Image by Leonid Mamchenkov
**This post has been entered in Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!**
It’s Labor Day — I hope you’re enjoying the “last hurrah” of summer with family and friends! We’ve finally hit a bit of a cold front around here, bringing us from the mid-90s and very humid down to the mid- to low-70s. It’s a welcome change, although we’d like it to stay in the 70s for awhile yet, to prolong tomato and pepper season. We aren’t done preserving yet! (We’ll be talking more about that on Wednesday.)
Despite that temperatures are still quite warm, fall is right around the corner. Perhaps you’ve seen all the signs for flu shots around town — have you seen my post on why you shouldn’t get one? It means that the “sick” season is right around the corner. Fortunately, there are much better ways than flu shots to protect your health this winter!
Why Do People Get Sick?
You might be wondering why the winter is sick season in the first place. There’s a common misconception that people get sick because of the cold weather, that somehow being in the cold makes us sick. That’s not true.
In fact, there are several reasons why people get sick in the winter. First and most important is that people tend to be very deficient in vitamin D. Without vitamin D, our immune systems don’t work properly (neither do a lot of other systems) and we are susceptible to illness. Vitamin A plays a role in immune function as well (and most people are very deficient in that, too, because we have been lied to and told we can get all the vitamin A we need from beta carotene found in plants — not true). Vitamin D, however, we get primarily from the sun. Since we don’t spend much time outdoors in the winter, we don’t get any vitamin D and we become deficient. Most people are just barely “okay” on vitamin D anyway in the summer time since people are now so obsessed with sunscreen or sun avoidance, but at least they get some. In the winter they don’t.
Being indoors in close quarters also has a lot to do with it. If you put someone with a cold in a room full of warm, vitamin-D deficient people, you can bet many will catch it. People don’t get out much, meaning they’re “together” a lot more, and so the chances of getting sick are greater.
Hygiene is important too, but only if you are already sick or around those who are. Staying home if you are really sick, or remembering to wash your hands, not shake hands, use clean tissues and throw them away promptly, etc. are important to help prevent the spread of illness.
Of course, ideally, we want to prevent illness in the first place, not just try not to spread it. Is that even possible?
Unfortunately, the mainstream view seems to be that illness during the winter months is simply a fact of life, and that there’s not much you can do to prevent it, outside of hygiene. But that’s not true! By boosting your immune system, you can prevent illness, even if you are exposed!
The number one thing to do, as always, is to consume a healthy diet. What does this mean?
- Lots of homemade chicken stock or beef stock
- Plenty of healthy fats, like butter, olive oil (raw), coconut oil, beef tallow. Avoid vegetable oils!
- Lots of fermented foods, like yogurt or kombucha
- Pastured meats and eggs (not factory-farmed)
- Raw milk (find out why it’s safe)
- Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables
- Low-grain, no-grain, or sprouted grains, sourdough, or soaked grains
- Low/no sugar. Stick to unrefined stevia, raw honey, and maple syrup primarily, in small amounts
Yes, this is opposite everything the food pyramid says, pretty much. But this is healthy. This diet has been proven over and over to reduce the risk of not only colds and flu, but serious illnesses too.
Check out our current meal plan!
Choosing appropriate supplements can help, too. I don’t recommend many supplements, but there are a few worth having:
These are the major supplements I keep in my home during the winter. I keep my FCLO around all the time, and everyone takes it daily! That alone was the biggest influence on our health over the last year. Fermented foods made a big difference though too! FCLO contains high levels of real vitamin D and A, meaning you boost your levels, are no longer deficient, and are not very susceptible to illness. Even if you still get sick — which we did, from time to time — it’s so mild that it hardly bothers you. It’s a situation where you feel, “Oh, a slight runny nose, too bad” rather than “Ugh, time to go to bed for a couple days!”
What if You Get Sick?
Sometimes, despite your best efforts (especially if your gut health is not optimal — in which case you may want to consider the GAPS diet), you get sick anyway. Then what?
These natural alternatives will help in case you do get sick. Whenever we’ve gotten sick over the last few years, something on these lists has helped. On the rare occasion we’ve broken down and tried mainstream medicine, it didn’t help — and sometimes even hurt. That’s been our experience, and so we tend to avoid it now.
Another great resource for this winter is Michele of Frugal Granola’s Herbal Nurturing: A Family Healing and Learning Guide. It’s full of herbal medicines that you can make at home, including an awesome cough/throat drop — and lots more!
Hopefully, you and your family won’t get sick this winter. Preparing now is crucial! Get your “medicine cabinet” handy so that you have what you need, in case anything happens. Believe me, the last thing you want is to realize someone’s sick (usually at 3 am) and that you don’t have what you need. This happened to me several times last year so I’m preparing better myself this year!
It’s true that I get a lot of emails now. I love emails and questions from my readers! However, it’s hard to answer everyone. For that reason, I’m going to start doing a monthly “reader questions” feature, where I’ll choose questions that I’ve received over the past month, especially ones that have popped up more than once and I’ll answer them in a blog post. I won’t use any identifying details in the questions, so don’t worry! I’ll do the first one at the end of next week, so send your questions along!
While you’re at it, if you have any suggestions for topics you’d like to see in the future, please let me know. I want to provide my readers with information that is valuable to them!
By the way, I could use your help. In a month or so, we’re planning to re-release Real Food Basics, and I’m also re-doing Healthy Pregnancy Super Foods (I’m splitting it into two books: one with a ‘healthy pregnancy‘ focus, and one with a general ’super foods’ focus). As part of the re-release, we want to update the pictures and add additional ones. If you would be willing to take pictures of the recipes for me, I would be so grateful! You will receive photo credit in the book and a free copy when it is finished. Please email me if you are interested in helping! I’m also taking title suggestions for the new pregnancy and super foods books if you have any, and the person who suggests the winning title will get a free copy of that book too!
If you’re a blogger and would like to join my “blogging friends” email list, please email me. I send out emails about once a month, to let you know about new books I’m releasing, sales I’m running, etc. My affiliates get these emails and some of them earn decent money promoting my books. I’d also like to know about what you’re up to, as well!
How are you preparing for the ’sick’ season this winter? What are your favorite prevention strategies or remedies?
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