Frost splattered across the cars and grass this morning. The thick layer required me to warm up my car. As I sat there shivering, it reminded me that winter is coming. Then, I got to the office and the front desk receptionist said, "Brrr! It's that time of year again. Everyone is going to get sick." No! No one wants to be sick. Stuffy noses, sore throats, body aches, and bad moods plague us all as winter approaches. It's a drag and no one has time for it. We have things to create, people to see, and yoga class or cross fit to attend. Yet, it happens to the best of us so here are my top three ways to fight off a cold this winter or shorten it's duration.
Tip 1: Garlic.
Garlic is tasty but more importantly, it is highly medicinal when consumed correctly. It can fight colds, decrease blood pressure, decrease cholesterol, and heal our bones. It is full of sulfur compounds, such as allicin, which is released briefly after the clove is chopped or crushed. Research shows that taking a garlic supplement or extract decreases your risk to getting a cold by 70% and decreases the duration of a cold from 5 days to 1.5 days. I recommend taking a garlic supplement regularly during the winter (as long as it doesn't interfere with medications you are taking.) I also recommend eating fresh garlic as much as possible to unlock your immune superpower. Remember, it is best to eat it immediately after chopping it - to get a dose of allicin. I sprinkle it on top of my salads, stir frys, and soups.
Tip 2: Sleep.
Common sense, I know, but many of us are busy, stay up late, and wake up early. In one study, adults who slept less than five or six hours a night were four times more likely to catch a cold than those who slept at least seven hours. Many of us also don't consider our sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is about factors that can effect your sleeping: pets, lights, sounds, anxiety, sleep position, bedroom cleanliness, sheet fabrics, mold in the bedroom, and electronics. Do sounds bother you every night? Earplugs might help. How long does it take for you to go to bed? Are you thinking of negative thoughts or stressed out? Having a wind down ritual that includes gratitude and stretching can improve sleep and decrease stress. Is your bedroom dirty? Clean your bedroom, this is essential. That way, if you get a cold, your space is clean, and ready to support a quick recovery. Do you use electronics before bed or in bed? Removing electronics (TV, iphone, ipad, laptop, computer) from the bedroom while sleeping decreases your EMF exposure. EMF exposure is everywhere but you can make small changes to decrease your risk to health-related problems. These are just some factors to consider that may affect your sleep. Protect your sleep to decrease your risk for catching a cold.
Tip 3: Avoid Sugar.
Sugar decreases your white blood cell count for up to five hours which means your immune system literally shuts down. Sugar also decreases the liver's ability to detoxifiy and depletes you of essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D. Sugar is hidden in lots of processed foods and beverages. It's literally in everything and has 50 billion different names. Read labels to see how much sugar is in whatever you are consuming. Top sugary foods that may surprise you include: low fat yogurt, barbecue sauce, ketchup, granola, fruit juices, iced tea, protein bars, cereal bars, pre-made soup, bottled smoothies, dried fruits, energy drinks, vitamin water,and breakfast cereals. I was at Northwestern's Food is Medicine Conference two years ago and a doctor said regarding sugar, "as a general rule for patients, never eat more than 24 grams of sugar in 24 hours." When we have a strong immune system to fight bacteria or viruses, we don't get symptoms of a cold because our body can fight them off. Avoiding sugar is one of the best ways you can avoid getting sick and decrease the duration of a cold.
With the cold weather approaching, I hope these 3 tips can help you fight off colds this winter. If you do get a cold, ask yourself if you have been having a lot of sugar in your diet, dealing with a lot of stress in your life, or lacking sleep? Our bodies are intelligent and constantly digesting everything around us - physically and emotionally. Getting a cold is your body telling you that it needs your support and to slow down. Naturopathic medicine focuses on identifying the root cause of disease and supporting the body to heal itself. When we address the root cause to why we are sick, we can prevent it and heal systemically.
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