By: Gretchen Fox Schempp, Wellness Manager
Tis the season of get-togethers, travel, delicious food, family, friends and unfortunately unwanted illnesses. As we venture over the river and through the woods it may be advantageous to think of ways to keep ourselves healthy and happy through this beautiful and busy season. An estimated increase of 54% and 23% of travelers will hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas/ New Year’s holiday, respectively. Via planes, trains and automobiles. All this movement increases the spread of viruses and illnesses inevitably. What are some ways we can ramp up our immune systems and stay well through the hustle and bustle of it all? Because you know, even if you are not the one traveling, you are still going to be exposed to more people, more germs and more opportunities to catch the latest of whatever is going around.
One simple immune boosting idea is staying active. Do not give up your regular exercise routine just because it is the holiday season. I know, I know, you’re super busy and you’ve got a to-do list a mile long. But you know, we can’t take care of all that business, all those people and all that stress, if we don’t take care of ourselves. Our immune systems LOVE exercise, movement and activity. And this is a great way to take time for yourself and take care of yourself. As much fun as it can be to hit every holiday bash and have drinks with friends and family, alcohol can depress the immune system when overused. Some things to think about when imbibing are:
In the wintertime it is just as easy to get dehydrated as it is in the summer, possibly more so. We are not as inclined to drink tall glasses of water when we’re cold. The dry winter air also can contribute to dehydration. And that seasonal dry skin will love you staying hydrated. Drink a glass of water for each alcoholic beverage you consume. This will slow you down a bit, fill you up some (maybe helping you to not overeat or drink) and keep you hydrated. Start your evening with a nice refreshing glass of coconut water before you even leave home. This will give you some extra electrolytes and send you to your party already hydrated. If you forget this, have some when you get home to rehydrate after your partaking. Either way, after the party, hydrate before bed and maybe pop a few milk thistle to be kind to your liver and get all that jazz moving out of your system so you feel ready to work out in the morning (wink, wink).
First off, don’t forget to eat. Some of the holidays’ more delicious drinks are heavy and laden with sugars and calories, thus making it easy to forget to eat because the drinks can be filling. Start your evening with a healthy snack at home. Often you will be offered a drink upon arrival at a party, so best to have something in there to soak it up a little, and often the snacks available are sweet, heavy and otherwise not the healthiest, albeit delicious. If you “oops, overdid it,” at the party, have a banana before bed to replace the potassium and electrolytes in your system. Our immune systems need to be hydrated. They also need all kinds of vitamins and minerals to function at optimum. Alcohol consumption depletes many nutrients in our system. If you regularly imbibe or tend to more around the holidays, some supplemental vitamins and minerals could be supportive. Some specific ones to keep in mind are as follows:
Vitamin C, Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc, Iron, Manganese, Potassium and B vitamins
I like a good high-energy foodbased multivitamin/mineral, such as Super Nutrition’s Women’s One Daily, to get me through more stressful seasons. Some herbs to consider when consuming alcohol or more rich and fatty foods: Milk thistle supports the liver and the cleansing process; dandelion as well. When traveling or hosting, or even just going out in public during the cold/flu season it is advantageous to have your system as strong as possible. Aside from exercising, staying hydrated and eating nutritious foods full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, there are a few supplements that can support a healthy immune function when the threat of being compromised is high.
Hippocrates called Elder his “medicine chest.” Wild elderberry plants grow wild along roadsides, forest edges and abandoned fields. Juice and cordials are made from the flowers and berries and are both delicious to drink to boost the immune system. Next to the Aronia berry, Elderberry has the highest total ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) value. Elderberries contain more vitamin C than oranges and are an amazing source of antioxidants and quercetin, which is a cellular antiinflammatory. Traditionally this fruit was used to combat stress, treat stomach ailments, high cholesterol and congestion, and fight the flu.“A 1995 study published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that nearly 90% of flu patients given elderberry extract were completely free of symptoms within two to three days, as compared to 7.1 days for those given a placebo.” We handle River Hills Harvest Elderberry Juice and Elderberry Throat Cordial. These products are made from pesticide-free, Midwest-grown elderberries. I make myself a morning “cocktail” everyday including:
1 Tbsp River Hills Harvest Elderberry Juice
1 Tbsp Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar
10 Drops of Stevia Clear
8 oz purified water
This is a tasty morning beverage or for any time of the day. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) boasts benefits all over the spectrum. I find that ACV gives me a boost of energy, helps with sore joints, minimizes mucus in the system and supports my digestive system. Elderberry benefits are said to include: anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, digestive support and brain health. Common uses of Elderberry are colds, flu, sore throat, cough, bacterial and viral infections, inflammation of the urinary tract and bladder infections.
This herb is commonly included in immune boosting blends. It can also be used on its own as a tonic to support immune function. Considered nourishing to “chi” in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this herb is often used consistently over a period of time to rebuild immune function after illness or to support prevention of colds and flu. Astragalus is specific to lung/respiratory health. Astragalus should not be taken when fever is present.
Mushrooms are considered a super food in Eastern cultures. They are easily digested, assimilated and utilized with macro and micro nutrients offering many benefits. All medicinal mushrooms offer support to the immune system. Other benefits specific to certain mushrooms are said to include cerebral support, memory and clarity (Lion’s Mane), energy and vitality (Cordyceps), healthy blood sugar metabolism (Maitake), antioxidant support (Chaga), and adaptogen for stress (Reishi). When hiking around the woods with Christopher Hobbs this Autumn at the Mid America Herbal Symposium, I came to find out that our woods are FULL of medicinal and edible mushrooms. Of course, please be advised to never eat a mushroom without positive identification! All mushrooms are full of nutrients such as trace minerals (magnesium, copper, phosphorus, etc), vitamins, proteins and fiber. And they are low-fat and lowcarb. They all contain macromolecules called beta glucans which stimulate the local immune response. I personally love mushrooms and eat them all the time. The Co-op sells a nice variety of dried mushrooms in our bulk department if you like to eat them. If you don’t care for mushrooms you can find supplemental medicinal mushrooms in liquids and capsules to take.
As you forge your way through the holiday season, with all the places to go and people to see, remember to slow down for a moment. Not everyone has somewhere to go or too many places to be. Be grateful. Take a breath and make a cup of tea for yourself. Remember the season is about joy and love and giving some of that to your own beautiful self. Be well.