22 Nov Staying Healthy Over the Winter Months
Are you interested in boosting your immune system and staying healthy this winter?
Me too! Staying well, Covid free, cold and flu free is on my mind.
Is it on your mind too?
It’s scary to see Covid on the rise again, and a lot of people are catching wicked colds right now. It’s like the common cold felt ignored during the pandemic and is on steroids this year! I want to stay healthy this winter and I imagine you do too so read on for some helpful tips from me (Dr. Brown, ND, LAc) and Dr. Fortes-Schramm, ND.
First and foremost, it’s not always about herbs and supplements. There’s a little pesky thing called lifestyle choices. So, let’s all…
I’ll admit that I’m a green tea addict and sometimes find myself at 12:00 noon having not had a drop of pure water. If you are like me or maybe a coffee drinker (more dehydrating!), get in the habit of having a full glass of water next to that cup of tea or coffee. Although tea and coffee can technically go toward your water intake goal, it’s just no substitute for water (herbal tea counts for water).
How much water should we drink? It depends on weight, gender, and climate but a general rule is at least half one’s body weight in ounces per day. But aim higher! With even one hour of exercise, it’s recommended to drink 8 ounces of water before and after. I personally aim for ⅔ of my bodyweight in ounces per day, with more than ½ being from water and herb tea.
Make Sleep a Priority
Guilty of being a binge Netflix series watcher? Working late? Set a time to stop.
I set a real timer. When the timer goes off, the electrical strip in my living room shuts off and sitting in the dark is boring so I go to bed.
Do you take your phone to bed with you at night? It’s a cold sleeping partner! If you must have your phone in your room, at least put it in silent mode on your dresser.
Secret Chinese Pneumonia Cure
Many years ago, in my early 30s, I felt invincible and didn’t follow the above 3 golden rules. I would conquer the flu, bronchitis, and then pneumonia all the while finishing my dual masters and doctorate, multiple board exams, clinical exit exams, and 2 thesis papers…sadly, I was losing that many month’s battle.
After months of coughing, I was sent home to rest with orders not to return until I was well again. Along my way, my Chinese clinical professor mixed the bag of herbs that finally cured me.
The cure? Cicada, earthworm, silkworm, other bugs!
I improved within days from those “herbs” but I’ll never know if it was the “herbs” that cured me or the utter disgust of having to drink the potion! It is the worst thing I’ve ever tasted to this day. For months after my recovery, I couldn’t walk more than a block and the infected part of my lung took years to fully recover.
Dr. Fortes-Schramm’s Holiday Cold Elixir
Gingerbread originated in Germany (though most of the spices came from India & China). The combination of these spices is extremely warming. That’s great for this chilly season. They are also an excellent cold/flu fighting combo, wonderful digestive aids, and some of them help chase off the winter blues.
There are decently healthy ways to make gingerbread and gingerbread cookies. I mean, everything in moderation, right?
These spices can be added to some apple or orange juice and warmed in a slow cooker for a lovely holiday party drink. They can also be steeped in hot water to make a comforting tea to sip by the fireplace.
Traditional Gingerbread Spice– even the thought of it is warming. The mixture includes some of my favorite winter herbs:
- Cinnamon. Widely used in both Western and Eastern medicine, cinnamon is a very warm herb which is antibacterial, astringing, and tonifying used for colds and sinusitis. In China, its name is Gui Zhi. Gui zhi is used for “cold” type of colds characterized by chills and headache. It can induce sweating and bring the yang qi to the chest. Although very safe when used in its herbal form, those with high blood pressure should use the herb minimally because its energy is too yang in nature. Yang is hot and heat can raise blood pressure.
- Clove. Also used in both Western and Eastern medicine, it is not used for colds or flu in Chinese medicine but rather to build deplenished yang and balance the yin and yang. In Western medicine, it is added to many cold and flu formulas for its antibacterial and antihistamine properties. Interestingly, it is valued for its stimulant properties, which in Chinese medicine would be called yang boosting!
- Coriander. It’s not used to specifically treat colds or flu in Western medicine but is helpful for sleep which we need more of when we are ill. In Chinese medicine, it is used to build the ‘Wei qi’. The Wei qi is your defense against infection, i.e. the immune system. Combining cilantro (coriander is the seed of cilantro) with scallions may relieve cough. Pancakes, anyone? Scallion pancakes with soy sauce is a personal favorite. Next time, I’ll add cilantro. Arrowhead mills has a nice looking recipe called “Gluten Free Little Scallion and Cilantro Pancakes”.
- Nutmeg. Not a particular favorite of Dr. Brown’s, but it does have its uses. It stimulates appetite in both Chinese and Western medicine. For those who can’t eat when sick, Nutmeg might help.
- Allspice. It also stimulates appetite in both Chinese and Western medicine, and helps with aches and pains.
- Ginger. A favorite of mine, Ginger is widely used in both Chinese and Western medicine for a variety of ailments from morning sickness and constipation to cold and flu symptoms. Ginger promotes sweating, alleviates sore throat and cough, and promotes appetite. It’s added to many Chinese remedies to prevent and reduce toxicity to other herbs…and it makes it taste good!
- Cardamom. It’s a lovely herb to cook with in baked goods and is an ingredient in many Middle Eastern dishes. In Western medicine, it is valued as an aphrodisiac which is not what you need when you are sick but it also lifts our spirits and builds energy which we all need a little of when sick. In Chinese medicine, it’s used for colds to clear away cold wind damp (colds with lots of clear) phlegm, especially in those who are qi deficient.
Dr. Brown’s Favorite Immune Boosting Winter Supplements
Please do not self-prescribe supplements.
The following is for informational purposes only and to share what supplements I’ll be adding to my daily supplement regimen. Always ask your naturopathic doctor or primary care doctor what supplements are safe for you. Although overdose is rare, they are not unheard of and depending on your health, medications, and medical history, some supplements can be dangerous.
In the summer months, this isn’t a concern for me. I’m lucky to have a large backyard and I love to garden. This summer I had more tomatoes than I could eat or give away, and plenty of peppers (the highest source of C).
Winter sources include kiwi, oranges, broccoli (uncooked has more C than an orange!), and cruciferous vegetables. For those of you with hypothyroidism, it is advisable to cook cruciferous vegetables. I’m not a fan of these veggies nor do I like citrus fruits so other than the little bit of C from the lemon I add to my water, I have to add supplemental C during the winter months.
This is a useful mineral but unfortunately, people take too much of it for too long. In as little as 10 months, zinc supplementation can cause a copper deficiency which is serious. My multivitamin has copper so I feel okay with taking a little extra zinc for a few months.
The studies support zinc’s power in reducing the duration of colds and flus and it is currently being studied in 7 Covid studies.
You can find more information on Vitamin C & Zinc in relation to Covid HERE.
I’ve always taken quercetin. It keeps my allergies at bay and is the best antioxidant to reduce histamine levels. Histamine is highly inflammatory and inflammation is associated with heart disease and cancer.
Quercetin also has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties and for years, it’s been studied to use for the flu and other viruses. The problem with quercetin is bioavailability, i.e. getting it into the cell at adequate amounts. Two possible ways are taking it with vitamin C and/or a phospholipid delivery form. It’s being studied which you can read about here!
NAC, N-Acetyl Cysteine. For years it has been considered a supplement but the FDA recently categorized it as a prescriptive medication. It is used as a drug but at very high doses to treat acetaminophen toxicity. At lower doses, it’s used for detoxification and for breaking up “crud” in the lungs. There are ongoing studies for its potential prevention in preventing pneumonia.
Why is vitamin D missing from my list? There is simply inadequate evidence for its use as a treatment. I test vitamin D every year and keep my D levels within optimal range because having low levels is associated with a greater number of respiratory illnesses.
Dr. Brown’s Moderna Vaccine Reaction Update
It’s been almost 10 months since my first and last COVID vaccination and I still have antibodies. My doctor called me a “super antibody producer”! If only there were vaccine cards for “super antibody producers”. What he said might be true. There is a theory that those who had hypersensitivity reactions produced greater amounts of antibodies.
I’ve yet to meet or know anyone who had such a severe reaction.
After 6 months of nodules, itching, and burning, I’m reluctant to get another jab of any kind. After 10 months, I still experience intermittent pain due to adhesions and scar tissue in the muscle. Our wonderful massage therapist, Helena Reinken, has been working them out. She’s been of great help to me through all of this, of which I am very grateful.
My experience has made me empathize with others who’ve had vaccine reactions.
I admire the bravery of those, a few patients included, who got the Covid vaccine despite having had vaccine reactions in the past. Eventually, I’ll muster the courage to get another vaccination, even for Covid! I’m waiting for a protein subunit vaccine.
The preliminary data is quite impressive for safety and effectiveness. If one does not become available in the next few months, I might have to opt for J&J. My concerns with J&J are that it gives less protection against the Delta variant and due to the increased risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome in women. In some countries, they only recommend J&J for women over 65. And recently, some doctors have expressed concerns about using J&J twice in women due to the increased risk of thrombosis.
Stay Well & Stay Healthy. Happy Holidays!
Want to learn more and see how Dr. Kimberly Brown ND, LAc and San Jose Integrative Medicine can help you on your journey? Schedule your free phone consultation HERE.