We are well aware of the impact that the autumn-to-winter transition can have on our health, thanks to cool (or downright cold) temperatures, dampness, and less hours of daylight. Factor in busy work and school schedules, a swift uptick in social activities, and less restful sleep, and you have a recipe for ending up in bed with a dreaded cold, flu, bronchitis, or pneumonia. While it’s common knowledge that washing our hands is essential to avoiding these infections, we wanted to find out if there are other simple measures we can take to increase our likelihood of staying healthy throughout the holiday season, so we asked Tami Bronstein of The Medical Herbalist Apothecary in Northern New Jersey for advice. Here, she offers five suggestions for staying well:
Start a nightly saline wash routine. According to Bronstein, rinsing your nose with a saline wash in the evening can help prevent colds. Angle the spray nozzle into the inner tip of the nose, and allow it to stream in and drain out without sniffing the fluid. You can also rinse the septum (the middle wall of the nose). While Neti pots can also be useful, Bronstein notes they’re not always convenient if you’re traveling or don’t have a lot of time for preparation, so it’s good to keep a small bottle of pre-mixed saline wash spray available throughout cold and flu season.
Have effective sanitizer on hand. Bronstein suggests skipping store-bought gel hand sanitizer and instead creating your own fragrant high-powered version by filling a small travel-sized spray bottle with Isopropyl rubbing alcohol at 91% concentration and adding a few drops of your favorite essential oils (such as lavender, eucalyptus, or rosemary), which will enhance the fragrance and germ-fighting action. You can also mix a 50/50 solution of 91% rubbing alcohol and distilled water to clean hard surfaces, drawer pulls, and door handles, she says, noting that both concoctions will kill germs on contact.
Be mindful about your diet. Bronstein warns that skipping meals not only feeds acid buildup in the body, which promotes inflammation and reduces immune function; it can also have an impact on your brain’s ability to regulate hormones, which directly affects your ability to resist infection. Eating meals or “grazing” every three to four hours throughout the day will help keep things in check. She advocates a mealtime approach that goes light on starches and sugars and favors nutrient-rich foods that will help keep your body energized and ready to efficiently battle illness. To ensure you consume a variety of nutrients, Bronstein says to aim for at least one serving of each color vegetable, including red, yellow, orange, purple, and white. Adding culinary herbs and spices to your meals and incorporating organic lemon and raw honey into your diet will also support your ability to manage inflammation and fight off illness, Bronstein says.
Invest in a high-quality air purifier. Bronstein recommends improving the air quality in your house by running a HEPA-certified air purifying unit in addition to your filtered household furnace—ideally one with an ionizing filter that can be washed that scrubs the air down to 3 microns. Also, replace forced hot air furnace filters every two to three months if you run your furnace consistently.
Experience with sound and go off the grid. Citing expanding research into the benefits that certain sound frequencies and vibration can have on brain function and, by extension, your hormones, Bronstein suggests browsing YouTube for solfeggio tone music, healing frequency music, sound therapy videos, Tibetan singing bowl or crystal bowl sounds, and music for Reiki healing. She recommends refraining from using electronic devices in the final two to three hours before bedtime and using this time to play these sounds or music selections as you wind down in an effort to re-balance the hormone levels that may be elevated from stress. Though some people find it challenging, meditation can have a similar effect.
Tami Bronstein, BSc Phyt (Hons), MNIMH, AHG of The Medical Herbalist Apothecary in Gladstone, New Jersey.