are my favorites and are some of the very best for boosting your immune system. You can find an abundance of information on the distinctive properties of these excellent herbs elsewhere, but I am not going to include that today. Call it your homework if you will to go and reasearch it for yourself. I will simply tell you how I use them to help my immune system. I mostly use them when my immune system is under stress (usually from seasonal allergies or from refined sugar for me), when I know I've been exposed to something, or when I'm actually sick.
While you can and should use them to help during these times, you should not use them long term. Doing so can either cause your body more stress by overworking your immune system (just a theory I've read, I really don't know if such is true or not), or your body can actually build up an immunity to them and just make them useless.Again, do your research, I'm still learning myself. I'm just trying to pass of some of what I've learned. Read and research and decide for yourself how often you should use them.
Elderberries -- I make them into a syrup with water, cloves, and honey and also echinacea (recipe here, which I've recently edited) and take that by the teaspoon or tablespoon, depending on why I'm taking it.
You can also mix the syrup into a cup of black tea with a little extra honey, which is a yummy way to take it.
Echinacea -- I've used this several ways, obviously in the syrup which I mentioned above which is an easy way to get a small dose. When I'm not feeling quite the thing I always want to eat soup. My favorite sick-day soups are chicken noodle soup and Lentil soup - I have found soups a great way to incorporate medicinal herbs. Since I've not experimented much with Echinacea I'm not precisely sure of the exact flavor, so I wasn't sure if I wanted it floating about loose in my soup like the basil. So I take a large tea ball (a metal mesh ball that opens and clasps shut to be filled halfway with tea or herbs for easy steeping and removal.) and let the herbs simmer with the soup and I can easily pull the ball out when I'm ready to serve it. No fuss no muss. I've also got an echineacea tincture steeping in the cupboard right now. It was just at the minimum "readiness" date yesterday, but I topped it off with extra vodka after noticing the herbs had sucked it all up, so I'm letting it go for the full time which will be October 1st. Maybe I'll check in sometime then and let you know my ultimatum. This was my first time trying my hand at tincturing, but more about that in another post.
Lastly, you can brew the loose echinacea into an herbal tea. I've not tried this yet, but I am going to soon.
So I hope these few tips have helped you gain some ideas to help you stay healthy this year, and I hope you enjoyed my ramblings. I love to hear comments and ideas, so let me know your thoughts and if you have anything requests for posts!
Though coffee is definitely not ideal if you are trying to boost your immune system, I will admit it is my biggest weakness. I usually have one cup every morning. That cup is most often a delicious cup with sugar, caramel sauce or chocolate sauce or both. (homemade with real ingredients though.....that's a step right? hehe). Since going on my fast I have discovered I love coffee and honey and it will definitely be interspersed with my sugary coffee when I resume my normal diet.
This morning I created a delicious drink that might just help you with your own sugar fast if coffee happens to be your big weakness too.
I call it a sugar free-
1 mug (about 8 oz.) very strong coffee (esspresso, or like me, a k-cup of green mountain's dark magic)
Steamed organic or raw milk to taste (can be made on the stove top if you don't have an espresso machine)Coconut milk would be delicious in this drink if you don't drink cows milk
Raw or Local Honey to taste (I use roughly 2 tablespoons)
1/2 an organic vanilla bean
Sprinkle of organic sweet powdered cinnamon
Brew the coffee and froth milk Steep the vanilla bean in your brewed coffee for about a minute (or if you don't mind it, leave it in there as you sip). Stir in honey. Add milk, holding back the froth. Spoon froth over the top and sprinkle cinnamon generously. Sip, savor, enjoy!