With cold weather fast approaching, and the children back in school, the thoughts of staying healthy, avoiding the dreaded flu, and keeping our immune systems at their highest level have been forefront in my mind!
So I’ve been mulling over all the things we’ve done in the past, the things we are planning to do this year, and have been soliciting ideas from my irl, facebook, & twitter friends. All this adds up to a pretty darned good list, if I do say so myself. Though, I’m sure there are plenty more things I could do better! Here it is (not really in any order other than how they came to my mind):
(and this photo isn't me - just looked like how I'd like to feel all year 'round!)
Fresh Air & Sunshine – Getting outside every day, even when it’s really cold, if just for a few minutes, is so important. Not only do our bodies need the sunlight so they can make vitamin D (which is VITAL to staying healthy – please read what Dr. Mercola has to say about vitamin D & sun exposure – it may change your perspective on the sun; it did mine!), but we also need fresh air to clear out our lungs from being cooped up indoors all winter day. Most of our indoor air contains pollutants – carpet fibers, paint offgassing, cleaning products, etc. So, in addition to getting outside, periodically opening the windows throughout the winter to get some “new” air in, I recommend switching all cleaning products used indoors to natural products – castille soap, vinegar, baking soda, and tea tree oil for example, or safer chemical cleaners – like 7th Generation.
Fruits, veggies, and berries – particularly berries - We try to eat organic as much as possible to avoid chemical exposure, and to boost antioxidants (organic produce has been found to have higher levels of antioxidants than conventional food)! We also are fortunate to have a juicer – and try to use it often in the winter to get the most out of our veggies in particular. I believe that food is better for you when it is raw & unpasturized; though the thought of raw veggies isn’t that appealing to most – particularly kids, so juicing makes eating your veggies easy! It also helps cut down on the amt. of food wasted – when your strawberries start to get soft, or your apples bruised, for example, I just throw them in the juicer – and no one’s the wiser – but they sure still taste great! When we can’t get to the juicer, or don’t have fresh fruits/veggies on hand, the next best thing we’ve found is Nuriche LiVE. And we like it so much, that we decided to start selling it! It’s a super-easy way to make sure we’re still getting the benefits of fresh fruits + probiotics… and it tastes good too.
Water - Water, of course, is important to keep everything working in our bodies & I always feel it just flushes out the toxins… the more water you take in, the more bad stuff it takes out. We have a water filter, and I’m trying to wean myself off of bottled spring water. However, while rated highly “clean”, our township water is fluoridated, so its been a mental battle for me to switch completely off of bottled spring. But I am trying! For my birthday, my good friend got for me 5 reusable BPA-free plastic water bottles: one for each day of the work week. And I plan to get the children each a Kleen Kanteen for Christmas. So this should help!
Washing Hands – We use herbal antibacterial soap by Cleanwell at our sinks, and just regular old olive oil soap in the bath. We wash before meals, after going outside, and after getting back from school/work. When we’re in the car, and can’t get to a sink, my favorite antibacterial spray is Burt’s Bees Aloe & Witch Hazel Hand Sanitizer. I don’t consider myself too much of a germaphobe, and don’t chase the kids around with antibacterial spray (oh wait, maybe I do), but these two things are free from toxic chemicals like triclosan & SLS, so I feel comfortable using them.
Exercise – Okay. I’ll admit, I do not exercise enough. Or, well, at all. Sometimes we’ll get on an exercise kick where we’ll get on our running machine & elliptical every evening once the kids are in bed but we’ve never been able to get into a real routine! The kids, on the otherhand, always get plenty of exercise – of course, they always have boundless energy too. :) Its so important to long-term health, and its important for the children to see US placing a priority on exercise. This is something we ALL need to work on.
Supplements – Aside from the healthy foods, getting outside, and drinking lots of fluids, we also supplement our diets with the following things; most vigilantly in the Winter:
Probiotic – I use Jarro brand because its what I started with when my youngest was an infant & had thrush. Comes chewable for the kids, capsulated for me, and powdered which I use to mix into smoothies, sprinkle on oatmeal, etc.
Elderberry concentrate – we take this daily because it is so tasty, easy to mix into the kid’s water, and packed full of natural nutrients! Additionally, it has been shown to have anti-viral properties.
Garlic – Adam & I take garlic in capsule form, and we make homemade garlicky hummus & soups for ourselves & the kids.
Echinacea – We all take this two weeks on, two weeks off throughout cold season
Astragalus – We all take this daily throughout cold season
Vitamin C – We all take this daily in the form of chewable tablets, but also unpasteurized orange juice. We boost our daily intake during cold season.
Vitamin D – we get out in the sun every day when its possible, but even when it is, we all also take vitamin D – in the form of cod liver oil for us, and Carlsons Baby D drops for the kids. With all I’ve been reading about vitamin D lately, I’m even considering starting to regularly visit a tanning salon in the winter months. Yes, crazy, right? And I’ve never in my life tanned, and do use California Baby sunscreen in the middle of summer when we're going to be out all day in the sun, yet the more I read, the more I’m convinced vitamin D deficiencies are the link to so many health problems… and that dramatically increasing vitamin D would be the link to much better health!
Chiropractor – We try to visit the chiropractor once a month. Its been a while because our favorite chiropractor has relocated to a not-so-convenient location, but we really need to go back, particularly through the winter! I believe that having our bodies aligned improves circulation, posture, and communication of the brain with the body. Basically, if our body is comfortable it can heal itself. So I’m working on finding a new chiropractor.
Sleep - With young children I know this can be a tough one. And even WITHOUT young children, with so much to do in the evenings - internet, movies, games, blogging, reading, cleaning, working... well, getting enough sleep is just not easy. But as adults we're supposed to get 8 hours of sleep per night. EIGHT! Even with both of our children now finally "sleeping through the night", I often find myself averaging closer to 5 or 6 hours per night during the week, rather than 8 (when's the last time I got 8?!). But our bodies do much of thier healing while we're sleeping. So its another thing, like exercise, that really needs focus.
– We've always slept with a HEPA air purifier at night. Mostly for that lovely white noise sound which is so helpful in keeping little ones asleep. But also because it removes any allergenic or irritating particles in the air while we're sleeping - and we do spend a large portion of our day in one place - our bedroom - so best to make the air we're breathing (and rebreathing) as clean as possible.
Flu shots – I think I’m back on the fence with this one. Last year, we all got the flu shot. I had to switch doctors in order to make sure everyone got the mercury-free dose, and no, we didn’t get the flu last year. But we never got the flu any other year either, and had never gotten the flu vaccine. This year, I’ll have to special order the mercury-free one (Sanofi Pasteur makes the pre-filled vials this year) – my doctor is willing to write a script for it – because neither of the practices we visit received the themerisol-free version this year. Which is another topic for another day. So, I’m still not sure about it, or the H1N1 vaccine. I’m considering getting it for myself, but since my understanding is that they haven’t produced a mercury-free version, I just don’t know that I can feel comfortable giving this to the kids. Particularly in light of my understanding of H1N1 as not being that severe in most cases of healthy children who contract it. And because I believe that things like the flu are probably GOOD for your body in the long run, because they make your immune system stronger over time, where as vaccines only boost your immunities for a brief window. But really, I’m still just not sure.
**Update: We've decided a definitive NO on both the seasonal flu shot & the H1N1 vaccine this year; opting instead for more vigilant adherance to the above vitamin & sleep & exercise regimens to boost our immune systems naturally!**
In spite of all of this prevention (flu shot or no), we still do get sick. So, we take:
Umcka – It works so well (and is all natural)… it’s eerie. Of course, it could just be power of suggestion. But even still…. You start taking it 4 – 5 times per day, AS SOON AS you start feeling even a little bit ill. And then for 2 days after you’re well. I am convinced it has reduced the length of my colds, and made them easier to weather. I give it to the kids as well (just at half/quarter dose). It IS expensive, but when you’re in the midst of a cold/flu, you do what you can to feel better. And this really does help me feel better.
Elderberry Concentrate - Yes, I listed this above. However, when we do get sick, we take this 4x per day (1 tsp at a time for adults, 1/2 tsp at a time for kids) because of its antiviral properties.
What I don't yet do, but would like to do:
Find an ayurvedic doctor for all of us. Its difficult finding a regular old doctor here in Southern NJ that is even willing to honor requests like special order vaccines or understands the value of extended breastfeeding, let alone being able to find a more holistic practice. I've been looking, and am still looking. I hate feeling like we're settling for second best (or third, or...) when it comes to health practitioner, but my inquiries IRL & online for a more holistic doc in this area have so far been fruitless. I'm certainly open to referrals! I think a less traditional-medicine doctor who looks at the whole person, not just treats the symptoms, would be really beneficial to us all.
So that’s it (just a couple things, right?)! I encourage you to add to the list anything you do that isn’t mentioned, or to tell me what I’m doing doesn’t work! I’m open to new ideas, and to improving what we already do. Here’s to a healthy Winter ahead!