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Cold and Flu Season: Here's how to handle it!

Updated: Jan 31

Prevention is better than cure! Taking good care of ourselves is even more important at this time of year. Adequate sleep, good hydration, a nutrient-rich diet, and stress management are all critical. Sleep is a time when our immune systems are in high gear. It is also the time when our natural cleansing mechanisms, the liver, kidneys and lymph, are busy sweeping out the cellular debris accumulated during the day. Feeling a little under the weather at the end of the day? An extra hour’s sleep will likely do you good. Hydration is important for healthier mucous membranes. This immunologically active barrier lining our noses and throats works best when it is moist and well-hydrated. This is even more important if we work in a dry office or school, or are traveling in a dry airplane. Consuming plenty of water or herbal tea will make those mucous membranes less vulnerable. Eat well! Include a wide variety of colourful plant foods, which are rich in vitamins and minerals so vital for a good immune response. Include supplements. As children, many of us were given cod liver oil in the winter. We now know that cod liver oil is a rich source of vitamins A and D, which are natural immune supports. A good multivitamin with zinc, as well as a good probiotic, are also beneficial for immune health. We support the idea of increasing vitamin C intake during the cold season. Even the best multi will not contain enough vitamin C to make a big difference. Remember, we humans cannot make our own vitamin C, unlike most other mammals, and we need more when our immune system is challenged by a virus. Wash your hands frequently. Studies show that frequent hand washing with good old soap and water can reduce transmission of viruses by up to 20%! Avoid exposure to harsh weather. Although many doctors would say weather makes no difference in “catching a cold”, that expression alone tells us our grandmothers were right: being outside unprepared for a sudden change in temperature, or exposure to cold wind and raw weather often lead to scratchy throats and sore ears. In Chinese medicine, exposure to the elements is considered to be a major factor in getting sick. Many generations have used the famous recipe for “Change of season soup” to fortify themselves at this time of year. The recipe is in the box below. Also avoid excess sugar. Sugar makes white blood cells more sluggish and less effective for up to 14 hours after consumption! That brings us to Halloween, when kids stay out late in the cold, gathering sugary treats. They then go to school with others who have done the same, so a whole classroom is filled with kids with less than optimum immune function. No wonder the first week of November often sees a high number of absences from school, including teachers! So help your kids get more robust before Halloween, with early nights, good food, and a good meal before going out trick or treating. Coats, hats and gloves may be necessary, even if they are not part of the costume!

Change of Season Soup is an immune tonic that has been used in Chinese Medicine for many centuries. This herbal formula improves resistance to colds and flus and helps balance the body during periods of stress. One bowl daily is recommended for healthy people as a preventive, nourishing herbal broth. People who are actively suffering from viral illness should not take this soup until they are recovering. The soup has a slightly bitter taste. To make it tastier, use the herbal broth as a base for hearty chicken soup, using a whole chicken, immune-enhancing shiitake mushrooms, onions, garlic, ginger and carrots. INGREDIENTS You will need 3 ounces (90g) of each of the following Chinese herbs, which can often be purchased at a Chinese market or most health food stores.

  1. Codonopsis root: to tonify and strengthen Qi, build blood and nourish body fluids.

  2. Astragalus root: to strengthen protective defences, strengthen Qi and tonify the blood and lungs

  3. Dioscorea (Chinese yam) root: to tonify and balance the lungs and kidneys

  4. Chinese dried lychee berries: to strengthen the liver and kidneys

INSTRUCTIONS Fill a large stock pot with 8 cups (2 litres) of water. Add the herbs and place the lid on the pot. Cook at a simmer for four hours. After cooking, remove the herbs with a slotted spoon. You can drink a big mug of this broth daily (keep refrigerated or freeze and reheat), or you can now use it as a base for chicken soup. To use this herbal decoction as a base for chicken soup or chicken broth add:

  • 8 more cups (2 litres) of water

  • 1 whole chicken

  • 1 large onion

  • 3 carrots

  • 2 cloves of garlic

  • a knob of ginger

  • a handful of dried shiitake mushrooms

  • salt and pepper to taste

Simmer this for 2 to 3 hours, until the chicken is falling off the bone.

If you do get sick, first: stop, rest and take care of yourself. If that feels selfish, think of your co-workers who don’t want you to share this with them! Next week we will share our self-care strategies to use if you do get sick, and things to keep on hand in your prevention kit. Please pass this on to your friends and family!

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