Far from being a passive victim snagged by viruses and bacteria, you can significantly reduce your chances of becoming ill by cultivating health during cold and flu season. Just as bugs tend to attack weakened plants in the garden, so do bacteria and viruses “invade” your body when you are tired, overworked, and undernourished. Ways to maintain tip-top health during cold season:

Sleep at least 9 hours a night (I can hear you groaning; I said 9 hoping you would get at least 8). Research shows that reducing sleep also diminishes immune system activity. Increasing sleep means bolstering your resistance. As a bonus, sleep also improves memory and concentration.

 Keep the back of your neck covered with a scarf. From a Chinese medical perspective, the common cold stems from weakened wei qi (“protective energy”) which permits an invasion of wind and heat (fever) or cold (chills). The easiest place for wind to enter the body is the back of the neck, so wear a scarf, particularly on blustery, cold days.

Avoid sugar. Even a couple of grams of sugar will reduce immune system activity for 24 hours.

Drink lots of water. Dehydrated tissues are more susceptible to invasion by bacteria and viruses.

 Increase vitamin C to at least 3000 mg a day. Take smaller amounts of vitamin C throughout the day (e.g. 500mg every two to three hours). Choose buffered vitamin C to reduces stomach acidity. Sometimes even with the best preventative care, you can still develop a cold or the flu. Stay tuned: the next newsletter will include ways to speed your recovery.

For more ways to prevent and treat colds, see The Green Medicine Chest by Dr. Judith Boice.