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It is that time of year again (groan!). Welcome to the cold and flu season. Your first inclination may be to head to the closest drugstore and stock up on tissues and cold medication. If you dread the thought of a runny or stuffed up nose, sneezing, sinus congestion, a headache, the chills and a dry scratchy throat, be proactive.

How can you accomplish that? Get regular physical activity (even walks will fit the fitness bill in the fall and winter months) and improve the work of your overworked immune system by paying attention to your nutrition.

Here’s how:

One – Think healthy protein:

One of the many tasks of protein is to improve the body’s ability to produce antibodies that fight diseases and infections. Choose high-protein foods that are also are made up of healthy fats. Examples of these include ground turkey breast, white-meat chicken, beans, fish, nuts, tofu and non-fat dairy. Stay away from fatty red meats and dairy foods that are high in their fat content. These foods promote inflammation around the heart and should be avoided.

Two – Enjoy a cup of black tea:

To improve your body’s ability to fight viruses, drink more black tea. Those who consume five cups (approximately three mugs) of black tea on a daily basis, produce 10 times more “virus-fighting interferon” than those individuals who drink coffee.

Three – Add some color to your diet:

Fruits and vegetables come in every color of the rainbow- well practically! Load up on as many colors as you can. Bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi fruit, oranges, strawberries and tomatoes are all excellent sources of vitamin C and flavonoids. These essential substances support the body in sending out protective immune cells. You need these foods so eat up as often as possible!

Four – Choose cereals that are 100 percent whole-grain:

Oatmeal and shredded wheat are two whole-grain cereals that are rich in the nutrients beta glucan, selenium and zinc. These three nutrients are particularly beneficial in the winter months because they enhance the work of the immune system.

Five – Fight illness with spiced up chicken soup:

Even with the best efforts, it is still possible to catch something during the cold and flu season. If you do come down with something, turn to the old standby, chicken soup. Chicken soup has the potential to shorten the duration of your illness by as much as 50 percent.

There have been many theories proposed as to why this may be the case. One of the theories has to do with an amino acid called cysteine.  When chicken is cooked, it releases this amino acid, which is chemically similar to a drug for bronchitis called acetylcysteine.

To enhance chicken soup’s power to fight the flu and a cold, add some garlic and hot red pepper to your soup. Garlic is excellent at fighting viruses while hot red pepper contains capsaicin, which is a very strong decongestant. Chicken soup with a little dill weed added to it can also do your infection a world of good.

Stay well!

Becca

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You have heard people talk about “catching a cold.” What exactly does it mean to catch a cold? It sounds like a funny way of talking about coming down with a head cold, but it is a common expression, especially during the cold and flu season (predominantly the fall and winter months).

But you may have been misled about the manner in which you “catch” a cold!

We are often led to believe that it is germs that cause diseases and such health issues as the common cold. Germs are everywhere and so are the many viruses that can herald the start of illness.

But … the story does not end there. In fact it is only the beginning of it.

Germs create disease when the conditions are right for it to occur in the human body. When the environment is already bordering on unhealthy, this is when germs can wreck havoc and strike. However, it can only happen if the immune system is run down. If the immune system is well fortified and going strong, germs have no impact. That is a force field that they are not able to penetrate.

The immune system is an integral part of the functioning of your body. It plays a vital role in how healthy you are (or how healthy you are not!). Your body’s immune system function never takes a day-or night- off. The immune system is successful at fending off germs and other pathogens 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When the circumstances of your immune system are not ideal, symptoms of illness will appear. If you know that you are stressed out, overtired, and not taking proper care of yourself, your chances of getting sick are much greater. Hello cold virus!

When it comes to a compromised immune system, we need to ask ourselves what we are doing or thinking to cause the problem. It is not just a question of what is happening with our physical health. Our emotional and mental health is often common culprits of illness and disease as well.

Instead of focusing on germs or viruses (which can often cause you needless worry), focus on living a healthy and disease-free life. Make that a priority. Do everything you can to promote the health and wellness of your hardworking (and often under appreciated!) immune system. By boosting the effectiveness of your immunity, you will strengthen your body’s ability to fight off unwanted visitors in the form of unhealthy germs, bacteria and viruses.

A good place to start is to look at what you eat. Eat a nutritious diet that consists of as many organic foods as you can find (and afford). If you can grow your own fruits and vegetables, plant a garden and enjoy your own pesticide free produce.

Exercise regularly, get enough sleep and find effective ways to cope with stress. Regular massages are beneficial, as is periodic chiropractic care. Meditation and yoga are both good ways to relax every part of your being.

Taking care of yourself properly enables your immune system to do the job that nature intended it to do. It can do a super duper job the better you nurture it!

Samantha

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During winter and as you go about your daily lives you need to take extra special care of your health. The cold season brings with it plenty of chills, and dialing up the heat on your health and well-being is important for every member of the family.

When the cold and flu season strikes good nutrition is important for everyone in your household. Serve your children the most nutritious snacks you can and make sure that their daily diets are well balanced. Eating right makes it easier for the immune system to do its job properly. Some smart winter snack options for yourself and your kids include raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, celery and cut up pieces of broccoli and  cauliflower, dried and fresh fruits such as apples, oranges and pears, yogurt with flax-seed or wheat germ and some berries mixed in and whole-wheat crackers with cheese.

Make sure that your children do not become dehydrated. While we sweat less in winter than we do in the summer months it is still important to keep the body well hydrated.

Encourage your children to drink water, as well as juices that are low in sugar but high in their vitamin C content. Studies have shown that being properly hydrated can lessen the severity as well as the duration of colds during the winter months. Decaffeinated tea and hot cocoa are also excellent winter beverages as they are good sources of nutrients and antioxidants which in turn can help to strengthen the immune system.

Make sure you dress your children properly when they leave for school and when they go out to play. You want them to feel comfortable but not so bulky in their outdoor clothing that they cannot move about freely.

Dress them in layers and make sure when they go out to play that you have dry mittens, hats and scarves waiting by the door. On days when the temperature drops limit their outdoor playtime or suggest an enjoyable indoor activity instead.

Keep your kids prepared for the time of year it is. Tuck an extra pair of gloves or mittens in their school bags, as well as an extra pair of socks. Buy small packs of tissues and put them into one of the pockets of their school bags as well. Make sure you let them know that they are there if they need them! The tissues will help your children blow their noses and will prevent the spread of germs.

If they get snow in their boots when they are playing in the school yard then an extra pair of socks will come in handy. Gloves get wet and sometimes one will go missing so  having an extra pair can help out your child if that happens to him or her during the school day.

Being outside in the winter is not only fun but healthy and keeps everybody sane – just make sure your kids are well-protected from the cold and change wet or damp clothes when they come indoors.

Becca

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