With fall and school season upon us that means winter is right around the corner. Which of course means every parent’s most dreaded time of the year, cold and flu season.
Cold and flu season used to terrify me. Especially when my children were just little babies. However there are steps you can take to help prevent nasty illnesses this cold and flu season and keep your family happy and healthy. I’ll outline some general advice on staying healthy. This is useful for preventing the common cold, the flu, and all the fun stuff in between.
The BEST way to handle cold and flu season is to never get sick the first place! Okay probably not possible. Getting sick is a normal part of life. Especially with kids. Let’s be honest kids are literally walking germs with their never-ending runny noses, uncovered sneezes, and dirty little hands. But there are some steps you can take to help minimize your chances of catching everything that comes waltzing through your front door or at least minimizing the severity.
1.WASH YOUR HANDS. I can’t say this enough. Washing your hands is one of the most basic yet most effective ways of reducing the spread of germs. So start getting into the habit of washing those hands! No special antibacterial soap needed. Just lots of suds and water.
2. NUTRITION. What you eat determines everything. EVERYTHING. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a great way to help keep your immune system in tip-top shape. The best way to be ready for cold and flu season is to keep a healthy and nutritious diet all year-long. Don’t wait until you are sick.
I am not going to get into what to eat and not eat because most people know what it means to make good food choices. Avoid sugar and fast food and pick something like a veggie dish with wild caught salmon. Easy!
3. PROBIOTICS. Your gut is responsible for 80-85% of your immune system’s function. Think about that for a second. 80-85% of your immune system’s function is determined by the health of your gut. This is why what you eat is so important. This is also why we need to make sure we have a balanced gut. Your gut consists of two main bacteria groups–your beneficial bacteria and your opportunistic bacteria. In a perfect world these two groups of bacteria work together in perfect harmony and are balanced. It’s truly an amazing relationship. Read more about gut health and your immune system here.
Unfortunately, because of a number of factors, this is not usually what’s happening in your gut. Without enough beneficial bacteria, your opportunistic bacteria is left to multiply unchecked causing a whole host of problems. Including a weakened immune system.
Many people opt for fermented foods as their source of probiotics. Kefir, yogurt, kombucha, fermented vegetables, etc. I personally like to incorporate a supplement during cold and flu season as well. There are many choices out there when it comes to picking a probiotic. When looking for a probiotic go with the more expensive choice, the one with a higher CFU count, no weird additives, and multiple strains. For the kids, I like this one offered by Smarty Pants.
For the younger babies, if mom is breastfeeding and is either on probiotics for herself or has no gut issues (such as chronic constipation, yeast infections, chronic illness, or been on antibiotics within the last year), then breast milk is generally enough. If baby has gut issues (reflex, indigestion, food sensitivities, chronic illness, etc.) or is formula fed then adding in an infant probiotic is a great idea.
4. VITAMINS. Unfortunately, with the way that our food is grown and harvested in this day and age, it’s nearly impossible to get all the vitamins and minerals that you need to stay healthy. During the winter months especially, it is important to supplement with a few vitamins to help support your immune system.
Multi-Vitamin. When looking for a multi-vitamin look for quality and no weird additives. For adults, I like the Thorne brand’s multi-vitamin. For the kids, stay clear of brands like Flintstones. We like this multi-vitamin from Smarty Pants. They also offer a multi-vitamin for ages toddler-teens.
Vitamin D3-K2. The sunshine vitamin. But most of us aren’t getting enough sunshine during the cold months. In fact, most of us aren’t getting enough vitamin D all year long. Thanks to the Standard American Diet, sunscreen, and a fear of the sun, Vitamin D is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies.
Vitamin D is essential in strengthening your innate immune system. More and more studies are emerging on the benefits of Vitamin D. Like these ones here: Multiple Sclerosis and Vitamin D, lupus, Vitamin D and immune function, Vitamin D deficiency may increase your risk of cold and flu.
Also, know that vitamin D3 is fat soluble (so take with a meal containing fat) and works better when paired with vitamin K2. I like this brand from Live Wise. For dosing on vitamin D3-K2 I follow Doctor Mario Brus’s guidelines which can be found here.
5. BONE BROTH. Bone broth is an excellent way to help nourish your gut and keep your immune system strong. Bone broth can boost immunity, repair cartilage, strengthen the gut lining to repair leaky gut syndrome, and even reduce cellulite (SOLD!).
So what is bone broth? Bone broth is a broth made by simmering animal bones for hours in water with vegetables and herbs. And by hours I mean 8-24 hours for chicken bones and 8-48 hours for beef bones. The longer you simmer, the more proteins (collagen and gelatin), minerals, and compounds will be released from the bones.
MY KIDS WILL NEVER DRINK THIS! The best way to get kids to drink this bone broth is to use it for soup or you can even hide it in smoothies! Start kids on bone broth early to get them used to it. A couple sips when an infant begins solids is fine. Just use vegetables in the broth they have been exposed to already to make sure there are no food sensitivities.
6. SELF-CARE. What is self-care? I don’t know. Maybe someone can let me know.
Okay in all seriousness. Self-care is super important for your health and your kids health. I am constantly running around caring for the kids, the house, the animals. I don’t do well with self-care. BUT I can still acknowledge the importance of it!
For myself and the kids self-care simply consists of physical activity like going for walks. We also use the chiropractor (which not only contributes to self-care but also gives the immune system a great boost and helps with things like colds, ear infections, and sinus infections). Meditation, acupuncture, detox baths, and massage are all great self-care ideas and many double as immune boosters!
How to Make Bone Broth
- 3-pound whole chicken*
- 2 carrots roughly chopped
- 2 stalks of celery roughly chopped
- 1 onion quartered
- 2 TBS of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
- Fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, whatever works!)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the chicken into a 12-quart stock pot, and cover with water.
- Add the veggies, herbs and apple cider vinegar. Bring to a low boil.
- Reduce heat to the lowest setting.
- Partially cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked. About 45 minutes.
- Carefully remove chicken and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Using forks remove meat from chicken. Doesn’t need to be perfect.
- Place carcass back into the pot and bring back to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and let simmer for a minimum of 5 hours. The longer the better. Skim froth from the top of the broth as it happens.
- Remove bones and strain broth. Store in refrigerator for 3-4 days or freeze for up to a year.