It’s that time of year again! Nature is exploding with colors, temperatures are dropping, and Fall is in the air! I love it. But, it’s also that time of year when we see ads for flu shots, and everyone seems to be worried about getting sick. I’m sure you’re wondering, “Why do I get sick when the weather changes?” In this week’s blog, we’ll talk about:
- Why you get sick at certain times of the year more than at other times.
- Why not taking care of yourself can lead to chronic diseases.
- What you can do to prevent catching a cold, the flu and other ailments… naturally.
- Do I need the flu shot?
Is The Weather Making Me Sick?
While it might seem like the cold weather is making us sick, it’s just not true.
So what causes it?
One theory is that the influenza virus may survive better in colder, drier climates, and is therefore to infect more people during this period. Others think that it’s because of closed spaces. Most often, it’s a weakened immune system, and germs.
How does this happen? Let's explore our options.
When It’s Cold Out, We Go Inside
While we don’t really know why we get sick more when it’s cold out, there is a general consensus among the scientific community that it could be because we are in more confined spaces when it’s cold outside. In the summer, we spend more time outdoors, windows are open more often, we keep fresh air circulating and the air is more humid.
These are all good things for our health! But when it gets cold outside, unfortunately, we move inside!
There’s not as much fresh air in a closed space, and there’s nowhere for germs to go – but to each other!
“The answer as to why flu is a winter disease is not fully known. However, flu is spread largely by droplet (aerosol) infection from individuals with a high viral level in their nasal and throat secretions, sneezing and coughing on anyone close at hand. The aerosol droplets of the "right" size (thought to be about 1.5 micrometers in diameter) remain airborne and are breathed into the nose or lungs of the next victim. Situations in which people are crowded together are more common in cold or wet weather--and so perhaps this contributes to spreading the flu at these times” — Hugh G. Niall, for Scientific American.
I enjoy the social season of the holidays, travel, and love spending time with other like-minded people. But, take caution! Why? When you’re next to someone who is ill, and if they sneeze or a cough, or even if someone hands you a drink — the germs go to you!
When we close the windows and turn up the heat, it means that the air is more humid and it simply recirculates the germs in that space, creating a perfect atmosphere to catch a bug in no time.
We’re heading into the holiday season, which might mean a lot of travel for some. Since viruses like the flu spread through droplets secreted through coughing, sneezing and breathing, spending hours in close proximity to a person who is sick, breathing in the droplets, is a sure fire way to get sick.
It’s hard to be sure if the person near you is sick or not, because you’re infectious beginning the day before you show symptoms, and up to a week after. So you can never be sure. A possible way to prevent getting sick is to wear a face mask (if you really want to be safe), or and carry a scarf with you (more on this below).
The Pre-Holiday Season Can Cause Stress
Ah, stress. It's the root cause of so much of what ails us.
When we’re stressed and not eating well, it weakens our immune system, making getting sick a lot more likely. Even the thought of the upcoming holiday season — planning for travel, family gatherings, taking time off, preparing meals and all sorts of activities — can be highly stressful for so many.
On top of that, if you have kids, school is a place where a lot of germs are passed!
Not only do you have to worry about getting them out the door each morning, you also have to worry about them catching a virus from the other kids in school. If you’re a teacher, don’t think you’re out of the woods. You’re likely to catch a bug from your students too!
Add this to all the other things we’ve talked about, and it is a recipe for getting sick!
Seasonal Shifts And Allergies
And of course, when the seasons change, it could also mean that your ALLERGIES flare up! They could come from falling leaves and dying plants, dusty offices with closed windows, or even mold from sweaters that we’re dusting off from the back of the closet. Allergies can certainly leave you feeling crummy.
On top of feeling crummy, allergies can cause lung and nasal passage irritation, making you even more susceptible to catching a cold or flu. And because of recurrent allergies, when you do get sick, the symptoms can be even worse! This combo of allergies + susceptibility + enhanced symptoms can make it seem like you’re battling the same cold for weeks or months at a time.
It’s The Bugs!
It’s important to remember that the weather isn’t the cause of your sickness directly, but the germs are!
However, how we respond to these seasonal changes does impact how likely we are to get sick.
And, it’s possible to stay healthy and to navigate through these seasonal changes! Since there are many activities and behaviors that we can’t avoid (like the temptation to stay indoors where it’s cozy and warm), our best bet to stay our healthiest is to keep our immune system in tip-top shape!
How To Build A Healthy Immune System So You Don’t Get Sick
Now, we know why our chances of getting sick are higher in the Fall, so let’s talk about how to stay healthy, because that’s why you’re reading this article.
Here are some great tips, along with what I travel with to decrease the chances of get sick, as well as what’s in my cupboard to prepare for the coming flu season.
Good Nutrition Helps
We’re going to start with the obvious… good nutrition! Without the right nutrients, your body just can’t work well.
A healthy, balanced diet consists of getting the right nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that the body needs. And this means:
- Eating a variety of vegetables (a nice colorful mix) and fruits each day to keep your body alkaline. And the fresher and more “in season” they are, the more benefits your body reaps!
- Eating healthy proteins and fats.
The Keto-Green® Diet and Lifestyle is your best bet in maintaining optimal health and wellness. My keto-green way is high in vegetables, protein and good fats, and low in bad carbs and processed foods.
To start with, make sure you focus on getting your body alkaline before you start the diet, to stack the health benefits in your favor. I’ve seen this time and time again in my clients who try to get into ketosis but forget about the importance of staying alkaline.
A body that is too acidic is a prime breeding spot for inflammation and many diseases. So we want to avoid that as much as possible.
I would also add adrenal adaptogens like Maca to strengthen your immune system because the adrenals and immune system work intricately together. You want to have your adrenals in the best possible condition so that your adrenals and immune system are ready to fight off any bug if it needs to.
In order to become alkaline:
- Don’t consume too many foods and drinks that are highly acidic (like alcohol, caffeine, red meats, etc.
- Be sure to get a variety of (and colorful) vegetables and low glycemic fruits.
- Add Mighty Maca® Plus to your daily diet. Mighty Maca Plus is highly alkalizing and is also an adrenal adaptogen. Two or three scoops in water, or your favorite juice or mix, really helps to alkalize the body and keeps your immune system in good shape.
To learn more read:
- Kick start a new keto-alkaline you
- Alkalinity, pH Balance & Designing The Optimal Keto-Alkaline Diet
- Combining Alkaline And Ketogenic Diets For Greater Health
- Learn More about Mighty Maca Plus
Immune Booster Supplements
My keto-alkaline diet is amazing for the body, but I’m also a big advocate of added supplements to ensure we stay healthy and balanced! There is evidence that micronutrients can alter immune responses in animals.
Life isn’t always smooth sailing, we get a little stressed, sometimes we sleep less, and often we don’t get the nutrients we need…. so, a little bit of help in the supplements department is never a bad idea!
Turns out, vitamin A is a common deficiency in the general population. And when levels are low, it can affect your immune system. Vitamin A is found in orange vegetables like pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes and carrots.
Eating orange vegetables helps to rebuild mucosal immunity. Healthy mucus that coats areas of your respiratory system is important for keeping germs at bay.
Eat seasonally! Get your fill of pumpkins, squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes — all rich in immune-boosting vitamin A. Have them roasted, in a puree or soup to stay cold-free.
Vitamin D can help with acute respiratory tract infections and is a real key player in boosting the immune system. Vitamin D increases key antimicrobial proteins that help to keep the germs away. Unfortunately, in the winter it can be hard to get your dose of daily sunshine, so you will have to increase your intake of foods rich in vitamin D.
Sunshine and the right foods alone may not be enough to reach the daily recommended intake, which is at least 15 micrograms (mcg) a day.
The Vitamin D Council tells us that low vitamin D levels put us at risk for getting influenza, but it's also increases our risk for having the most severe complications. I think one of the simplest, cheapest, and most effective interventions that we have for preventing influenza, is to start vitamin D before the flu season.
Vitamin D3 is the bioidentical form that you want to take because it is the most helpful in boosting our immune system. How much you should take depends on your blood level — you might want to get tested to check yours. But in my experience from past patients and clients, the required dose sits somewhere around 5,000 international units (IUs) every day.
I recommend 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3 a day.
Always make sure to take it with a fatty meal because it is a fatty vitamin, making it easier for your body to absorb. On top of that, introduce foods like eggs, fatty fish, and mushrooms into your diet.
Mushrooms are the only vegetarian foods that make vitamin D naturally. Wild mushrooms (like chanterelles, maitake, and morels) contain more vitamin D because they get more sun exposure, as opposed to farmed mushrooms that are grown indoors.
Whenever there is sunshine, aim to spend at least an hour outside (if you have fairer skin) or two hours (if you have darker skin).
Zinc and vitamin C
Zinc and vitamin C are great preventative vitamins to add to your daily diet this winter.
They help to boost your immune system, making it a preventative measure before you catch a cold or flu. Unfortunately, while they don't heal you when you’re already sick, they can be beneficial for a speedier recovery. So start taking this preemptively.
2,000 IUs of vitamin C a day, and somewhere between 30 milligrams to 50 milligrams of zinc daily.
Sleep, Exercise, And Play
The human body — natural healer that it is — works to heal itself for the most part. Sleep is crucial in this process. Lack of sleep can increase inflammatory compounds associated with conditions like asthma and allergies.
It can also lead to an underproduction of cytokines (immune proteins) and other protective immune cells that you need to fight infections.
Exercise, on the other hand, improves circulation, which boosts the production of germ-fighting antibodies, among other things. It also helps to reduce and relieve stress and want to stay away from stress as we know that it weakens our immune system.
Play helps our body release oxytocin, and oxytocin helps to drive down cortisol, the stress hormone.
So a combo of rest, recovery, play and movement is crucial in staying healthy!
Get your rest! Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Don’t be afraid of taking naps either. Also, add a healthy workout regime at least three times a week.
Move daily! Opt for walking as much as you can, climbing the stairs instead of taking that elevator, and ride your bike instead of driving!
A little movement each day can go a long way towards a healthier you! Get outside more, enjoy the sunshine whenever you can and definitely add more play into your life.
Listen To Your Gut
Gut care is getting more attention these days, as it should! We’re finding out just how important a healthy gut is to our immune system.
Did you now that 70% of our immune system is in our gut?
And it’s often the last place we think of keeping healthy.
This study by several universities in Beijing as well as Indiana State University, shows that adults who took the combination of probiotics (Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus casei 431®, and Lactobacillus fermentum PCC®) could reduce the incidence of upper respiratory infection.
So, you want to have “good” bacteria in our gut to prevent foreign invaders from penetrating your defenses. Sadly, there are many ways to upset the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your stomach. Antibiotics, alcohol, vaccines, processed foods and getting overly stressed can all derail your gut health.
Stock up on fermented foods! Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha tea, and natural yogurt are all great for your gut health. You should also add a probiotic supplement — especially if you’ve taken antibiotics — to help maintain healthy gut flora and improve immunity.
Wash Your Hands
As a mom, I can’t count how many times I’ve said this in my lifetime! This is so simple but so important to our overall health. The fact is, germs are everywhere. Our daily actions cause us to touch, sit on, and share germs every day.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has even issued repeated suggestions to “avoid shaking hands” throughout the winter to avoid the rapid spread of germs. So let’s help ourselves out by washing our hands more.
But I don't recommend hand sanitizers that have triclosan because it's an endocrine disruptor. So, go the extra mile and find yourself an all-natural hand sanitizer.
Wash your hands when you get home, after using the toilet, before and after you cook and of course, before meals. If you happen to shake hands with someone you suspect of being sick, make sure you wash your hands before touching your face (or as soon as possible).
On top of hand washing, it might be a good idea to avoid people who are ill or who might be fetting sick. Of course, we can’t avoid our own family members, but a client shared a story of how she managed to prevent her whole family from getting sick when one of her kids caught a cold from school — face masks!
Yes, she got her sick daughter to wear a face mask, to avoid the germs from spreading. A brilliant and effective solution.
I also wear or carry a scarf with me when I travel. This is great for opening doors and everything else. It serves as a little barrier, plus I could put it around my mouth if I wanted to. I also avoid using my fingers to press buttons, instead, I use the back of my hands or my knuckles.
A good combo is to regularly wash your hands, carry a scarf when traveling and perhaps to wear a face mask, especially if you are susceptible, or if you’re sick yourself and don’t want to contaminate others. However, when you follow the advice here, you’ll have the best chances of staying healthy. That’s the goal.
What To Do If The Flu “Catches” You!
Sometimes despite all our efforts, we still get sick. You’re down with a fever, you have the chills, a sore throat, your nose, and head feel stuffy, you have no appetite and you’re fatigued. Catching flu is terrible!
There is no cure for the flu, so please don’t take any antibiotics for it. Unfortunately, you do have to ride it out, but you can do a few things to help relieve the symptoms and help you recover quicker.
When you're sick, you tend not to eat and drink as much as you should. You're feeling terrible, you're feverish, you're on the couch, you don't want to have get up to use the restroom. So, you tend to limit your fluid intake. When you do that, your blood gets thick and sticky and your immune system cells can't get where they need to go. So, hydration is one of the most important strategies for treating influenza.
Chicken broth or chicken soup has some very healing nutrients in it. When it's made with onions, that's prebiotic. When it's made with garlic, that's immune boosting. When we have the glutamine, which is the primary amino acid in that bone broth, it is highly supportive of the gut-associated immune system. So, chicken broth is medicine and when it's homemade, it's the best.
Break up mucus:
You want to avoid the mucus-producing foods like dairy products and grains, typically. Instead, eat foods that help break up the mucus and decongest your nassal passages. A natural way to do this is to eat spicy food, ginger, and bitter melon, onion juice or lemon juice in warm water.
Increase your zinc and increase vitamin C, even up to 8,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day. You can take Ester-C or Emergen-C. Take your vitamin D3 (discuss with your doc about a 50,000 to 100,000 IU bolus at first flu symptoms) as well as an adrenal adaptogen like Mighty Maca Plus.
I recommend taking 100 billion probiotic units a day until you are well again.
Our mouth is a gateway for illness and keeping it healthy is surprisingly easy with the right products. That means skip the mouthwash, which is killing off the good germs as well as the bad, and use remineralizing tooth powder. My favorite product Primal Life Organics starter kit and LED light mouth therapy. Here are all things dental video I did with Trina Felber, the founder of Primal Life Organics.
Let's talk about fever. Often, we think it’s best to try and reduce it. However, if your fever is around 100, 101, maybe even 102, it is the best to let those fevers simmer. Your body is using that fever for a reason. It helps to change the shapes of the proteins in those viruses, making them more susceptible to your immune system. So, let that fever do its job. Don't medicate every fever. It's there for a reason.
But if it gets any higher, then it’s something to look at. Use your good judgment. If you're not eating, never, ever, take Tylenol. It can be highly liver toxic and when you are calorie restricted, it worsens the liver toxicity. Don’t forget the old remedies like getting into a tepid, lukewarm bath. As long as the temperature is lower than the body temperature, it will cool you down.
In an emergency, you can use an ice pack in your pulse points, like the armpits, the groin, or in the neck, This will often lower the fever and make you feel better quicker.
Of course, we might not all be able to get ice packs or into baths. For this, I’d say take an anti-inflammatories like Naproxen, which is safer than ibuprofen in terms of its cardiovascular risk profile.
All in all, stay warm, drink your fluids, eat your supplements and take it easy.
Bringing It All Together
I would suggest that you stock up on your supplies before the flu season, because once you're sick, you might not want to go out to the store. Nor would you want to send anybody else out who might be a carrier of flu germs to spread it around.
Of course, it’s easy to say, “just be healthy!” We know that we need to eat better, sleep well, take the right supplements, get enough sleep and exercise. But the sad reality is that we don’t always have the luxury of self-care.
No judgment here, we all get busy. My suggestion though is to start with good nutrition and follow my keto-alkaline way. When you start seeing the effects of a balanced body, it will encourage you to improve other parts of your life.
Mighty Maca® Plus is also a safe, easy, natural way to get most of your daily nutrients if you’re too busy to prep and make naturally-balanced meals. I created Mighty Maca® Plus because living is hard work! I wanted something that would make life easier for all of us, something that is all natural, GMO-free, allergen free, safe and that would fit into my schedule.
Like I mentioned above, one to two scoops in water or your favorite juice is a great way to start your day!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you stay healthy and happy this Fall and comment below with what you do to stay healthy during flu season!
- Foster, Hannah. “The Reason for the Season: Why Flu Strikes in Winter.” Science in the News, 4 Dec. 2016.
- Niall, Hugh D. “Why Do We Get the Flu Most Often in the Winter? Are Viruses More Virulent in Cold Weather?” Scientific American,
- Noti, John D., et al. “High Humidity Leads to Loss of Infectious Influenza Virus from Simulated Coughs.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, 27 Feb. 2013
- Hertzberg, Vicki Stover, et al. “Behaviors, Movements, and Transmission of Droplet-Mediated Respiratory Diseases during Transcontinental Airline Flights.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 14 Mar. 2018
- Jutel, M, et al. “The Role of Histamine in Regulation of Immune Responses.” Chemical Immunology and Allergy., U.S. National Library of Medicine
- Feltman, Rachel, and Sarah Kaplan. “Dear Science: Why Do I Always Get Sick When the Seasons Change?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 10 Oct. 2016
- “AAFA.” Sinus Infections | AAFA.org
- Merz, Beverly. “Micronutrients Have Major Impact on Health.” Harvard Health, Sept. 2016
- Schwalfenberg, Gerry K. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2012
- Stephensen, C B. “Vitamin A, Infection, and Immune Function.” Annual Review of Nutrition., U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “How to Boost Your Immune System.” Harvard Health, 2014
- Zhang, Hong, et al. “Prospective Study of Probiotic Supplementation Results in Immune Stimulation and Improvement of Upper Respiratory Infection Rate.” Synthetic and Systems Biotechnology, Elsevier, 12 Mar. 2018
- “Natural Compound Coupled with Specific Gut Microbes May Prevent Severe Flu.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 3 Aug. 2017