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Staying Healthy During the Winter Months

Dr. John MacIntosh, ND, RMT - Naturopathic Doctor, Registered Massage & Suikodo™ Therapist

“And I’m Going Where Those Chilly Winds Don’t Blow…”

Winter is a time when many of us will become sick with (mainly) viral illnesses, especially colds and flus.

One reason is the fact that we tend to stay indoors when it’s cold outside, creating an environment where illnesses can easily be communicated person-to-person.

Another reason is that coping with winter weather and trying to stay warm is stressful and stress lowers our bodies’ overall immunity.

A less well-known reason is that with less sunlight during the winter, we make less Vitamin D, a nutrient that contributes greatly to our overall immune system strength.

Finally, the viruses responsible for colds and influenza tend to incubate during the summer months, bursting forth during the autumn to begin their winter-long march across the globe.

Not much to be done … or is there?


With regard to colds and flus, hygiene boils down to old-fashioned hand washing with soap and water (not with so-called “antibacterial” soaps, which do more harm than good—use regular soap), covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing and staying home when you’re sick.


Another part of prevention is getting the flu vaccine, available at no cost at your family doctor’s office or even local pharmacies. While it may seem strange for a naturopathic doctor to recommend getting the flu shot (I’m not sure why), this is still the easiest and most effective way to prevent influenza infection on a large scale.


Without adequate Vitamin D our immune systems suffer. Most North Americans—better than 75% of us—actually become Vitamin D-deficient during the winter.

The easiest way to counter this is to take supplemental Vitamin D (as D3), particularly from October to April.

Medicated drops are the easiest form, but tablets are fine as well. Take at least 400 International Units, up to 1,000 IU daily. Taking more than this is neither necessary nor advisable unless Vitamin D levels are being monitored with blood tests.

VITAMINS A, C and E plus Selenium & Zinc

These nutrients contribute greatly to immune system health and are found readily in foods (all are rich sources):

· Vitamin A: Liver (beef, chicken or pork); spinach, kale, collard, mustard or dandelion greens (cooked); cod liver oil; sweet potato; mango; pumpkin; red chilli peppers; papaya; chives

· Vitamin C: Acerola berries, orange or grapefruit juice (unsweetened, “not from concentrate” only, limit to 1 cup daily), guava, peppers (chilli, sweet green or red), turnip greens (cooked), cantaloupe, honeydew melon, papaya, kiwi, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, mango

· Vitamin E: Wheat germ oil, yogurt, sunflower seeds, mayonnaise, almonds

· Selenium: Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, oatmeal, fish & seafood (red snapper, halibut, salmon, oysters, scallops, clams; baked or steamed), Swiss chard (cooked), orange juice, toasted wheat germ

· Zinc: Oysters, lean beef, toasted wheat germ, turkey, cheese (Swiss, cheddar), Swiss chard (cooked)


Many medicinal plants can stimulate the immune system during illness. Take at the first sign of infection (use ½ dose for children under 12):

· Echinacea: Take 1,000 mg (or 1 teaspoon of the liquid extract) 4-5 times daily; use Echinacea angustifolia for best effect. If you are allergic to Ragweed, use another plant.

· Astragalus: Take 400-500 mg (or ½ teaspoon) 3-4 times daily

· Andrographis: Take 2,000 mg (tablets) 3-4 times daily

Elderberry (Sambucol)

Elderberry reduces the length of colds and tastes good so it’s useful for children. Sambucol is a commercial preparation available in drug stores. Dose: 1 teaspoon 3 times daily (for children under 12: use ½ teaspoon)

Thyme + Sage + Honey tea

For sore throats, coughs and chest infections, steep ½ teaspoon each of dried thyme and sage for 5 minutes, strain and sweeten with honey (honey also moistens and soothes the throat). Add a bit of lemon juice as well if desired. Drink 3-4 times daily.

For more information, book an appointment or free consult with Dr. John, by calling 905.465.4595.

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