It's officially sock season, and I'm dreading what inevitably comes next: runny nose, scratchy throat and achy bones season. But it doesn't have to be that way! I caught up with Quinn Hand, a naturopathic doctor at Q Wellness in Toronto, and asked for her best, easiest tricks for staying healthy when the weather starts to turn:
1. Don't forget the basics
"People always expect me to go straight to supplements," says Hand, "but you have to start with the basics." That means washing your hands frequently, avoiding stress and getting enough sleep. It's also important to stay hydrated, which lubricates the whole system and keeps kidneys, mucous membranes and the lymphatic system operating at maximum capacity.
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2. Eat enough protein
Eating well is essential to feeling good, but while we're loading up on fruits and veggies we shouldn't neglect protein. Protein fights fatigue, but it also helps the body build antibodies to fight infection. According to Hand, some forms of protein like whey (which can be easily added in powder form to a smoothie) have immunomodulating effects. The best sources for protein include chicken, turkey, fish (look for low mercury and wild caught), lentils, beans and tofu (organic, non-GMO).
For a snack, nuts are a good source of both protein and healthy fats. In order to determine how much protein you should eat, Hand suggests 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight for women.
3. Drink more tea
When you start to feel that cold coming on, reach for the nearest pot of boiling water. Fresh or dried sage is great for a sore throat, and a lemon, honey and ginger mix is great for anti-inflammation and immune stimulation. Use more garlic in both tea and cooking for great antimicrobial effects. And green tea — even more than black or white teas — has been identified as a great immune booster filled with antioxidants.
4. Wear wet socks
This might sound counterintuitive (perhaps something your mother warned you against?) but Hand swears by this method. She recommends wearing "warming socks" at the first sign of a cold. Run thin cotton socks under cold water, wring them out, put them on, and then cover them with thick wool socks before hitting the sack. This technique helps to kick start the immune system, and particularly the lymphatic system, which stimulates circulation, reduces congestion and generally goads the body into kicking bacterial ass.
5. Consider some supplements
Okay, so these aren't always so cheap, but they're better than a reliance on over-the-counter cold medications or prescription antibiotics. Hand recommends vitamin D during the dark, cold months (October through April) and also vitamin C. Consider, also, a year-round probiotic, which helps the body fight infections in both the gut and beyond.
What do you do at the first sign of a cold?
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