Winter Rx: 5 tips to stay healthy–naturally–all season long

As parents of young kids, the first sign of a winter cough or cold may trigger a moment of panic! And no wonder–winter colds can often drag into months of lingering coughs and runny noses, fussy babies and toddlers, and poor nighttime sleep. Sometimes, the same virus that your kiddo bounces back from after 2-3 days, strikes down our adult immune system, leaving us under the weather twice as long (or longer)!

natural cold and flu remedies prevention, Canyon Medical Center Portland

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Here are 5 tips to both prevent winter colds as well as to help accelerate the recovery process, both for you and your little ones!

{We’d like to thank the naturopathic physicians and midwives at Canyon Medical Center for providing and sponsoring this post. You can learn more about this local medical and birthing center in our previous review.}

1) The Foundation

There are certain foods and nutrients that we know dramatically boost our immune system, as well as others that fundamentally weaken it. Though many of these are great things to do year-round, they are especially important during the winter months or during times of stress or travel, when our immune systems are even more vulnerable.

Foundation Supplements:

  • Vitamin D: In the Pacific Northwest, it is recommended to begin vitamin D at birth, and increase the dose as you grow. 400-2000 IU per day, depending on your weight, is the usual dose, though many adults may need 5,000-10,000 IU per day.
  • Probiotics: A high quality probiotic gently stimulates your immune system, while simultaneously decreasing allergies. Eighty percent of our immune system is in our gut, so it is crucial that we have a healthy flora!  Many labels on store bought probiotics are misleading and inaccurate, so we recommend purchasing a brand advised by a naturopathic doctor, chiropractor or nutritionist.
  • Fish Oil: Fish oil also keeps the immune system functioning optimally, while simultaneously quelling more allergic type responses, such as eczema and asthma. Not to mention, it is quite literally brain food! See what we mean here
  • Water: Stay adequately hydrated to help your entire body function optimally, including your immune system. We recommend drinking water that amounts to half of your body weight, in ounces, daily.

2) Daily Immune Support

In addition, we recommend adding daily immune support through the winter months. One of our favorite blends consists of elderberry, echinacea, Oregon grape root and thyme. We take an extra dose as soon as we feel a tickle in our throat, or if we have been around someone sick. Another great thing about these herbal blends is that they move easily from prevention to treatment. While 1-2 daily doses acts as prevention, increasing to 4-6 doses is an easy transition if a family members starts to come down with something. Herbal tinctures are a very versatile member of our medicine cabinet! Daily Immune for Kids, from Wishgarden Herbs, is a great formula that can be used this way and is available over the counter.

3) Foods to Avoid

Sugar is our immune system’s worst enemy, weakening the response of our body’s immune cells to bacterial, viral and fungal invaders and increasing the time it takes to heal and feel better. Avoid foods with added sugars, and opt for small amounts of natural sweeteners, such as honey and maple syrup. If your family already has a sweet tooth, natural sugar substitutes like stevia and xylitol can help you wean off added sugar in your diet.

4) Early Response – Home Hydrotherapy

When a cold or flu does strike, using home and natural remedies is often key to decreasing the severity and duration of an illness. One of our favorite at home treatments is the Warming Socks treatment. It may sound like a weird thing to do when your kid is sick, but trust us, once you’ve done this 2-3 times and seen the effect, you will swear by it! Warming Socks are great at pulling the congestion down and out of the head and face. Find the complete instructions here

This is also a favorite treatment for a lingering cough that doesn’t seem to want to clear up on it’s own. For this indication, add a foot massage with a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil before the treatment.

5) Feed a cold? Starve a fever?

It really isn’t quite that simple. If you or your kiddo is sick and does not have an appetite, there is no reason to force food. Often the body has focused all it’s energy on fighting off the bug, and digestion is slowed. As long as you are keeping adequately hydrated, a few days of a minimal diet will not cause harm. There are some foods that do really seem to soothe a winter cold–here are some of our favorites:

  • Ginger tea with honey
  • Chicken broth with ginger and garlic
  • Miso soup
  • Lemon and ginger juice with a hint of honey  (homemade or buy from RW Knudsen). These can even be made into popsicles for a sore throat.

In general, lighter, easy to digest foods and eating to your appetite is the best approach when sick, as well as avoiding ice cream and sweets despite the momentary relief they may offer.

We hope the above tips can help your family have a healthier, happier winter!

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