September and “back to school” are just around the corner and that means we’re about to enter what I call “Germ Season”.
Many people (myself included) take a break from our usual routine during the summer months. That little bit of extra sunshine and lots of outdoor play makes us a little less likely to get sick. But, Fall is the perfect time to get back on the wagon and make cold and flu prevention a priority.
Prevention is the best medicine
1. Vitamin D. If this hasn’t been part of your routine in Winters past, it’s never too late to start! Canadians are notoriously deficient, with an estimated two-thirds of Canadians not getting enough to maintain a blood level of 75 nmol/L. Ideally, the amount of supplementation will be tailored to your current vitamin D levels. Your doctor can check for blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or we can order a bloodspot test through Rocky Mountain Analytical.
But, even without knowing this information, most adult Canadians can safely supplement with a minimum of 2000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. And, look for oil preparations of vitamin D (vs. tablets) as the fat helps to increase absoroption of this fat-soluble vitamin. Talk to your ND for individualized recommendations.
2. Probiotics. Many people are familiar with probiotics for managing conditions such as IBS and IBD, but many aren’t yet aware of their immune-supporting benefits. Several studies over the past number of years have found that probiotic use reduces the frequency and duration of viral illnesses. This recent meta-analysis of probiotic use in children and adults revealed significantly fewer numbers of days of illness per person, shorter illness episodes by almost a day, and fewer numbers of days absent from day care/school/work.
*09/2016 update: Another meta-analysis confirms the above finding that children who take probiotics have fewer respiratory tract infections.
So, don’t forget to take a good quality, multi-strain probiotic through cold and flu season. And, it doesn’t hurt to include fermented foods as part of your diet as well. Late summer/early fall is a great time to get a batch of lacto-fermented vegetables going.
Additional Immune Support
The following list of items are good to have on hand, and can help to shorten the duration of a viral illness. Many herbal preparations (echinacea, astragalus) may be also be used to help prevent illness, but it’s best to talk to an ND first as many of these may have contraindications or interactions with medication.
- Elderberry Extract – this extract of Sambucus nigra is great for kids and adults at reducing respiratory symptoms associated with cold and flu viruses.
- Vitamin C – helps to reduce severity and length of viral illness (especially the common cold)
- Nin Jiom cough syrup – hands down my most used and recommended cough syrup. Conveniently available at Shoppers Drug Mart. **contains licorice – be aware of several drug interactions**
- Honey – Is an effective cough suppressant and very soothing .
Still sick? Sick all the time?
Our immune system is endlessly complex, and factors such as diet, environment, genetics and stress all play a role in how well it works. If it seems like you or your child are always getting sick, talk to an ND.
Eat real food, take vitamin D, probiotics ,and wash your hands!