Well, it’s that time again! The pumpkins are out on all the doorsteps, seasonal apples abound and the leaves are giving their annual display of colour. Here in The Netherlands, it’s not quite so picturesque as where I grew up in the Hudson River Valley – but I’ve certainly bitten into a few crisp apples while admiring the golden quality of light of October.
It’s also the time of year where people start shutting the windows, switching on the heat and sniffling and snuffling as colds and bugs go around the schools and offices. In my work as an aromatherapist and an energetics practitioner, I am very often asked what my solutions are for boosting immunity and keeping germs to a minimum. Today I thought I’d share some of my top recommendations – and none of them involve toxic chemical cleaners or flu shots 🙂
1. Supplements. I’m not a huge fan of taking supplements, especially in an age where they seem to have a pilsy-whats-it for just about everything…. but there are a few which I take daily and notice a considerable improvement in my immunity, mood and hair/skin.
Omega 3-6-9: This is a fish oil supplement that has all three types of essential fatty acids- EPA, DHA, GLA (there are others, such as CLA, but we’ll cover that in the foods section below). Essential fatty acids reduce all-over inflammation, providing an antioxidant effect as well as majorly supporting the liver and general immunity. It’s also critical for women’s health. Nina Planck published in her book “Real Food”, that a great % of women who experience depression, fertility issues as well as post-natal depression could greatly reduce or even prevent these issues by taking daily doses of 3,6,9. Choose what feels good to you, but at the moment, this is my favourite brand: Nordic Naturals
Fermented Cod Liver Oil: During the winter months, I also add in fermented cod liver oil; either once a day or a few times a week. It is very rich in fat soluble vitamins D and A. Unless you are drinking raw milk on a daily basis, the majority of people are simply not getting these vitamins in a healthy balance – especially in winter when the sun isn’t shining. Because it’s fermented, the integrity of the vitamins and their ratio is preserved. A company called Green Pasture makes some fabulous products, including this!
Probiotics: There are so many probiotics on the shelves these days that it can be overwhelming. Probiotics are critical to maintaining intestinal and gut health, which greatly supports all-over health and immunity. I tend to stick to Probiotics that are not too complex. I look for one that contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG as this is critical to repairing the gut after antibiotics. If stomach flu is going around, I will also start taking Saccaromyces Boulardii to give my stomach extra support. I enjoy the daily probiotic from Ultimate Flora, and Nature’s Own makes a good Saccaromyces Boulardii.
Super Lysine+: My friend Maria put me on to this. It’s for when you are feeling that tickle in the back of your increasingly sore throat, starting to get a bit of a fever or chills. I swear by this stuff. It’s right up there with oscillococcinum. I either don’t get sick at all, or it is much less than it likely would have been. It has a lot of GARLIC in it, as well as vit C, Echinacea, Licorice and propolis. It’s from a company called Qantum and is found online in many places.
Multi Vitamin: If you are not getting enough vitamins and minerals from your foods – then sometimes a vitamin is called for. If so, look for WHOLE FOOD vitamins (made from food and not synthetics). One of my favs is from Earth Source.
2. Quality Foods – Don’t underestimate the power of REAL food! What do I mean by real food? Food that comes from as close to the source/farm/animal as possible and has not been modified or processed. I’ve been doing a lot of research on this topic over the past year. And I recommend a couple of great books and sites at the end of this post for those interested in learning more about what real food is – and why it’s good for us, despite MANY popular beliefs. Get processed foods OFF your table and stock up on a few of these instead 🙂
Raw Milk and Yoghurt: – raw, full fat milk that comes from grass fed pastured cows. This super food is absolutely nothing like the pasturised milk (even if it is organic) that you are buying at the store; which many times has added sugar, synthetic vitamins, hormones and lord knows what else. Raw milk provides natural enzymes, fat soluble vitamins, boosts the immune system, helps protect the gut and has been repeatedly linked to lower rates of asthma and allergies in children. I’m lucky to live in The Netherlands where I can just bring a glass bottle to any number of local farms and get it straight from the tap. If you don’t have that luxury, do some research, see if any natural health food stores are carrying it or call up your local dairy farmer to ask what they’ve got! It’s important to look for a reputable and clean source.
Quality Fats: This is another real food that so many people have been told to avoid like the plague, but which has such wonderful and healthy benefits if sourced properly. Fats that come from grass fed, pastured and organic animals (such as beef and pork) contains CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which is the powerhouse of essential fatty acids as well as a natural cancer fighter and immune booster. Organic bacon from grass fed and pastured pigs is back on the menu! For more info on the benefits of CLA – click here. Other quality fats include wild salmon, extra virgin olive oil (eaten at room temp, not cooked), flax seed oil, coconut oil (which you can cook with!) and avocados. Quality fats help to reduce inflammation, LOWER the “bad” cholesterol, boost immunity and support the liver.
Seasonal Fruit and Veg: Really can’t be stressed enough. It’s the time of year where mandarins and oranges are overflowing most grocery stores. Never take a powdered and synthetic vitamin C tablet when you can reach for a couple of fresh mandarins! Stock up on your bitter greens. Kale, broccoli, endive, brussell sprouts… a great way to up your intake is to make soups. If your immune system has been compromised, eating simple cooked foods is best.
3. Essential Oils – and last but not least, work with essential oils to keep your home clean instead of reaching for hand sanitisers, disinfectant wipes and heavy-duty cleaners! Many of these products do far more harm to your immune system than good!
Cold and Flu Relief – I make an organic cold and flu support blend that is not only great for relieving the symptoms of a cold or flu, but perfect for reducing germs in your home BEFORE the cold or flu hits. Simply diffuse a few drops in a diffuser or humidifier (or boil some water in a pot on the stove, turn off the heat and add some drops!) to keep airborne germs at a minimum. Add 20 drops to a solution of water, vinegar and some plant-based liquid soap and use it to clean door handles, sinks, or counter tops. Add 15 drops to your mop water to disinfect floors. You can even add 5 drops per load of laundry – and it smells great!
Oregano Oil: A couple of drops in a glass of water can really help when cold or flu symptoms are present!
Red Thyme Oil: I do not recommend ingesting this, but it’s another very powerful cleansing oil that you can diffuse in the air or add to your cleaning products to keep germs to a minimum! I especially use this to disinfect when the flu is actually in my house, and just afterwards. I add it to my cleaning solutions and to my laundry to really make sure the germs are well and truly out of my house after a bout of illness.
Wishing everyone a healthy and happy season!
Real Food – by Nina Planck
Nourishing Traditions – by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig
The Nourished Kitchen – by Jennifer McGruther
Simply Clean. Using Essential Oils To Clean Your Home Naturally – by Lauren Hayes Gilbert