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Stay Healthy This Winter: Ways to Optimize Wellness

Are you tired of doctor visits in waiting rooms full of germs and sick people?  Have you wondered what you could do to stay healthy this winter?  It is no secret that cold and flu season is upon us.  Let’s take a look together at some tried and true ways to help keep us on our feet while everyone else is dropping like flies!

Support Your Body’s Natural Defense System.

The reason many get sick this season is due to low immunity to fight off virus and infection. The fact is a strong, healthy immune system is better-equipped, by Design, to handle the regular and varied threats that it faces than any exterior efforts to prevent illness is.  There are some practices we can put in place to build immunity and strengthen our body’s defenses. Let’s learn more about them. 

Begin with Broth.

We are familiar with mom’s chicken soup as a familiar food for when we are home sick, but does it actually help?  If so, how?  Real chicken bone broth is a nutrient-dense cup of comforting goodness.  With the addition of vegetables and aromatics such as pepper, ginger, garlic, turmeric (all shown to be effective anti-virals), you have added something incredibly helpful in stomping out inflammation. You know, the yucky stuff that makes you actually feel bad.

If that weren’t enough to make you feel better, the combination of both the heat and steam as you inhale are beneficial in relieving congestion, clearing mucous, and soothing that dry, sore throat that so often accompanies the onset of a cold.  Additionally, you are aiding your body by adding another avenue for hydration.  Dehydration significantly inhibits your body’s ability to fight off infection.

“Homemade chicken soup may exert anti-inflammatory activity on neutrophils, the white blood cells that respond to infection, found a now-famous study published in the journal CHEST in 2000. This, in turn, may help alleviate symptoms of a cold.”

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Enjoy Some Elderberry Syrup.

Once rather hard -to-find in the mainstream, elderberry has taken its place at the forefront of winter wellness just as echinacea once did.  Simple to prepare and absolutely delicious, elderberry syrup has become your most valuable immune-boosting tool in your health-at-home arsenal.  Here’s an easy recipe for you to prepare that is best taken preventively as well as at the first sign of illness.  We choose to enjoy our elderberry syrup mixed with 100% grape juice.  We do this because grape juice has been shown to be effective prevention against common stomach bugs and viruses.

Before you are sick: “Part of elderberry activity involves increasing cytokine production at the first stage of viral attachment and early viral replication. This helps kill the virus and stop replication.”

Once you are ill: “The inhibitory effect of elderberry extracts against influenza A, influenza B, and H1N1 viruses has been shown in in vitro studies.[19] The elderberry extract-treated group saw a substantial improvement in symptoms, including fever, in 93.3% of the cases within 2 days…”

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Consider Fire Cider.

 Fire Cider is a giant spicy cocktail of anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory plants, roots, bulbs, and herbs all chopped up into one bottle of immune-boosting deliciousness.  Let’s also not forget the fact that it has been fermented and therefore Fire Cider is probiotic.  This fact alone cannot be emphasized enough.  Your body’s regulator of healthy brain function is your gut.  As it is often called your “Second Brain” it is vital to our mental clarity and function that we keep our gut biome operating in peak performance.  Probiotics, our little pre-digesters, are the key to making sure this happens.  Individually, the varied ingredients of Fire Cider are scientifically proven to have beneficial effects such as the following:

  • Apple cider vinegar: a naturally fermented probiotic. A 2021 study suggests that ACV can kill both methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and resistant Escherichia coli. Source Link: These two bacteria are resistant to many treatments and infections, often causing life-threatening complications.
  • Garlic and Onion: culinary superfoods with anti-inflammatory, anti-mircrobial, and anti-viral properties.  Both contain the compound allicin which serves to prevent the respiratory and digestive systems from infections such as stomach bugs, sinusitis, and bronchitis.
  • Ginger: nutrient-dense powerhouse teeming with vitamin C, magnesium and potassium.  Interestingly, ginger is also associated with pain relief and nausea reduction, two maladies which often accompany illness and flu.
  • Honey: actually helps when you are sick by soothing your sore throat, significantly reduces coughing, and sweetens your healing herbal teas.  Adding honey to Fire Cider is what makes it an oxymel.  Raw honey is also known for its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
  • Jalapenos: these and other hot peppers you may have included in your Fire Cider contain the compound capsaicin, which gives peppers their heat, and is associated with reduced inflammation and improved circulation. 
  • Turmeric: Did you grow some this year?  This vivid yellow-orange root will squash inflammation, relieve pain and fight free radicals.
  • Horseradish: highly beneficial as an antimicrobial and decongestant.  Often used to address sinus issues associated with the common cold such as stuffiness and respiratory tract infection due to its high aromatic compounds which thin out gummy mucous and sticky phlegm.  Eew!  Horseradish also promotes sweating which will benefit the immune system by helping your body deal with fevers.
  • Lemon: as with all citrus these contain a storehouse of Vitamin C, a vitamin we cannot do without if our bodies are to be healthy.  Vitamin C is key to establishing our mucosal barrier which functions to ward off infection and pathogens.  Lemon juice promotes alkalinity in the body which staves off disease.

These individual ingredients are enough for us to add Fire Cider to our arsenal, but let’s discuss how they work as a compound.  The combination of these ingredients is both warming and stimulating to the body. This circulatory stimulation means the immune cells in your body can be better spread out to do their job.  Many herbalists have often discussed and explained the “synergistic” benefits of plants when compounded together.  Fire Cider may be one of those instances where the combination of each individual ingredient is multiplied greatly by the synergism that is enacted as they are used in conjunction with each other.  Even if they are nothing special when combined, each ingredient in and of itself is proven to be beneficial to the support and healing of your body.  Why would we not combine them in an effort to achieve maximum benefit?

If you haven’t made Fire Cider before, here is a helpful recipe.  The word recipe is used loosely as you are welcome to add more or less of each ingredient, as well as leave out any you do not prefer or have access to.  You will need to give yourself some preparation time as this will need about 6 weeks to ferment adequately.

The finished Fire Cider can be taken quickly in a glass as a shot of immune-boosting stimulation.  Some prefer to use it as a condiment or salad dressing.  Mine is usually mixed with tomato juice and a squirt of fresh lemon in a glass.  You can also add it to broths as you drink them or put some in your soup if you feel you cannot drink it down with water.  Be sure to add it after cooking to delay destruction of live, beneficial bacteria from the heat.

Some Final Tips to Stay Healthy This Winter.

  • Be sure to stay hydrated. – Taking time to brew some delicious herbal tea is a great start.  It is often easier in the warmer months to take in enough liquids, but many of us find it more challenging to drink enough when it’s cooler and we aren’t feeling “thirsty.”  We can use way more than just water to keep ourselves hydrated this winter.

  • Maintain adequate rest. – While this is often easier said than done, you must prioritize your sleep.  Both your sleep patterns and duration of sleep are important.  Your body can be easily trained to a wake and sleep routine that follows the circadian rhythm for optimum function.  A simple 3-2-1 rhythm of not eating 3 hours before bed, no more work 2 hours before bed, and no more screens 1 hour before bed.  Our bodies were designed for rest and repair.  It is vital that we provide them the opportunity to do so.

  • Enjoy seasonal winter fruits & vegetables. – When you choose produce that is harvested locally preferably and enjoyed while at peak nutrition, you can be sure to take in the particular vitamins and minerals your body needs.  Do your best to include the most colorful fruits and vegetables available to you.  Include dark, leafy greens, colorful roots and fruits.  It is interesting to note that “part of the activity of elderberry is due to its anthocyanins, which are water-soluble pigments responsible for the colors of the many flowers, fruits, and vegetables that have an anti-inflammatory and immunomodulation effect.” Source Link:

  • Include some exercise. – Like adequate rest, staying active is also sometimes difficult if it is not made a priority.  Wouldn’t you rather choose to complete a short, brisk walk daily rather than spend a week in bed with the flu?  When we weigh our options in this manner it becomes easier for us to put in the work necessary to stay well.  This does not have to be a lengthy, strenuous workout.  Just do something adequate on a regular basis in order to support your health. “Being physically active can improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities.” Source Link:
  • Increase your Vitamin D. – Did you know that “cold and flu” season is also known as “vitamin D deficiency” season?  This one vital nutrient holds great sway over our health this time of year.  In addition to a high-quality supplement, you could opt to get your Vitamin D naturally.  One of the best-known ways our bodies absorb and maximize the uptake of Vitamin D is through regular sun exposure.  So go outdoors, get some sunshine on your skin for about 20 minutes daily.  You could easily combine this with your exercise efforts for a double immune-boosting benefit.

Enjoy the season.

As the winter season comes around each year, be sure to enjoy it for all it’s worth. Shortened days often mean more time indoors with loved ones, family and friends. Perhaps you have more time available for personal pursuits, interests, hobbies, and books. Enjoy this season to the fullest as you cozy up by the warmth of the fire enjoying your good health. Take time to be grateful you can choose to stay healthy this winter. It will be time for seed-starting and putting our plants in the ground before we know it!

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