As we enter fall and winter, the inaccurately named cold and flu season, we must pay special attention to nourishing our bodies and supporting our immune systems. In today’s article, we’ll review three steps you can focus on to prepare your body for a time of heightened illness so you can remain strong and healthy!
The misnomer of cold and flu season is due to holidays filled with overeating and sweets (starting with Halloween and continuing into the new year), high levels of stress, plus decreased sunlight, lower levels of vitamin D, fewer hours of sleep, and less movement. This combination of factors will lead to a weakened immune system and a “season” of illness.
So what can you do to prepare?
Focus on consuming nutrient-dense whole foods. Nourish your body with the macronutrients and micronutrients found in high-quality protein, healthy fats, and vegetables in every color of the rainbow.
Incorporate electrolyte-rich beverages to help your body absorb water and maintain hydration. Sodium, potassium, and chloride are the significant electrolytes along with magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonates (1). Choose beverages filled with these naturally occurring electrolytes, like coconut water and bone broth (2).
You can also make an electrolyte beverage by adding a pinch of unrefined mineral salt and a squeeze of organic lemon (or any citrus) to your glass of water. The Himalayan sea salt carries 84 trace minerals that act as sponges for our cells to absorb the water and the squeeze of lemon is a pop of fresh flavor with a boost of Vitamin C!
Nature as a therapeutic resource has ancient foundations, traced back to Hippocrates, ancient Roman texts, and monasteries in the 1200s (3). You may find it interesting to learn that an early American illness known as neurasthenia, with symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and migraines, was often cured with nature therapy, known as the “west cure”, where men (including prominent figures such as poet Walt Whitman and US President Theodore Roosevelt) were sent west to ranches to work roping horses on the range. The cure they suggested was simple: experiences of pleasant rural scenery (4).
While being sent to rope horses on the range may not be an option for you, getting out in nature is. Whether you’re simply listening to birds, rushing water, or rustling trees, or taking a hike, going skiing, or doing work in your yard, spending time in nature reduces stress, balances the nervous system, and strengthens the immune system.
This fall and winter, make it a priority to spend ample time outside to support, nourish, and heal your system as a whole.
Times of high stress require deep restorative sleep that provides our bodies with the opportunity to repair and rebuild. Support your physical and mental health during peak times of illness by obtaining a minimum of 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep heals the body, clears the mind, and restores the soul (5).
If you’re unable to achieve 8 hours of sleep during this season of life, nap or rest when you can, and be sure to nourish your body in other ways that feel good. This could include meditation, time in nature (as mentioned above!), listening to classical music, or partaking in simple things that bring you joy.
As always, caring for your body should be your number one priority. Choose to incorporate nourishing foods, hydrating beverages, therapeutic time in nature, and restorative sleep to support and strengthen your body during this season of heightened illness.
1. Electrolytes – Statpearls – NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541123/.
2. Dorn, Mike Van. “Brodo Bone Broth: A Natural Source of Electrolytes and Hydration.” Brodo Broth Co™, 27 Jan. 2022, https://www.brodo.com/blog/nutrition/electrolytes-and-hydration.
3-4. Franco, L. S., Shanahan, D. F., & Fuller, R. A. (2017). A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(8), 864. doi:10.3390/ijerph14080864
5. “The Therapeutic Power of Sleep.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evil-deeds/200811/the-therapeutic-power-sleep