Imagine the beginning of the winter season. For most people, that means the inevitable start of cold and flu season. Do you think getting the cold or the flu is inevitable as the weather turns chilly and dry? 

Well, I would disagree! It doesn't have to be that way, at least, not anymore. Keep reading for my Top 10 Tips to Beat the Cold and Flu Naturally:

1) Wash Your Hands. This might seem obvious to you, but this is one of the quickest and easiest ways to rid yourself of any viruses you might pick up from shaking hands, touching a doorknob, or exchanging money. Use a basic soap and warm water, not hot, and wash your whole hand, including underneath your fingernails, for 45 seconds (that's singing the Happy Birthday song twice!). As a side note, I do not believe in antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer. The adult human body has 100 trillion bacteria cells in and on the body and using anything antibacterial will kill those cells, including the good ones. A basic soap will kill the harmful virus-casusing germs while leaving intact the helpful bacteria.

2) Optimize Levels of Vitamin D.Vitamin D deficiency is unfortunately incredibly common in the U.S., especially during the winter months. Having low Vitamin D levels will impair your immune system, making you more susceptible to contracting colds, the flu, or other respiratory infections.  Vitamin D produces 200-300 antimicrobial peptides in the body that kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi. By maintaining the optimal level of Vitamin D (between 50 and 65 ng/mL), I strongly believe you can avoid the cold or flu entirely. Upping your levels with natural exposure to sunlight is the ideal method. Spend 10-20 minutes with your hands, arms, and/or face uncovered (including no sunscreen). However, our current lifestyles and/or geographical location often make this challenging. If that's case, supplementing (look for D3, not D2) is the next best choice. Getting your levels tested via a blood test is the only way to know your current level and therefore know how much you need to supplement with.

3) Exercise. Exercise triggers your body's immune response so any regular, moderate exercise you can do will be beneficial. Aim for 30 minutes every day, even if it's a walk around the neighborhood.

  4) Sleep. Your immune system is compromised when you aren't getting enough sleep or enough high-quality sleep. Enhance the quality of sleep by dimming the lights, shutting off the TV, and setting aside the computer and work at least an hour before bed time. Do gentle stretches, take a warm bath, or do some basic breath work to trigger the response in your brain that it's time to prepare for sleep. Keeping the bedroom temp between 60 and 68 degrees F, wearing socks, and keeping the room as dark as possible by hanging blackout curtains or wearing an eye mask, will help you to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep throughout the night.

  5) Regular Water Intake. Drinking pure, fresh water is crucial for the optimal functioning of all body systems. Regular water intake, especially a first glass or two upon first waking, helps to flush the body of toxins, keeping the immune system working efficiently. However, try to stop all liquid intake two hours before sleep, reducing the possibility of needing to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. If you find you don't like the taste of your water, consider purchasing a filtration system, adding a few slices of citrus or cucumber, or even adding in a few drops of stevia, a natural, South American, sweetener. Warm water with a squeeze of fresh lemon can be incredibly soothing and rehydrating especially first thing in the morning.  This can help replace your morning cup of coffee or black tea!

6) Deal with Stress. Being under chronic stress can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and flu. Stress-combating techniques that work are different for everyone. Meditation, writing in a journal, taking a bath, dancing around your house, reading your favorite book or magazine, getting out in nature, anything! What works for YOU? Decide and then do it regularly.

  7) Eliminate Sugar and Processed Foods.Sugar is considered an anti-nutrient, meaning your body actually has to use up its own store of nutrients just to break down sugar. Most processed foods (think most food items that come from a box, bag, can, or jar) contain sugar or worse, high-fructose corn syrup, both of which will suppress the immune system. Consume whole, unprocessed foods as often as possible and reach for honey, stevia, or maple syrup for the occasional, natural sweetness.

  8) Eat your Bacteria.Consuming naturally fermented foods, such as natural sauerkraut (not the kind in a can on your regular supermarket shelf), kefir (look for the unsweetened variety or make your own), or miso, among others are great options to replenish the beneficial bacteria in your body, which in turn boosts your immune system. If you can't manage to eat these types of food on a daily basis, consider a probiotic supplement. Taking one probiotic supplement upon first waking (wait an hour before eating breakfast or drinking anything except for water) will help to boost your immune system and keep your digestive system running properly (which in turn boosts your immune system, believe it or not!)

  9) Coconut Oil for Breakfast. Coconut oil is made up of medium-chain fatty acids which, among other things, are great for killing off harmful bacteria, parasites, and fungi. Adding a tablespoon or two to a morning bowl of steamy oatmeal, spreading some on sprouted grain toast with natural nut butter, or melting some in a skillet to scramble a couple of eggs is a great way to start off the day!

10) Chicken Noodle Soup Isn't Just an Old Wives' Tale. First of all, the steam rising from a bowl of soup is helpful to bust through congestion. The soup usually contains garlic and pepper, both of which thin the mucus lining, which helps you to breathe more easily. Celery is a great detoxifying vegetable. Don't think that can of soup from the supermarket will do the trick. Canned soups often contain excessive amounts of sodium, as well as sugar and other chemicals and preservatives. You'll get the most benefit from making your own big batch at home and freezing some for the times when you really need it.  

  Utilize your body's natural defenses by following these 10 tips. Colds and flu will be a thing of the past!