Immunity Series #1: On the Defense
There are several life-hacks that I began employing early on this fall. They include taking care of my respiratory system (especially my nasal passages!) by: cleansing, diffusing, moisturizing, and taking lots of Vitamin C. I would also like to add, that it just so happens that I have remained cold and flu-free this year.
For most of my life I've had allergies which made me prone to respiratory stuff. Every month and a half, I just about expected to come down with some sinus infection, or catch whatever was going around ...cue 4-7 days of limited mental function, disturbed sleep, obstructed breathing and loss of smell and taste, as well as other issues. I got it bad. I dreaded the months of October-April for that reason.
But not this year! I'm excited to share with you this 3 part series on the things I've been doing to stay healthy.
But first - let's go on the defense. It's all about covering our vulnerabilities and strengthening our bodies in these winter months. THE major exacerbator (besides lack of sleep and food sensitivities!) which can knock the self-defense weapons right out of your immune system's hands, leaving you vulnerable and trapped in the winter is:
DRYNESS! A brutal offender! Lurking everywhere right now in the Midwest and Northwest and Northeast and everywhere we need heaters but don't have high outdoor humidity. Most of us treat dryness like we treat cancer-causing chemicals. Either, we don't give them a second thought, or, we think, "Oh, sure they cause MAJOR health issues that everyone seems to suffer from...but they're everywhere and there's nothing I can do about it, so I'll just go on with my life."
But, something tells me you are reading this blog because you AREN'T like most people. You refuse to be subject to the destructive powers that be, and you've decided to take up again the self-defense weapons the offenders knocked out of your hands. Read on, valiant warrior!
Why Bodies Need Humidity
You see, healthy humidity levels that allow for breathing freely and keeping skin and mucus membranes functioning properly range from 35%-55%. In the spring, summer, and fall the humidity in homes typically stays in this range, and it feels comfortable. But in the winter, it regularly drops down, down, down... sometimes as low as 15%.
We all know that cold winters mean dry air - OUTSIDE. But what we don't always take note of is that inside, it's even drier. Dry air means dry skin, and worse - it means dry noses.
In the winter, your furnace runs about every hour, and sometimes every 15-20 minutes. So EVEN if it's decently moist outside (like on rainy days or spring-preview days like today!) the furnace BURNS all the water out of the air as it circulates through your house. Hot, dry, desert air ...flowing through your nasal passages all hours of the day and night.
Ever noticed why it hurts to breathe in deeply when it's cold outside in the winter but not the spring? Ever noticed that your nose runs in the cold weather? This is because it's cold and dry out there, and it's hot and dry inside. Thus, your membranes are trying desperately to keep from drying out, and your body is sending extra water to the vulnerable site to compensate. Cue the nasal water works.
When our body works properly, there is a natural flushing and flowing process that keeps the germs out and keeps our nasal passages healthy. When the natural flushing and flowing stops (because horribly dry air is constantly passing over your nasal passages), then bacteria and other irritants stick. Your nose also becomes super sensitive, prone to irritation, and slightly congested.
So a runny nose is actually a helpful emergency response, but a constant run can actually dry you out even more, just like washing your hands repetitively dries out your skin. However - here's the good news: YOU CAN BEAT THE DRYNESS. You can break free. You can stop the cycle now.
Cleanse, Diffuse & Moisturize
- 1. Cleanse. Saline Solution has become my best friend. This is going to sound weird, but believe me - it makes ALL the difference. It's sort of like a short-cut Neti pot, if you've heard people rave about those. You can pick from one of these to cleanse your nose daily:
- I buy a 12 oz. bottle of saline for $3 in the contacts section that says something like "sterile saline solution for sensitive eyes" (but NOT "multipurpose solution"!)
- To use: I use this every night before bed, and mornings too if I feel stuffy. Literally, just snort it. Lean over, hold one side closed, and spray while breathing in sharply. Then switch. Blow your nose - and you'll breathe SO freely, and flush out any germs and congestion. There you go! Clean and clear and under control.
- 2. Diffuse. You really, really will benefit from a diffuser. In my room, with the door closed, it can bring the humidity up 5-10%. This is of MAJOR importance for those 8 hours when you're breathing the same air and fighting any germs and recovering from the stress of the day. It's the perfect time to breathe in immune-boosting, germ-fighting, cleansing, non-dry air. Click here for more info on Thieves oil!
- I have 2 diffusers, one for the bedroom and one for the living room. If you only have one diffuser, make sure to use it at night in the winter!
- Hack: it's a humidifier substitute. Please don't waste your $$ on a $20-$90 humidifier. They are typically large, loud, clunky, REALLY wet, only useful in the dead of winter, grow mold, and have no germ killing or immune boosting properties.
- Instead of a humidifier, get a Young Living starter kit, which includes a diffuser and 11 amazing oils (4 of which are shown below). Don't just humidify. Put OILS in the air to improve your mood, stress levels, immune system, cleanse the air, and on and on.
Oils for Immunity:
- R.C. (think, respiratory congestion). WAY better than Vicks. Has eucalyptus, peppermint, evergreen oils, and others to relieve congestion and help you fight off junk.
- Purification. Purifies the air. Has rosemary, lemongrass, tea tree (click for study on their vapor killing viruses and bacteria), and others.
- Lavender. Good sleep and maintaining stress levels are important for immunity! Read here for a study on lavender and quality of sleep.
- Thieves. Cinnamon and clove fight bacteria, and eucalyptus and rosemary are so helpful for your respiratory system.
Again - you can get all these oils AND that diffuser, for 50% off, when you buy the Young Living Premium Starter Kit!
(**Starter Kit UPDATE: as of 2/1/18, RC has been replaced by the amazing respiratory support blend called Raven, and Purification is no longer in the kit.)
- 3. Moisturize. Even though I cleanse with saline solution, just like washing my hands to cleanse from germs, moisturizing in the dead of winter is important for optimal respiratory performance. I know it sounds goofy. But this makes ALL the difference on those cold, dry days. Without this "Dry Nose Serum", I used to get nosebleeds, or would feel like I was on the verge of getting a cold all the time. But with it - I feel invincible!
- To make: I take a tiny dropper bottle like this, add 5 drops lavender and fill it up with a carrier oil like sesame or almond. Chamomile oil is often in the store-bought dry nose serums, but it can be pricy. So if all you have is lavender and a carrier oil, then you're set!
- To use: After using saline in the morning, I lean over and put one drop in each nostril and breathe in deeply.
Now that we've got the dry nose problem covered, let's add one more moisture factor:
- Drink those 8 - 8oz servings a day! Add a drop of Thieves or Lemon to your glass (but not plastic!) water bottle for an added boost!
- (Speaking of 8...make sure you get your 8 hours of sleep, too...)
5. Vitamin C or D
- Or any other wellness herbal supplement you may have. Just be consistent!
- 2000 mg daily of a quality Vitamin C (look for Ester-C capsules or a"buffered" powder for best absorption),
- and/or 1,800 IU of Vitamin D are both very helpful for the immune system.
Remember that the best defense is a good offense, which is easy as 1-2-3: Cleanse, diffuse, moisturize (and 4-5, once you've got the others down). Here's to a happy and healthy winter season!