I don’t think I fully understood the saying “Moms don’t have time to be sick” until I was a mom. Actually, it wasn’t until I was sick AND a mom that I fully understood that saying. Some of the toughest days I have had as a mom have been when I was sick. We have to dig so deep on those days, digging into reserves that we didn’t know we had. I know that I am not alone when I say that I have pushed through and cared for my children at times when all I wanted to do (or could do) was crawl into bed and not move a muscle. I have gone trick or treating in the midst of a stomach virus, spent a very long snow day in the house with two kids and a fever, and pushed through sleepless nights with sleepless sick kids while fighting the flu myself. The reserves we have as moms go deep!
One of my goals for the Mommy Tune-up blog is to help moms stay healthy through the winter months … to help them keep their immune systems strong and robust. If I can offer some helpful and useful advice for keeping our immune systems in top notch shape then hopefully we can avoid those challenging times when we are caring for others while desperately needing rest and care ourselves.
Winters are tough. You get back to a routine after the holidays, and then that routine is interrupted by snow and sickness. If one child gets sick, another child often gets sick a few days or a week later; it can be weeks before everyone in the house is healthy and sleeping through the night again. When your children are in school or daycare, they are subject to a host of viruses that can result in sick kids and stressed out moms. And on top of that, if mom gets sick … well we just don’t have the time!
Here’s a list of both general and specific things you can do to stay healthy and well this winter.
- Get the hours of sleep YOU need to feel rested. Whether you are the mom of a baby, a toddler, or school age children (or all three), moms need to get plenty of rest in the winter. From a seasonal perspective, winter is the time of year when we spend more time indoors and the nights are longer; this is the time of year when our bodies crave more sleep and our immune systems benefit from that extra sleep. If you have a baby, sleep when your baby sleeps. If you have older children, get to bed at a reasonable time. Resist the urge to stay up late, especially night after night. Remember our immune systems benefit from restorative sleep
- Eat COLORFUL fruits and vegetables and limit your sugar intake. Sugar taxes the immune system. Eating a whole host of colorful fruits and veggies ensures that our bodies are getting a wide range of nutrients, including immune boosting antioxidants. Orange and yellow fruits/veggies (like citrus fruits, squashes, peppers, pineapple), green fruits/veggies (like kale, broccoli, collards, spinach, green beans, avocado, cucumber), red fruits/veggies (like apples, peppers, cherries, strawberries, pomegranates), and purple and blue fruits/veggies (like berries, cabbage, grapes, eggplant, plums) all pack a powerful punch of nutrients that keep our immune system healthy. The different colors have different nutrients … all important and essential for a robust immune system. And don’t forget your neutral colored onions and garlic; they are powerhouse foods for your immune system. Avoid the sugars and eat the colors of the rainbow.
- Make sure you exercise your body at least three times a week. Winter is such a tough time to get our bodies moving, but it is so important. Getting the blood flowing on cold days helps with circulation, but it also enhances our moods and boosts our energy. Winter can be a time when we feel more depleted and more depressed. Exercise and movement bring vitality to our bodies AND our minds. I have also noticed clinically over the years that exercise in the winter is best done in moderation; I have seen again and again that my patients who exercise excessively and exhaustively in the winter months tend to tax their immune system and become more susceptible to colds and flus … some may disagree, but I recommend exercising in moderation, not excess, in the coldest months of the year.
- Experiment with drinking different types of herbal teas. Ginger tea can be warming, improve digestion, increase circulation, and strengthen immunity. Green tea has potent anti-oxidant properties that boost the immune system. There are also great combination herbal teas that are anti-viral, soothing to the bronchial and respiratory tracts, and immune stimulating. Drinking herbal tea is relaxing and warming … and has great health benefits too.
- Vitamin C Even with all the fancy immune boosting supplements on the market, vitamin C is still considered a great choice. When you’re feeling run down, stressed out or exhausted, adding vitamin C to your daily routine can enhance immunity and ward off illness. My family has a favorite chewable tablet of vitamin C, echinacea and elderberry; I consider it invaluable to the health of my family in the colder months.
- Immune Boosting and Anti-viral Herbal Formulas These formulas are prescribed by naturopathic physicians and other health care professionals, and are crucial to have in your cupboards during the cold and flu seasons. Taken at the first sign of a cold or flu, they can strengthen your immune system and stop a virus from taking hold in your body. Just last week I was worried because I began to feel worn down with chills and a sore throat; we were leaving for a weekend ski trip in just 16 hours. I took my immune support formula as well as my anti-viral formula immediately (and continued them throughout the weekend). I was good to go. As I said, they are crucial and invaluable.
One last comment … of course my hope is that you stay healthy and strong all winter long. However, moms DO get sick. Of course we do. And even though we don’t have time for it, it happens. If you do get sick, my advice is … CALL ON YOUR VILLAGE. We all have to call on our village at times, and sometimes more than others. Call on your family, your neighbors, your friends, your babysitters, your co-workers, anyone who can help. And if you are part of someone else’s village and she needs help, lend a hand if you can. We have all been there!
Be well and stay healthy.
The Mommy Tune-up is a blog solely devoted to the busy mom’s pursuit of sanity and good health!