Your 10-Step Action Plan to Banish Illness this Winter

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Cold and flu season! If you live on this planet, you’ll probably get sick at least once in the next few months. If you have a kid that goes to a daily petri dish from hell school or daycare, your fate is basically sealed.

Do not despair! There is plenty you can do to set yourself up with a strong immune system to keep yourself kicking ass all winter. Here are my top tips for staying healthy:

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  1. Wash your hands. It is one of the best ways to protect yourself from infection.
  2. Vaccinate yourself and your children. The flu vaccine is an excellent way to prevent the flu. While it is not effective against 100% of flu viruses, it can improve your immunity to them. Educate yourself on the flu vaccine myths!
  3. Don’t take antibiotics for a viral infection. The cold and flu are both viruses and antibiotics DO NOT work against viruses. If you suspect you have the flu, get tested as soon as possible and see if you are a candidate for tamiflu, which can sometimes decrease the duration of illness. Antibiotics kill off important bacteria in your gut, which decreases your ability to fight infection. If you don’t need them, don’t them them.
  4. Rev up your gut health. How? Take a probiotic, or even better introduce fermented foods into your diet, like sauerkraut, kombucha, or kefir. This is especially important when on antibiotics. Take a collagen supplement or sip both broth. It has been said that collagen from grass-fed cows can improve and strengthen gut health. Get in those prebiotics to feed your gut bacteria. Vegetables higher in dietary fiber are great sources of prebiotics.
  5. Watch what you eat. It is also the season of overeating, sugar rushes, and drinking in excess. This contributes to inflammation, putting you at risk for infection. This may or may not be a good time for you to complete a Whole30 or even a Whole30 mini-reset. (Talk to me about your options or if you would like some help with the program.) At the very least, now is a great time to really practice that food freedom lifestyle and ask yourself if what you’re about to eat is truly worth it and special in that moment. On the other hand, now is probably not a good time to restrict, as it could lead to binging, bringing on the shame cycle.
  6. Stay hydrated. It’s difficult to remember to drink water when it’s colder, so get yourself a huge Hydroflask and bring it with you everywhere. (Tip from a desert dweller who is also breastfeeding and constantly thirsty.)
  7. Reduce stress. I know, that’s about as useful as me telling you “calm down!” But seek out some options like mindfulness meditation, a daily gratitude practice, or even therapy. You know how you get hit with a cold after a particularly stressful week? Yeah.
  8. Get some damn shut-eye! Turn off your electronics an hour before bed, skip the glass of wine, read a boring book, and close your eyes at a decent time. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Cleaning your house, or whatever you crazy people do after the kids go to bed besides curling up on the couch, can wait!
  9. Go outside. Yes, it’s cold. Okay, it’s not cold in Tucson, sorry. But, I’ve been told that sometimes it can get cold other places in the world. Getting outside is associated with better health, so get some vitamin D if you can! Regular sunlight will also help to regulate your clock, making it easier to sleep.
  10. Stay active. This one will never go away, sorry. There is SO MUCH a little exercise can do for you. It can also help out some of the items on this list (sleep, stress, etc.). BONUS: take a walk outside!

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Take care of yourself this season! And if you do fall prey to the flu or a cold, keep taking care of yourself. Wash your hands. Take a sick day and keep your germs to yourself while giving yourself a break. Use it as a sign to slow down. Get some extra sleep, take your probiotics, eat some nourishing food, and, if you can, enjoy a little Netflix.

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