Monday, February 17, 2014

18 Tips To Keep Sickness Away

February is a month of some hesitation for me.  For at least the last 6 years, at least one member of our family has been really sick in February.  Last year we thought we were in the clear, and our dog manged to get injured!  So along comes February 2014.  We were hesitant to plan anything beyond a date night for our anniversary, not wanting to have to cancel anything.  I am so happy to say (although I even hesitate typing this!), that we have not been sick since April 2013!  For as busy & active as we are with 2 toddlers, I am quite surprised we all have made it this far.  I wish I could pinpoint what exactly is helping us battle the bugs, but truth is, I've implemented so many things to our health, immune boosting, & germ fighting regimen, that I cannot pinpoint one thing. Below is a list of everything I've done.   Even with all of these efforts, sometimes we just cannot prevent sickness from settling in.  I know we will be sick again, but hopefully we'll be able to recover quickly and continue the long stretches of health.

1)  Hand Washing:  I know, this is some obvious advice.  But sometimes, especially when your day is busy, we can forget some of the simplest tasks.  We have a family ritual of washing hands as soon as we get home and when the kids come inside from playing outside.  In addition, when I load the kids in the car after preschool, a playdate, or a trip to a store, we wipe hands with Wet Ones, and also wash hands again in the sink upon coming home.  Although I use Wet Ones and some anti-bacterial gel, I try to use it sparingly.  Studies have shown that hand washing with plain soap & water is just as effective, and some believe that the increase in anti-bacterial soaps and gels have actually gotten rid of some bacteria strains that are beneficial.

2)  Vitamins:  Stay on top of taking your daily vitamins & supplements every day.  My kids actually now remind me if I forgot to give them their vitamins!  For me I like these Vitamins by Dr. Fuhrman, as they are not compressed and are more easily absorbed, boost the immune system and are great for those on a plant-based diet. Also be sure to include probiotics in your vitamin regimen.

3)  Plant-Based Diet:  My family eats a mostly plant based diet.  Since implementing this, we eat more vegetables and fruits than ever before and focus on making the majority of our food choices whole-foods plant based. We chose this lifestyle primarily for the health benefits.  By limiting the animal products we are consuming, I feel we are also less susceptible to food borne illnesses.  I highly recommend the book "Disease Proof Your Child:  Feeding Kids Right" by Dr. Joel Fuhrman on this subject.  An interesting fact - it was my son & I who were sick last April,  myself with strep throat and he had an ear infection.  We are the only 2 family members who partake in dairy, specifically cheese from time to time.  I have tried to limit dairy even more since then.  This was my sons first ear infection ever at age 4, a blessing I am still counting!

4)  Low Sugar Intake: Sugar is not good for the immune system.  If you have not done so already, reduce your sugar intake drastically.  It's no surprise that more people get sick during months that are notorious for sugar intake:  December holiday goodies, February Valentine's, & Easter.  Give yourself & your kids some limits on the sugars and offer healthier sweet alternatives such as fruits, smoothies sweetened with dates, etc.

5)  Houseplants:  I knew houseplants could help purify the air.  Last year I finally got serious about it, did some research, and then bought 1 plant for each room in the house.  Here is a great link to some plants with air purifying qualities.  I also found the plant professionals at Armstrong Garden Center very helpful in helping me select the plants as well as tech me how to care for them.  Be sure to note what kind of light the plants need and keep that in mind for your rooms.  Also note if a plant is harmful if ingested, and if so, be sure to keep it high away from kids & pets. 

6)  Onions:  I came across this first on a Facebook post, and it just sounded like an old wives tale to me.  Not to hard to do, so I decided to do this on occasion.  If I only use half an onion while cooking, I simply quarter the other half and place one in a bowl in our bedroom and one in the kids bedroom.  It does make the room smell like onion, but it wears off fairly quickly, and the smell can be countered by a fragrant candle or essential oils. Although there is no scientific evidence supporting the onion theory, I still do it.  I figure it's so easy, why not add it to our sickness battling efforts?!

7)  Essential Oils:  I have become a huge fan of essential oils.  There are a lot of applications you can do with them.  Some you can even ingest.  For now, I have stuck with burning them in an oil warmer and sometimes applying them topically with some coconut oil.  My favorite oils for flu season are Germ Fighter and Immune Aid by Plant Therapy.  A few times a week I will place some water and about 7 drops of one of these oils in the warmer.  I rotate rooms I burn them in.  They supposedly have an effect on killing airborne germs.  The ingredients in the Germ Fighter oil were once applied by thieves during the plague to ward off sickness as they stole from those who had perished.  The other week my kids seemed like they were starting to get something.  They sneezed a few times and blew their nose a few times.  I burned Immune Aid in their rooms and 2 nights in a row applied coconut oil with a few drops of these oils. It gets messy - have some paper towels ready!  After rubbing the oils in put socks on.  One night I did Immune Aid, then Germ Fighter.  I also made sure they had extra rest & nutrition during this time.   They did not get sick! 

8)  Charcoal:  I first heard about Moso Natural Charcoal Bags from a friend of mine.  Again, this is something that couldn't hurt & is easy to implement, so why not try?  The bags are filled with bamboo charcoal and claim to remove odors, bacteria, harmful pollutants, and allergens,  It also claims to dehumidify, preventing mold and mildew.  Simply place in the sun for 1 hour each month to reactivate, and after 2 years you can dump it in your garden to fertilize and help retain moisture.  I bought the 4-pack and have one in each bathroom, kitchen, and our master bedroom.  I plan to get some more for a few other rooms in the house too.

9)  Vaccines:  I know this can be a controversial subject nowadays.  I'm keeping this simple & to the  point. We choose to vaccinate & get flu shots. Every year.  I've also seen many natural flu remedies online.  Note that remedies are nothing like vaccines, which give your body the antibodies needed to fight viral infections.  Remedies like these mentioned on The Paleo Mama are wonderful and can be a great addition to your health regimen.

10)  Sleep:   It took me 3 nights to complete this blog post, largely because I had to force myself to go to sleep.  I am a night owl and making sure I get enough sleep is one of my greatest battles.  Tonight in fact, I am realizing I need to go to bed in 10 minutes, despite my desire to watch late night Olympics, by far my favorite sports event!  Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic on the importance of sleep on your immune system. 

11)  Elderberry & Echinacea:  Elderberry Extract and Echinacea are known for their immune system boosting effects.  During cold & flu season I try my best to do doses in 10 day on, 10 day off schedules, as that has been sown to be the most effective.  I gotta admit, sometimes I just miss a day here or there, but I figure we are at least getting some in.  A few times this season I have felt on the verge of getting sick, and I swear by taking Elderberry syrup a few times a day in those instances.  I also often add a few drops to my water that I sip right before bedtime and upon awakening.  I love the Elderberry drops & Echinacea drops for myself and Kids Echinacea Plus drops.  All can be found at Sprouts.  Here is another good product:  Well Child.  I just add them to water or tea for me and to almond milk, smoothies, or juice for the kids. 

12)  Allergies:  Be in tune with any allergies your family suffers with.  My son and I tend to have seasonal allergies.  When the pollen gets going, our noses do too!  As long as we take some Claritin and prop our pillows up at night it minimizes post-nasal drip and susceptibility to the drainage turning into an upper respiratory issue. Local Honey can help with allergies as well.  It's got to be local as the bees are making honey from pollen of the flowers that are in and around your area.  My favorite is Bloom Honey

13)  Fresh Air:  Open the windows to let in fresh air whenever possible.  I live in Southern California.  The way our winter is going so far this year, this is not a problem.  For those in colder climates, an air purifier might be a better answer during the winter. 

14)  Oral Health:  Oral health is truly a window to your overall health.  I have started brushing my teeth first thing when I wake up in the morning.  Our mouths are teaming with bacteria when we wake up.  This gives you a chance to swish it all out before you gulp some of that bacteria down with your breakfast.  I also try to drink as much of my water in the morning, sometimes with that extra dose of elderberry in it. 

15)  Disinfect Germ Hot Spots:  Frequently disinfect some germ "hot spots" in your home like sink faucets, soap dispensers and door knobs.  I do love my natural cleaners and vinegar, and use them most of the time, but for the hot spots I still like to use disinfecting wipes.

16)  Apple Cider Vinegar/Grape Juice:  When talking sickness, stomach bugs are one of my most dreaded ailments.  A few years ago our family got struck with what I believe was a norovirus.  Horrible.  There has been a similar bug going around & I've been praying & hoping extra hard we don't get it.  Every now & then I take some apple cider vinegar mixed with water or juice.  Do not take it by itself - it needs to be diluted to avoid damage to tooth enamel, your esophagus and intestinal tract.    Not the most appetizing, but I try to focus on the health benefits.  It is great as part of a salad dressing too.  It makes the intestinal tract more alkaline, which is not a good environment for viruses to thrive in.  Check out this article by Cook It Allergy Free for more info.  There have also been claims that grape juice has a similar effect on dissuading the stomach bugs from taking hold.  Again, it won't hurt!  Just be sure to get one that's not filled with sugar.  Honest Kids Grape Juice is a good choice for the kiddos (and adults!). 

17)  Creative Movement in Public Places:  A big peeve of mine:  People coming to work sick, sending kids to school sick, and basically going to any public place sick.  I know occasionally you may have to run to the store when sick, but please, please do everything you can to stay home!  If you notice some sickies around you, do your best to get away quickly.  After washing hands in a public restroom, hang on to a paper towel and use that to open the door.  If you are at work and you've noticed you have a sick neighbor, take a long way around to avoid the person, face a different way and do your best to avoid sitting near the person in meetings.  Also don't be afraid to speak up!  I've had to do this at our preschool.  Saying, hey, you should really go home, rest and take care of yourself is ok!  Going to your manager with these concerns is ok too - you are protecting your whole team from the sickness.  As moms & dads, we are often int he thick of sickness as caretakers, so that comes down to simply washing your hands & washing some more, and perhaps snuggling a little less or at least putting a little more distance in your snuggles. 

18)  Prayers/Meditation:  I pray for my families health often.  Whatever your spiritual beliefs are, be in tune with the spiritual side of your well being, and pray and/or meditate on welcoming health and healthy habits into your lifestyle. 

Cheers to good health!