Each year as the days get short and colder, how to stay well comes to the front of many people's minds. Here is a summary of my favorite winter wellness practices:
1.) Supplement Vitamin D: Because of where we live, it is impossible to get vitamin D from the sun right now. Even on those rare warm sunny days—the angle of the sun at our latitude makes it a poor source of natural vitamin D. There is so much research out there on the topic, and admittedly, it can be confusing because the study results are mixed, but over and over again when looking at hospitalizations due to infections—low vitamin D levels seem to be prevalent among those who end up in the hospital. In the absence of any research showing a risk of vitamin D supplementation—especially when you check it to be sure you are in the normal ranges, I fall on the side of supporting supplemental D and personally prefer the liquid supplements for ease of use and ability of the body to utilize them. Metagenics has a great liquid product with a slightly minty taste or for those who need or prefer a Vegan Source—Pure Encapsulations has an excellent option. There are foods that are high in D as well including: cold-water fish like salmon, herring and sardines, egg yolks, and mushrooms. Cod liver oil is another great source of vitamin D and I love the quality of the Standard Process products.
Speaking of sunlight, or lack of it, this is a time of year when many people struggle with mood changes. Full-spectrum lights, even just a desk sized one can give a huge boost in mood to those who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder or even just minor mood drops with the long, dark nights. People who work late shifts also can benefit from these lights throughout the year to offset the lack of sunlight they may struggle with due to trying to get enough sleep.
2) Stay Active: Exercise is so important to immune function—so as the weather gets cold and it's harder to get outside, find ways to be more active. This is a great time of year to try a class like yoga, tai chi, dance or even working with a personal trainer. Don't know where to start? Give us a call and we can recommend one of our classes, or help connect you with some of the great trainers in the area. Just 20-30 minutes per day of exercise has tons of benefits and will help with all aspects of your health.
3) Use immune boosting herbs like elderberry, echinacea or andrographis for those times when you will be around a lot of people, are under additional stress, or the kids come home with a cold. I prefer elderberry for kids and for adults on medications because it is safe with most medications, gentle for kids and easy to get in gummies that are easy to take. Echinacea is great for adults, especially those who tend to get respiratory infections. Some people have been told to take it once they get sick, but research shows it is most effective taken as a preventative. This is an herb where quality of production is really important. Real echinacea will make your tongue tingle if you take a tincture or hold the capsule in your mouth for a little bit. If your tongue doesn't tingle, it's not the real deal. For this reason we love MediHerb's products. Andrographis is another powerhouse and is often combined with Echinacea as in MediHerb's Andrographis Complex. This is my favorite for personal use, but it's important to note that if you do take this one for more than a week or two at a time you should add a little supplemental zinc because andrographis does increase the rate at which your body uses zinc.
Teas are another option for adding some herbal vitality to your diet but in general will be a lower dosage and more gentle option. These are great for people taking medications, kids, and those who are more sensitive in general to the effects of herbs or medications. Elderberry is the most tasty tea option, but there are some blends with echinacea that are palatable, if not "yummy" to drink (remember that tongue tingle—it's a very unique sensation!). Buddha Teas makes some great winter blends with elderberry, hibiscus (naturally high in C and antioxidants).
Those are my main vitamins and herbs for prevention—I don't typically recommend taking zinc or vitamin C daily because most people get enough of those with a healthy diet from food and generally only need extra when they are sick. If you are taking prescription meds, I do recommend reaching out to us to be sure your prescriptions are safe with any supplements you want to take. Part of our training as herbalists includes understanding the pharmacology of the herbs so we can be aware of potential interactions.
If you have a fullscript account with us, you can find the links to order the products I mentioned here: https://us.fullscript.com/protocols/rajawellness-immune-boosting-protocol
If you don't have an account you can use that same link to create one.
Yours in Wellness,