Tools for Preventing Colds, coughs & Flu | Part 1Feb 12, 2020
The Coronavirus is topping all of the headlines this cold and flu season. As of the date of this post, there has been a reported 7,700 cases and 170 deaths.
The fear of this unknown virus is causing panic among the nation and worry and concern amongst caregivers, especially mothers. We have had people asking us what herbs might prevent catching viruses should they come to our area.
Not only is the Coronavirus a concern but also the usual run of cold and flu season. Interestingly enough, the Coronavirus has very similar symptoms to cold and flu symptoms.
Here is something that may surprise you, though!
Before we start:
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While the Coronavirus (Wuhan) reported cases is at 7,700 (as of this date), the flu... 15 million instances! The Coronavirus reports 170 deaths. The flu this season - 8000 deaths!
That was a surprise to me as we have heard so much on the news and social media about the Coronavirus scare. Yet, there hasn't been much reported on the flu, which is much more widespread and causing many more deaths.
Symptoms are appearing to affect the respiratory system, such as fever, coughs, and shortness of breath. Those most in danger are the same as they are with the flu: small children, the elderly, and those that already deal with respiratory diseases. The Virus is spread through mucus droplets, coughs, and sneezes. (CDC 2019)
Enough of those numbers and fear, though. It's time to defeat fear with an action plan. The best method of action is PREVENTION.
Eat the "Bear"
"Yes, that's chocolate, no, it isn't a bear. There is a famous saying that says to "Eat your frog," meaning to tackle that thing that is the hardest at the start of your day, and the rest of the day won't seem so difficult. That proverbial frog isn't hanging over you the whole day as you do everything else.
Cold and flu prevention is no different. Other than we are not "eating the frog," here we are going to "eat the bear." 75% to 90% of doctor visits are for stress-related issues. NCBI 2003
Imagine your taking a hike through a forest, and a bear jumps out and surprises you. Your nervous system kicks in, that "fight or flight" and gets you out of the situation in a hurry. All hands are on deck in your body to make sure that you move and react fast enough. Some things aren't necessary when you are being chased by a bear. Eating is one of them... I don't see anyone stopping for a snack of wild berries with a bear on their heels. But sometimes, that "fight or flight" doesn't ever calm down after the need for it is gone.
There is another part of the nervous system that also is affected when a person is in "fight or flight" mode. That is the "rest and digest" system known as the parasympathetic system. As I mentioned before, there is no stopping for snacks when chased by a bear. Even if you stopped for a snack, your body has the "rest and digest" mode turned off. And just as it isn't good to get stuck in the "fight or flight" mode when we no longer need it, that mode turns off our digestive system and causes other issues. Harvard Health 2018
As you can see a low-stress lifestyle is really the start of keeping us healthy.
Back to the chocolate. Yes, you see it does have something to do with the bear! Chocolate is just one way that can aide in stress as we covered in last weeks post on the medicinal affects of cocoa. I've eaten plenty of chocolate though and chocolate ONLY is not necessarily the best approach to dealing with long term stress.
Rather than chocolate, its time to "eat the bear." Find ways to deal with stressful situations at the root that will help in the long run. Some tips might be getting plenty of sunshine and vitamin D, exercise, and especially quiet time to help train the body back into the "rest and digest" mode. We won't dive into details here as this post is focused on cold and flu prevention.
Don't Be a Desert
Those who can't do teach? What I can do really well (believe it or not) is not drink anything all day. Or not drink enough all day. Yes, even as the owner of a tea company, there are days where I never drink tea (shhh, don't tell, it will all be OK).
There are lots of reasons that the liquids never make it down. One, or more, of the four children we home school, needs something, the water filter is empty when I go to get a drink. Or maybe I actually get to the point of steeping the tea, and then I NEVER drink it. Any of you tea drinkers out there have this experience? Yep. I hear ya!
Whatever the reason may be, dehydration is super crucial in preventing colds and the flu. It is also super important even if you catch a cold or flu!
Hydration is highly essential to normal body functioning. Fluid can be lost through sweating during high aerobic activities. As well as during an illness. Those that are lacking a healthy digestive system and have issues absorbing their nutrients may also be more susceptible to dehydration. Even those taking specific over the counter drugs may be susceptible to electrolyte loss (such as those on an antibiotic). As well as those who follow the keto diet.
The best way to stay dehydrated is to make sure that you drink about 1/2 of your body's weight in healthy liquids a day.
Maybe that is water, maybe it is herbal tea or maybe it is one of these D.I.Y. Natural Electrolyte Recipes.
A Solid Foundation
Alrighty, our stress is under control (at least in the normal range), and we are well hydrated. By the way, those two things sometimes go together like hamburgers and fries.
The next important thing is our food. All the stuff we stick down our throat to keep us going. Once this foundation is set, then we can move on to the herbs that can aid in cold and flu care. After all, if we are not hydrated, our stress is super high, and we are filling our bodies with junk, herbs will not do a whole lot for us.
Our foundation of health should be built on a whole, real foods diet. That means no junk, no processed food, very little, if any, sugar. A diet full of vegetables and fruits, preferably organic (that pesticide spray won't keep you well) as well as pastured or grass-fed meats and dairy. Don't forget the whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Basically, if your Great Grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it.
Also, making sure to keep our immune system fed, it's essential to eat lots of fermented foods. 70-80% of our immune system lives in our gut, so gut health is super important. Fermented foods are packed full of natural probiotics that help us digest our food and keep our health. Make sure to include plenty of traditionally fermented sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and sourdough bread on hand to build that strong foundation.
If you are looking to learn more about cooking from scratch in order to build a real, whole food foundation this course by The Prairie Homestead is an excellent starting point.
Don't Forget These Basics
Perhaps I should have started with this at the beginning, maybe it doesn't need to be said at all. There are a few little things you can do that will make a HUGE difference in preventing the catching of colds, coughs, and the flu!
The first is hand washing. Duh, right? Not so much if you are a kid, and mom is constantly reminding you. Wash your hands! With hot water! The tops, the sides, and the bottoms. Did you use soap too?
Sometimes hand-washing isn't as apparent as it seems, but we spread so many germs through our hands and everything that they touch. Those gels that masquerade as hand sanitizers, they don't really work. Make sure you have an essential oil-based hand sanitizer or stick with good ole soap and water!
During cold and flu season eat out less, eat more at home. Eating out during cold and flu season could expose you to new germs and typically people eat different foods when they go out to eat. Depending on what you eat or splurge on could cause your immune system's defense to lessen while be exposed to new people and new germs while out and about. Which leads to the next tip.
Don't leave home when sick. If you are sick, just stay home. Call into work and don't get your co-workers sick, and their families. It's the charitable thing to do. Don't go to the grocery store and spread the germs there. Maybe someone who is well can pick up stuff for you. Germs spread easier in public places. Think of it as a barn. The more animals you have in a barn and the longer they are in there, the more germs there are. People are not different; don't bring all the germs to public places. Please think of your neighbor and their families.
Back to the cleaning, make sure to clean surfaces! Clean doorknobs, faucets, light switches, toilet handles, etc. Whatever anyone is touching all of the time. Keyboards are especially great at harboring germs along with cell phones or any phone.
Last but not least, rest. Don't just push through it. Without rest, there is no healing, and the cold, cough and flu will last longer. I always felt that being sick was more of God's way of saying chill out and rest, think about what is important!
With these lifestyle tips, you should have a great start at keeping those colds, coughs, and flu at bay. Lifestyle choices are not the only tools we have in our cold-fighting toolbox, though. Herbs are also fantastic at preventing illness and helping you to get well if you do manage to catch something. Next week, here on the blog, we will be sharing Part II of how to Prevent Colds, Coughs, and the Flu. Make sure to tune back in here to find out which herbs work the best!
Anxious to pick up some tips right now? Make sure to check out our Free Medicinal Teas Workshop here.
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