I doubt this will come as a shock but I don't really believe in the popular (though relatively new) concept of "flu season." It's not that I don't believe in THE flu, I just don't believe the flu is more prevalent during the SAME time EVERY year. It seems to be gaining the same traction with each passing year as pumpkin-pie-spiced-you-name-it.
What I do believe, is that WE are more prone to the flu (or sickness in general) at the same time every year. The flu does not draw greater strength from the holiday season, though CVS would like you to think so. Rather it's a combination of weather change, less vitamin D, lots of sugary sweets, less movement, less outdoor activity, increased stress and holiday craziness. It's simple. It's complicated.
Flu season is just another marketing ploy. Companies use this to their advantage and encourage us to stock up on Tylenol, Kleenex and whatever else helps us get through the sore throats and runny noses. Again, it's not that I don't believe in the flu. It's just that I don't believe the problem is "the flu" . . . I believe the problem is us.
As the holidays approach, so does halloween candy. So does rain, sleet, and snow. The sun disappears a bit and we munch on left over pecan pie. We spend more time indoors (understandably) snuggled up with sugar cookies and cider. We trade our walks for books or Netflix (again, understandably) and we continue our indoor, sugary celebrations with bubbly drinks and little fresh air, only to await the unfolding of chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs.
Often we're traveling, from climate to climate, time zone to time zone. We're celebrating more, stressing more, spending more, and sleeping less. Combined with our lack of sunshine and increased treats, it's no wonder we're all a bit under the weather during this time of year.
But the holidays don't need to be so! Sure, there's a chance you will get sick. I mean, what is December if not a gauntlet of events, parties, plane rides and late nights? It's inevitable. But believe it or not, there are proactive steps we can take to at least do our bodies a favor.
Here is a list of what I would consider to be, my "top nine." We don't need to fear sickness. In fact, I think anxiety just invokes it. Let's fortify our bodies so we can enjoy this season (and Cadbury eggs) to the fullest!
1. Movement: I'm not talking about intense gym sessions (though that's cool if you enjoy it). I'm simply talking about MOVING our bodies. Getting off the couch. Sitting on the floor. Playing outside. Going on walks. Using our arms, legs, knees and elbows. Squat. Stretch. Dance. Whatever.
Why? Movement increases lymphatic drainage. What does that mean? Moving our bodies, on a regular basis, keeps our lymph system pumping. Who cares? The lymphatic system is responsible for removing waste from our bodies, cellular waste. Without proper drainage, toxins are stored in our lymph nodes (this article is incredibly helpful in understanding why this is such a big deal) Our lymphatic system is NOT like our heart, there is no "pump." Instead, WE are the pump. The drainage of our waste, relies directly on our movement or lack there of.
How does this relate to sickness? In moving our bodies, we are aiding our lymphatic system in helping it rid of toxic storage. It is no coincidence that our lymph nodes are clustered around major muscle groups. They rely on the REGULAR usage of our muscles. Movement keeps these nodes clear of sickness, keeping our bodies healthy and working properly. Again, I'm not talking about pounding the pavement or making time for cardio kickboxing everyday. I'm just talking about not being a couch potato. We were made to move it or lose it. I love what Katy Bowman says, "Immunity isn't just chemistry, it's mechanical."
2. Dry Brushing: This is a technique used to aid even further in assisting lymphatic drainage. If you are interested in learning more, I have found this video to be the most helpful and informative. If you aren't looking to add "one more thing," skip this and don't sweat it.
3. Sleep + Stress Management: Not all of us can afford more sleep and none of us can entirely "escape" stress. But the flip side is, we cannot expect our bodies to take care of us if we are not taking care of them (remember, our bodies are connected to our souls and vice versa. If you're heart is sick . . . your body probably is too).
Sleep is a not a "luxury" (though I understand that to some it is). Repair and restoration, fat burning, hormone balancing, mood enhancing . . . all of this takes place during sleep. Running on empty increases our cortisol response (stress response) which affects our digestion, adrenals (think adrenal fatigue), thyroid (think hyper or hypo) and instigates inflammation . . . just to name a few.
How to Use: Getting quality sleep and managing stress is going to look different for everyone, in every different season of his or her life. Some days can afford a nap. Some years can't afford a nap. I totally get that. The goal is to allow yourself, body and soul, some rest as you can. If you are dealing with consistent health issues, this may be need to be something to take more seriously. I for one saw an incredible difference in my own autoimmune issues when I was able to get more rest, choosing to see it as a priority rather than a guilty pleasure.
** If you are looking for tangible ways to increase sleep/decrease stress, I have heard great things about this magnesium supplement for aiding in relaxation/sleep, though I have yet to try it myself. I also am a big believer in essential oils (more on that later) and epsom salt baths.
4. Sugar: Believe me, I wish that chocolate frosting (from the can, that's the best kind) was a powerful nutrient but alas, 'tis not. While I'm all for enjoying the holidays, I think it is important to note that "flu season" occurs around the same time that we are enjoying our candy, cookies, cakes, and pie.
How to Use: As you see necessary. Food is a sacrament, it's a way for us to tangibly rejoice. Sugar is not "bad," as food is a-moral. Yet I think it important we recognize the affect it has on our bodies and mood, especially in weakening the immune system, encouraging inflammation, and feeding yeast (think beyond yeast infection . . . we're talking sinus infection, ear infection, lingering colds and candida). Let's just be mindful.
5. Oregano + Garlic: Both of these herbs have incredible properties when it comes to fighting sickness. Both have a "hot" nature that works as an antiseptic and natural antibacterial. The cool thing is, unlike antibiotics, they don't kill the good stuff. Oregano and garlic can be used on warts, ear infections, sinus infections, colds (and break outs . . . if you're willing to smell like garlic).
How to Use: I have found oregano to be most useful in a capsule form or as an essential oil (just make sure to dilute!). Garlic I have found most easy to use in it's natural state. I simply chop, mash or smash to get the consistency I want AND to release it's powerful oil. The oil is where the good stuff is.
6. Wellness Formula: This stuff is a wonderful blend of herbs and minerals all stuffed into pill form. I LOVE it and have always have experienced great results in fighting the beginning stages of a bug, preventing a bug all together, or helping my body reestablish balance. It's always in my travel bag. You can find it online, Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc.
How To Use: Follow directions on bottle. I feel it is most effective when I'm feeling run down or the beginning of a bug.
7. Essential Oils : I have written previously about essential oils. They aren't new to mankind but they are new to our kind. Essential oils were used way before mommy bloggers. I'm sure you at least know one person who "swears by" their oils. Go ask them what their favorite brand is and why.
How to Use: Oils can be diffused into the air, applied topically and consumed orally (though there is debate about the oral consumption, I recommend researching for yourself and making an educated decision). For sickness in particular, I use a blend called Thieves (by Young Living) HOWEVER, I think there are many great choices out there. Last winter, we used Thieves daily in the form of "morning tea" (hot lemon water with a drop or two of Thieves). Now we use it as needed (applying to bottoms of feet or wrists) and I use a diluted form + vinegar to disinfect toys, surfaces, whatever.
Where to Buy: Like I said, I have been using Young Living and have heard nothing but wonderful things about doTERREA. However, I'm pretty sick of the MLM (pyramid scheme) and slowly moving my way towards Plant Therapy and Mountain Rose.
8. Flower Remedies: Very similar to essential oils, flower remedies are concentrated forms of, well, flowers. Beginning in the 1930's, Dr. Bach decided to look for alternative methods to treat patients on a physical and emotional level. Here is a list of all 38 remedies.
How to Use: I am planning on doing a more in-depth post, but for now, I would follow the directions on your bottle! I have had great success particularly with Distress Remedy and Rescue Remedy (Ruby is no stranger to the child version of these remedies, especially when teething).
9. Fermented Apple Cider Vinegar : This is a natural elixir of sorts. Similar to coconut oil, it has "100" uses. We are never without this stuff. You want fermented ACV, with "the mother." Why? Because "the mother" is full of the good stuff. You want to see cloudy-ness at the bottom of your bottle, like you would with kombucha.
How To Use: This is a line of "first defense." You can absolutely use it when you are sick but it is most effective in prevention. If and when you are exposed to sickness or feel a bug coming on, go ahead and dilute a couple of tablespoons in a glass of water and gargle for a good minute (or two if you can handle it). I try to do this both morning and night as needed.
Where to Buy: I recommend Braggs brand, which I have seen online (Amazon, Thrive Market), Sprouts, Walmart and sometimes even Winco.
10. Liquid Silver : Sometimes referred to as "colloidal silver," liquid silver is just what it sounds like. Silver has been used since ancient times as a natural antiseptic. My father in law sells medical equipment and swears by a particular type of bandage, laced with silver, that helps wounds stay healthy as the heal. If he believes in the power of silver . . . well, let's just say I'm not too far off.
How To Use: This is something we try to take on a daily basis but most certainly take when we feel run down. Follow directions on the bottle. While most brands come with an oral dropper or in the form of a nasal spray, don't be afraid to administer a drop or two into the ear if dealing with earaches or infection.
Where to Buy: I recommend the nasal spray instead of the oral dropper. It lasts much longer, more bang for your buck. I prefer Sovereign Silver's or Nature Sunshine (who also carries a hand cream, soap, all sorts of cool things). You can find Sovereign Silver at Sprouts and Whole Foods.