If recent hype about flu season has left you in a frenzy, now’s the time to take a deep breath and relax. You don’t have to sit in a bubble or raid CVS for a box of surgical masks. Dr. Tina Zigo, naturopathic physician at the Center for Natural Healing in Monroe, shares her tips for staying well without the worry.
1. Nourish yourself with fruits and vegetables. Consuming local produce is one way to strengthen the immune system. Dr. Zigo recommends kale, an antioxidant-rich, anti-cancer leafy green plant, which is great in salads and soups. Dr. Zigo bakes kale leaves in the oven with sea salt and olive oil (she calls them “kale chips”). Other veggies such as broccoli, asparagus, carrots and tomatoes, and fruits such as apples, oranges, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi, peaches and pears offer great health benefits, too. These natural foods are high in vitamins like A and C, which are essential in fighting viruses and infections.
2. Pack in the protein. Don’t believe the myth that you’ll stay healthy just by eating your veggies. Dr. Zigo says lean protein (from local, chemical and hormone-free poultry, beef, fish, eggs or soy products) is also necessary for maintaining proper immune function, building lean muscle growth and keeping up your energy level.
3. Wash your hands frequently. You’ve probably heard this one a zillion times. And now, we’ll make it a zillion and one. But contrary to popular belief, you do not need to use antibacterial soap. It can actually weaken your body’s ability to fight infection and may eventually, after long-term use, cause the spread of drug-resistant bacteria. Washing your hands with regular liquid soap for 30 seconds is just fine. If you can’t get to a sink, Dr. Zigo suggests a natural hand sanitizer with lavender and grain alcohol, available online or in local nature stores.
4. Try immune-enhancing supplements*. Add a bonus to your daily multivitamin; take a daily probiotic. Probiotics are active cultures or live microorganisms known as the “good” bacteria that fight the germs that cause illness. Dr. Zigo recommends acidophilus capsules, which you can find in any supermarket or drugstore. Also, Dr. Zigo suggests goldenseal, a natural antibacterial agent used for many years to help strengthen the immune system. A daily multi-immune vitamin with goldenseal and echinacea would be ideal.
5. Be sure to get your ZzZs. Most of us know that adults usually need anywhere from six to eight hours of sleep to function clearly and feel their best during the day. Having trouble falling asleep? A nice cup of warm chamomile or caffeine free herbal tea should do the trick.
6. Invest in oil of oregano. No, we’re not talking about olive oil mixed with oregano flakes. This is not the stuff you soak up with bread. Oil of oregano is a very powerful herb that has been known to kill viruses, bacteria and fungi. It’s even used on cuts, burns and sores to prevent infections. I take a bottle of it everywhere, especially on vacation (just in case I feel like I’m getting sick). You can find it at any nature store (or on Amazon.com if you want to save money) in the form of capsules or liquid. Dr. Zigo says to take two capsules twice a day, or three drops of the liquid form under the tongue twice a day to prevent illness. The taste of the pure oil is extremely bitter, but you can mask it by mixing it in juice or tea. Trust me, it’s worth it.
7. Watch your stress load. Stress, to a certain extent, is good for us. It’s our reaction to life’s changes, and forces us to perform necessary daily tasks (e.g. our job!). But too much stress can wear us down and harm the immune system. So, what can you do to reduce stress? Exercise! Meditate! Laugh! Find the “funny” in every situation. Chuckle at yourself; don’t take yourself too seriously. When life seems too tough, turn on Nick at Nite and watch an “I Love Lucy” episode. There’s nothing funnier than watching Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance stuff their mouths with chocolates. Above all, Dr. Zigo stresses the need to relax and take some time each day to unwind. “Breathe. always take a step back and be in the moment. Give yourself five minutes a day to meditate,” she says.
Dr. Tina Zigo is a licensed naturopathic physician in the state of Connecticut. Visit her Web site, www.ctrnaturalhealing.com for more information on her practices, for some healthy recipes and for a list of events and health seminars at the Center for Natural Healing.
*Know your body and talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.