During this unusually cold North Carolina winter, many of my clients are coming in with upper respiratory infections; some have rescheduled their appointments because they have either very bad cold or even worse, the flu. For those of you who are suffering with a seasonal virus, I wish you a quick recovery. But beyond wishing and praying, there is more that you can do to protect yourself from what often seems to be another inevitable downside of winter.
I am blessed to be able to tell you that over the past 17 years, I have had 3 viral illness: 2 colds and 1 stomach bug (which may have been food poisoning). Prior to that 2000, I recall that I generally got at least 1-2 colds per year, almost always occurring between January and March, usually following a time when I became a bit run down. I don’t remember having the flu in at least 25 years, and have only taken the flu shot one time, about 20 years ago before our family went on a ski trip to Canada.
So what am I doing differently so I don’t come down with even one cold each year? First and foremost, I believe it is my vigilant practice of getting optimal amounts of the fat soluble vitamins, especially vitamins A and D. Vitamin A and D work synergistically, neither alone is as effective as their combination to support the immune system. Research from the mid-1900s clearly demonstrated they were much more effective (and safe) when taken together in relatively robust doses. Back then, there was greater interest in preventing viruses nutritionally because so few drugs were available. After discovering the work of Weston A. Price in 2000 (www.westonaprice.org), I realized that optimal sources and quantities of vitamins A & D were missing from my otherwise pretty nutritious diet. So besides eating beef and chicken liver periodically, I began to supplement with vitamins A & D from fish liver oils and/or vitamins that contained pre-formed vitamin A (retinol, not carotene) along with vitamin D, in amounts of 10,000 IU and 1,000-2,000 IU per day, respectively.
I do believe plenty of vitamin A and the right amount of vitamin D is the number one reason I don’t get sick. I take extra if I feel I may be at risk for getting sick – up to 50,000 IU of vitamin A and 10,000 IU of vitamin D for a few days, always with a meal that has fat for best absorption. However there is more that I do if I began to feel that little “off” feeling – you know when your body is just a bit achy, you have a slight headache, your energy levels dip; in short, you just don’t feel like yourself. Please read on.
Another way to support your immunity through your diet is chicken soup. I eat a lot of this in the winter anyway, but if my appetite drops due to feeling off, this is one food that almost always appeals to me. I prefer making my own chicken stock – using organic chicken legs and wings and necks when I can get them. I start the soup by placing the chicken parts in a large enameled pot, covering with filtered water, and simmering for 1 hour. Then I take out the parts, remove and refrigerate the majority of the chicken meat, and return the bones and skin to the pot to simmer for another 4-8 hours. I then strain the soup into another pot after removing all pieces of bone and skin, and put outside to cool initially, then into my fridge. I skim the fat, reheat with my desired vegetables (celery, carrot, garlic), add back the cut-up chicken, then cook rice or noodles directly in the soup. I season with salt, poultry seasoning or sage, and parsley. So good and so comforting. Make sure you make a big pot! If you don’t have time to make broth, try Swanson’s Organic Bone Broth in chicken flavor, or another brand that you like. I find the Swanson’s product is pretty tasty and is actually made with the chicken bones, unlike some of the other types on the market. (I have tried some of the other bone broths on the market, and some are pretty tasteless unfortunately.)
Here is a list of what else seems to be working for me. This self-care protocol is based on both my research and my own experience, but please keep in mind it is not a medical treatment that takes the place of your healthcare provider’s evaluation and treatment.
One, I take more supplemental vitamin C, so instead of the 300-500 mg I take generally each day (along with raw fruits and some raw vegetables), I will take 2-4 more 500 mg capsules of an high quality, professional brand, spread throughout the day.
Two, I take AHCC, activated hexose correlated compound, three 500 mg capsules on an empty stomach twice a day, in the morning and at night. These work to activate the first line defenses in the immune system and they are pretty amazing overall for this purpose (and other applications like cancer support – always check with your doctor if you have cancer, an autoimmune disease, or other serious medical diagnosis).
Three, I take Life Extension’s Enhanced Zinc Lozenges (enhanced zinc lozenges). This is a tip I learned from Chris Masterjohn, PhD. There are a lot of types of zinc designed for viral protection, but I think this formula has proven much more effective than almost anything else on the over-the-counter market. I generally take 2-5 per day, allowing then to slowly dissolve in my mouth to maximize efficacy. I only take for up to 7-10 days, so not to consume too much zinc which can be a long term problem if you are not zinc deficient. A bit chalky, kind of large, with a somewhat metallic taste – so while you may not enjoy them, they are certainly more enjoyable than getting sick.
Four, I take elderberry syrup, a teaspoon or two 2-3 times per day for the duration of my feeling slightly under the weather. This is a very old-time remedy that does have some scientific backing. This is great for children as the flavor is like an intense grape jelly so most will accept taking it. Store in the refrigerator after opening and don’t let your children drink out of the bottle!
Fifth but not least, I take a good garlic product that is supportive of immunity; this is something you can use longer-term if you wish. Garlic can be taken in capsules, but make sure you get a high-allicin product (optimized garlic supplement). If you choose to use whole garlic cloves, make sure you chop them finely, let them sit for 15 minutes to develop the active allicin in them, and mix into honey so they don’t irritate your throat or GI tract. Some people cannot tolerate raw garlic at all, so for them, capsules might be best. And of course, never give honey to a child less than 1 year old.
I hope you and your family get through this wintry weather without just a few minor sniffles. But if you do get sick, you may want to try some or all of the above after a visit with your doctor when needed. In the meantime, stay cozy and remember NC winter’s pass pretty quickly!