Holistic Health: Preparing for cold and flu season

Holistic Health: Preparing for cold and flu season

Tracy Zollinger

Start NOW to prepare and prevent cold and flu in your house!

September marks the one-two-punch of back-to-school and fall. For those with kids, get ready to have both fun and new viruses introduced into your household. Combine that with the official start of cold and flu season, typically in late fall, and you have a recipe for lots of used tissues and missed work or school days.

Have no fear! There a many things you can do to reduce your risk and your household’s risk of catching and passing on this season’s viruses. Taking care of your health now can significantly reduce your risk of contracting a cold or flu. The key is to keep your immune system strong by following these guidelines:


1. Vitamin D - Over 1,000 studies have shown that people with optimal Vitamin D levels have dramatically improved immune function. One study (1) showed that people with low Vitamin D levels had double the rate of contracting influenza (flu). Vitamin D is easily tested by your doctor or holistic practitioner. I recommend patients get tested right around now so they know what their levels are going into fall and winter. Knowing this helps determine proper dosage for Vitamin D. Testing can be done through your medical doctor or holistic practitioner.

2. Fish Oil – Omega-3s can not only protect the lungs and increase air flow – two key factors in averting or managing upper respiratory illnesses – but will also help support the immune system by increasing the activity of the cells (phagocytes) that “eat up” invaders. Quality counts with fish oil: Only get it from a quality health food store like Alameda Natural Grocery or your holistic health provider.

Diet and Lifestyle:

1. Avoid sugar - Sugar has an immediate, debilitating effect on your immune system. Sugar would also include simple carbohydrates, like breads, pastas, etc. Minimize your use of these in your diet to help your immune system fight off invaders quickly and efficiently.

2. Exercise – Improve your blood and lymph flow. Blood brings oxygen, nutrition, and your immune system to every area of your body. If your blood is flowing nicely, your immune system is more responsive. Lymph is the cleanup crew for your body. An invader (bacteria, virus, etc) gets in, the blood attacks it, the lymph cleans it all up.

3. Sleep - This is your body’s recuperative time. If you sleep less than eight hours per night, your immune system is significantly impacted. Not only that, but your ability to recover from anything you are fighting off is impaired. If insomnia is common for you, seek treatment now so that it will improve by late fall.

4. Reduce stress - Feel overwhelmed by stress? Your body will not have the reserves it needs to fight cold and flu exposure. Stress causes a cascade of hormonal and chemical responses in the body, all of which put less emphasis on your immune system. For strategies to reduce stress, read my article about stress reduction.

5. Wash your hands – Simple, but very effective. The steps are easy, but most rush it. Wet your hands, add any soap and 20-30 seconds of friction (rubbing your hands together), then rinse. Make sure to rub your fingers, thumbs, and top of hands as well. Often people do a quick rub of the palms and take off. This will not eliminate viruses and bacteria. Also, dry your hands completely. Wet hands harbor many more hitchhikers than dry hands. Hand sanitizer is okay in a pinch, but soap and water are the best.

Tracy Zollinger, is an Alameda mom, licensed acupuncturist and business owner. You can reach Tracy at 299-0057 or www.tracyzollinger.com.

Selected References and Recommended Reading:

(1) Sabetta J, Depetrillo P, Cipriani R, et al. Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and the Incidence of Acute Viral Respiratory Tract Infections in Healthy Adults. PLoS One 2010;5(6):e11088.

The Vitamin D Council: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/influenza/#