My Must Haves to Combat Cold and Flu Season

I get asked all the time how I support myself and my family during cold and flu symptoms. Here are the items that I keep stocked in my cabinet throughout the season. Check back often as I will add to this list as I find new tools.

Please keep in mind: The information presented is intended for informational and educational purposes only, and hasn't been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The content is intended to be helpful and informative, but it isn't intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any condition or disease, nor is it medical advice. One should consult a qualified medical professional before engaging in any dietary and/or lifestyle changes.

  • Propolis Throat Spray – Propolis is a substance bees make by collecting plant and tree resins. It is used to line the hive walls, where it functions as the immune system of the hive by protecting everyone inside from outside germs. It contains over 300 powerful natural compounds renown for helping to support immunity and wellness. Take it daily as a preventative measure throughout the season, take throughout the day at the onset and during a cold or flu. I carry this spray in my purse and take it as needed when I am exposed to a lot of people and germs. It’s great for kids and to take when you travel!

  • Life Extension Zinc Lozenges – Take at the very first sign of a cold!  I learned about these from Dr. Chris Masterjohn. They are the ONLY lozenges in the market that use zinc acetate — by far and away the best form based both on basic science, patient data, and clinical trials.

  • Elderberry Syrup – Ederberry syrup has powerful antibacterial and anti-infectious qualities and is very commonly used to ward off cold and flu. Take it daily throughout cold and flu season, double it up at the onset of sickness. Make your own to save money. The one linked is my favorite

  • Oregano Oil Tablets – Suck on a tablet for as long as you can handle (they can be intense!) at the onset of sickness and feel suck on them throughout.  Especially good for sore throats!

  • Source Naturals Wellness Formula – take at the onset and throughout your sickness. You can even take this daily when you are feeling run down or are travelling for extra support.

  • Vitamin C – Take extra vitamin C at the onset and throughout

  • Umcka Cold Care – drink up to 2- 3 times per day at onset and throughout the time you have the cold

  • Tea – Traditional Medicinals Cold Care, Throat Coat, Elderberry and Breathe Easy are my favorites

  • Four Sigmatic Chaga Mushroom Elixir Chaga is rich in Beta-D Glucans which boost the immune system, helping to support your body’s ability to fight illness.

  • Bone Broth – Make your own or find a high quality brand at the grocery store. Bone broth has multiple nutritional benefits and has been used by many cultures around the world to treat flu, colds, coughs and sinus issues for hundreds of years. Drink a cup a day as a preventative measure, more when you are sick.

  • Essential Oils – Doterra Onguard, Doterra Breathe or their equivalents in other brands are my favorite for immunity and sickness. Citrus oils and conifers (like Douglas Fir or Eucalyptus) are great cleansing oils and will kill germs and help you to breathe. Diffuse in your homes or apply topically with a carrier oil. I personally don’t recommend taking essential oils internally.

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Resources:

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872021/

  • https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/chaga-mushroom-the-immune-boosting-superfood/

  • https://empoweredsustenance.com/ingesting-essential-oils/

  • https://beekeepersnaturals.com/pages/benefits

My Favorite Four Sigmatic Products

Consumed for centuries, mushrooms can provide a great natural, nutrition boost to improve your immunity, energy, and longevity. When I first heard Tero, the founder of Four Sigmatic on The Model Health Podcast speak about the healing power of mushrooms in 2015, I had to give their products a try. You can find many of the Four Sigmatic products at retailers nationwide, including Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, as well as online at FourSigmatic.com or Thrive Market. I tend to purchase direct from their website because I believe it’s the only place that carries their entire product line. If you decide to try out any of the products direct from the website, please use my discount code “ahealthybalance” for 10% off your order. In full disclosure, I am an affiliate with this company because I love the products so much and recommend them so often. I love the quality of the Four Sigmatic products and they make mushrooms so palatable and consumable through their great tasting coffees, elixirs and blends.

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I have tried most of their product line, though I am not always able to keep up with all of the new, innovative items they introduce regularly. Here are some of my favorites, the products I recommend most to my clients and why. If you want to learn more about using mushrooms to improve your health, I highly recommend this book written by the Four Sigmatic Founder.

Coffees & Hot Cacao

All of their coffees come in an “instant”, powder form which is great for easy preparation and travel. I like them by themselves or mixed with my favorite non-dairy milk and collagen for more of a latte feel. They also contain only about half the caffeine that a regular cup of coffee does, but you wouldn’t even notice the difference with the superfood mushrooms and adaptogens they add in.

Adaptogen Coffee 

I love how the adaptogens in this coffee help to combat stress and reduce the anxious feeling that coffee alone can give you. It contains Tulsi a calm-promoting adaptogen, known to uplift mood, support digestion, and promote balanced energy. They add Astragalus, another adaptogen which contains saponins, flavonoids, and polysaccharides. Saponins are known for their ability to lower cholesterol, improve the immune system and prevent cancer. Flavanoids have anti-oxidative qualities, control and scavenge free radicals, and can help prevent heart disease, cancer and immunodeficiency viruses. Polysaccharides are known to have antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory capabilities, among other health benefits.

Coffee w/Chaga and Cordyceps 

This was one of their original products and still one of my favorites to date. I take this one when I need a boost pre-workout, especially if I am doing something on the more challenging side. Cordyceps support energy, stamina and athletic performance, and have been found to have strong antioxidant properties in some studies. Chaga mushrooms help support your daily immune function. I recommend consuming Chaga tea (or the Four Sigmatic Chaga Elixir linked below) when you are starting to feel under the weather.

Coffee w/Chaga and Lion’s Mane 

This coffee is great for when you need to focus (like when you need to have a productive morning at the office). Lion’s Mane is a powerful nootropic as it helps increase Nerve Growth Factor or NGF, a protein that is crucial for the survival and function of nerve cells. When the amount of NGF in the brain increases, it enhances cognition by reducing inflammation, encouraging neural growth, and improving overall brain health. As I mentioned before, Chaga is a wonderful immunity booster. This coffee also contains the adaptogen Rhodiola, also known as “golden root,” is known to have tremendous fat-burning, energy-enhancing and brain-boosting power as well. 

Hot Cacao w/Reishi 

This isn’t your usual hot chocolate but it will satisfy your craving for sure. Made with organic cacao, cardamom, cinnamon, Reishi mushroom, and a touch of coconut sugar and stevia. I normally don’t love stevia, but I hardly notice it in this beverage. Reishi is one of the world’s most studied mushrooms and has been shown to help support sleep and occasional stress. They are believed to help a wide range of health issues including inflammation, liver disease (it’s a great liver detoxifier), digestive/gut issues, heart disease, anxiety and depression. I enjoy this one in the afternoons or evenings mixed with warm water or a non-dairy milk.

Chai Latte w/Turkey Tail & Reishi

All you need to do is mix this with water and you have a wonderful, nourishing chai latte. The Reishi is calming and stress relieving while Turkey Tail is a strong immunity booster and is one of the most nourishing mushrooms for gut health.Turkey Tail is a powerful prebiotic which supports the microbiome by feeding the good bacteria in the gut. This beverage is a healthy option when the afternoon sugar cravings hit or you are looking for a warm, sweet beverage to wind down in the evening with.

Elixers

I love them all! They come in Chaga, Cordyceps, Reishi, and Lion’s Mane versions and can be mixed with water or added to other beverages. See the benefits of each of these mushrooms in my previous comments above.

Blends

10 Superfood Blend

I love this blend because you can get the benefits of so many mushrooms in one little serving.  This is the product I use the most.  I add it to coffee, teas and my morning smoothie.  I even add it to sauces, soups and stews for a boost of mushroom nutrition.

Adaptogen Blend

This blend of mushrooms and adaptogens is great for those needing adrenal/stress support in the mornings.  You can add a teaspoon of this blend to your morning coffee, tea or smoothie. 

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What's Up with Supplements?

Do we need them? I’d love to say no, but unfortunately given today’s environment the answer is yes for most people. Here are some of the reasons:

  1. Soil diversity and quality has declined in modern times, decreasing the nutrient density of the food that comes from this soil. Modern farming has also led to a reduction in the diversity of plant foods that we eat on a daily basis and an increase in environmental toxins. Not to mention, most people don’t eat nearly enough of the right foods to obtain the amounts of nutrients that our bodies thrive on.
  2. Our generation grew up with chronic antibiotic use, long-term use of birth control pills and other medications which wreak havoc on the liver and digestive and endocrine systems.  We have reached a point where healing the gut and reversing damage to our bodies require more than dietary changes.
  3. Our lifestyles today are challenging.  In general, we are chronically stressed, we have poor sleep quality and quantity, we are not getting enough activity and movement in or we are over exercising, and we don’t spend enough time connecting with nature or spending time with one another.
Supplements

I encourage my clients to obtain as many nutrients from food as possible because nutrient dense, whole foods are essentially pre-packaged nutrients that fit together naturally, containing many co-factors and enzymes required to absorb those nutrients. Though as I mention above, most of us are not obtaining the optimal level of at least some nutrients. Supplementation may be necessary indefinitely or for a period of time depending on the situation. For example, many of us are vitamin D and magnesium deficient. Other vitamins that we tend to be deficient in include vitamin A, K2, C, B12, selenium and iodine.  Given our years of consuming more omega-6 vegetable oils when saturated fat had a bad rap, many have an imbalance in their omega-3 / omega-6 ratio as well (they should be balanced).

Because we are all so different and our bodies have different needs based on our lifestyles, diets and history I don’t make blanket recommendations. The best way to determine what deficiencies you have is to work with a functional medicine or holistic practitioner. As practitioners, part of our job is to research and test the best supplements for our clients to ensure that they are getting the appropriate nutrients their body needs. We help to monitor any adverse reactions or interactions with other medications you may be taking and help ensure proper dosing and timing. Some nutrients are known to be toxic if taken in high doses. For example, vitamin A can cause liver problems, too much zinc can reduce copper in the body and vitamin E and selenium may be linked to prostate cancer.

It is also important to note that the supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA and is in fact, not regulated at all. Standards for quality do not exist and there is nothing keeping companies from making false claims on their packaging which is ineffective and even dangerous. A Canadian research group conducted a study on a variety of different generic brand supplements. They found that many of these supplements found in well-known pharmacies (e.g. Walgreens, Wal-Mart) contained unlisted fillers, contaminants, completely different compounds than listed, and in some cases no active herbal ingredients at all. Over 60% of the store brand supplements tested had incorrect labeling, and more than 50% didn’t contain the advertised ingredient.

Given this problem, it is very important to purchase high quality supplements from trusted source. It is also important to find brands whose products are considered to be pharmaceutical grade which are at the top-tier of quality and generally only dispensed (or at least endorsed) by practitioners and clinicians. These supplements are produced under rigorous laboratory conditions, tested for purity, contaminants, and are free of allergens and questionable ingredients. The companies package synergistic compounds together to help improve your body’s ability to absorb the active ingredients. You can also be sure that you will be getting only those ingredients listed on the labels, without fillers and toxins.

Supplements can have a place in our health journey, provided we use them sensibly and not at the expense of a whole foods-based, nutrient dense diet. Ignore the dogma that is rampant in the health and wellness industry about the latest and greatest supplement and figure out what will work best for YOU with the help of someone trained to do so. You may find that in the long run you save money on products and supplements you don’t need and actually feel better using the supplements that serve your mind and body and improve your health.

 

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The Case for Consuming Collagen

Collagen is a group of proteins originated from the hides, hooves and bones of animals. It is the most abundant protein in the human body and an important building block. The amino acids present in collagen are the glue that holds our structure together and commonly supports the integrity of the skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bones, as well as parts of digestion. There are many different types of collagen in our body, but most are Type I, II or III, with the majority being Type I collagen.  In our twenties, the collagen in our bodies starts to decline, leading to stiffer joints, weaker bones, wrinkles, and sagging skin.

Our ancestors and traditional cultures around the world largely consumed collagen and gelatin too. No part of an animal was wasted and the bones were often used to make mineral rich and nutrient dense broths. These nutrients are not nearly as abundant in the modern diet as we are less likely to eat nose to tail. We tend to consume a lot of muscle meats (i.e. chicken breasts) which do not contain this important protein and rarely other parts of the animal. 

Two essential amino acids abundant in collagen are proline and glycine.  We need to consume them through our diet because our body cannot make them. Glycine is an amino acids with many functions. It helps build lean muscle mass and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Proline is important for stimulating collagen synthesis and works as an antioxidant by scavenging free radicals to prevent cell damage.  Both of these amino acids help heal the stomach and prevent stress-induced ulcers making them important for supporting digestion.

Collagen

My favorite way to get in this important nutrient is in homemade or high quality store bought bone broth.  Not everyone has the access or time to make their own broths and store bought broth can be quite pricy.  That’s where collagen powders come in.  They are an accessible way to replenish your body’s collagen supply from years of undereating natural sources of collage in an easy to consume powder form.  The collagen powders are tasteless, have no texture and easily blend right into foods and beverages. You can add it to your morning coffee or tea, smoothies, soups or other recipes. You can also bake with it. It’s important to note that many topical beauty products contain collagen, but they are not entirely effective. Collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin.  We need to consume it internally to get the benefits.

Collagen is not all created equal.  Like all of our food, the sourcing and quality of the collagen we consume matters, especially if it is something we utilize daily.  It is important to find a brand that sources their collagen peptides purely from grass-fed, pasture-raised cattle or from sustainable wild-caught fish.  This will ensure that the collagen you buy is pure and doesn’t contain toxins or additives and comes from healthy animals. 

Collagen is one of few supplements I believe everyone could benefit from taking daily, especially if you don’t have access to bone broth.  The benefits of consuming it are abundant. From more youthful looking skin to reducing inflammation, and supporting digestion, collagen is a nutritional powerhouse that is worth considering to support your health for the long term. Though please bear in mind that not all supplements are right for everyone.  If you are unsure if collagen is right for you, please check with your doctor or functional medicine practitioner.

Sources:

  • https://www.furtherfood.com/collagen/
  • https://www.vitalproteins.com/pages/why-collagen
  • https://www.peptan.com/science/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collagen