Monday, October 18, 2010

Cold and Flu Prevention!

It's that time again. We're finding pumpkins and apples in the markets, we're buying up candies by the buckets, giving thanks, and dressing in scary costumes, covering our faces with masks and and makeup.

But we're also covering our faces with hankies and tissues. The onset of the holidays often corresponds with the onset of cold and flu season. Check out the average dispersement:
1. Middle/End of October = calls to flu shots and the beginning of cold and flu season
2. Early January - the "slump" which contributes to another round of colds and/or flu
3. End of February - usually the last major influx of influenza-type illnesses.

Take another look at those dates. They come around:
1. Peri-Hallowe'en
2. Post-Christmas/Hannuka, New Year's Eve
3. Post-Valentine's day.

Interestingly, these are the times of year when candy sales are at their peak. We buy it for the trick-or-treaters, we bake it for the holidays, and we deliver it with flowers to our true love. Along with our devotion and affection, we are sending immune-supressing, acid forming, inflammation-promoting nibbles which, in combination with our general state of being, usually create a cold.

Sugar is an acidic food in the body. The way it converts into energy is an acidigying process (as opposed to an alkalizing process; the body is meant to be slightly to the alkalized side of 7 on the pH scale - 7.365 to be precise). Along with sugar, acid foods include processed, refined foods such as white bread; dairy; meat; eggs; fried foods, salt and coffee. Acid foods promote inflammation in the body. They create toxic build-up which is difficult to get rid of, which results in inflammation, consitpation (or the opposite), fatigue, stress, and can even lead to chronic illness like osteoporosis or arthritis.

Inflammation is an immune response designed to send specialized cells to a specific area to resolve a crisis. An acidic body is devoid of oxygen. Alkalized environments are oxygen-rich, fresh, and fun loving. Disease loves an acidic environment. It thrives on a body strangling itself, starving itself for air. This type of starving allows inflammation to grow. See, if the natural immune response is to send inflammatory repsonses to areas of distress, it only makes sense that these responses be constantly in the "on" position in a body that is slowly suffocating. Some inflammatory responses may include a runny nose, headache, stomach pain, stuffiness, congestion, fever, ... any of these sound familiar? Mucus is a great by-product of inflammation. Fever indicates that something is being done to the "intruder" and is also an inflammatory (flame! hot! etc!) process. Stomach pain (gastritis) can be a type of inflammation, as well as joint pain. Sinusitis and congestion are obvious signs of inflammation. In fact, almost anything ending with "itis" and "osis" indicate an inflammatory process.

How do we prevent and even heal an acidic environment, thereby preventing colds and flu?
1. Eat veggies! All veggies are alkalizing, although some do this more efficiently than others. There are lists out there for you to discover, but really anything bright, fresh, and green will do the trick. Also, make sure nto to overcook; enzymes are lost in overcooking. I don't mean you need to eat everything in the raw, but light steaming or sautee-ing beats boiling or frying any day.
2. Fresh smoothies! Try something new for breakfast. Toss some fruit, veggies, and ice in a blender and see what you can create. Smoothies retain all the fibre of the original creature as well, and we all know a healthy colon keeps a healthy body.
3. Eat clean. This means avoiding refined, processed, fried and fast. Whole grains, nuts, seeds and salads are best. When on the go, grabbing a whole food bar such as a larabar will keep you kicking until you can get to the kitchen. Also, pass on the sugar.
4. Exercise. Research shows that even moderate exercise (30mins walking every day) helps keep the immune system charged and ready for action.
5. Reduce animal proteins. In fact, don't overload on any type of protein. For some reasons, North Americans have fetishized proteins and made them the most important part of any meal. The truth is that leafy vegetables (especially sprouts) have more protein than we credit them with, meaning that veggies should always be the focus. Further, cooked proteins are acids, although probably better acids than sugars and refined foods.
*Note: it is important to ensure you are eating enough protein. The key, however, is to find the balance so that you are not overloading. Eating the proper servings of vegetables (6-8/day) and protein (2/day, preferably from vegetable sources) will likely ensure you are meeting this requirement.

Once you have your system under control, here are some other ways to help reduce your risk of catching the dreaded cold:
1. Wash your hands. By this I mean with good old fashioned soap and water. Colds and flus are viruses; anti-bacterial gel is not going to get you anywhere.
2. Keep your hands off of your face. Major passageways for disease include the eyes, nose and mouth. If you have been in contact with a pathogen, you're basically feeding it to yourself with every sweep of your cheek.
3. Eat garlic. Garlic is a natural anti-viral, anti-micorbial, anti-bacterial food which works both internally and topically. Odourless garlic capsules are available at most pharmacies for those who dislike the smell and taste of this wonder food.
4. Take preventative measures with food, vitamins, herbs, and minerals. There are great resources on the internet but in brief: Vit C 1000iu/day, Zinc, Echinacea, Goldenseal, Oil of Oregano, Vitamin E (anti-inflammatory).
5. Move quickly when you feel symptoms come on. See a good homeopath, increase your fluid intake, and get some rest. Oil of oregano is another great anti-illness product; it can be taken in water, directly in the mouth, or even massaged in small amounts onto the soles of your feet. Just be sure to sleep with socks on.
6. SAY HOME if you are sick. No need to share with others. Also, forcing yourself to go about your day an not let a cold or flu "get you down" prolongs the length of the illness. Read a book, get some sleep, catch up on favourite television shows, but always rest. Illness is often a call from our bodies for us to slow down; it can only benefit us to listen.

Get well and stay well.

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