An Ounce of Prevention
Summer is behind us; fall is upon us and winter is on deck. It is the season of cooler temperatures, a new school year and the time when seasonal snowbirds head to their warmer home climates.
Each winter the flu inflicts people of all ages with symptoms of fever, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, runny nose, cough and stomach symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea which significantly impacts on your ability to attend school, work and enjoy recreational play. The spread of the flu and colds comes predominantly from the scattering of droplets in the air when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, talks, or through a direct touch of surfaces or person to person contact. To reduce your threat of catching or spreading germs pay attention to your habits.
There are effective ways to combat your risk of catching the flu virus and shortening its brunt by following a consistent preventative regimen. Stock up on nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, immunity boosting vitamins and minerals, get adequate sleep and wash hands thoroughly. With such precautions, the body can optimally function and resist its confrontation with the virus.
Flu Defending Habits
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow, not your hand! Feel a sneeze or a cough coming on? Turn your head and cough into your elbow to prevent your hands coming in contact with people or surfaces.
- Wash your hands. Wash your hands multiple times throughout the day. Viruses, not bacteria, cause colds and the flu. Studies have shown washing your hands with an antibacterial soap is no better at preventing infectious illnesses than scrubbing with plain soap and water. Additionally, there’s growing evidence that triclosan—the primary active ingredient in many antibacterial soaps may increase the growth of resistant bacteria.
- Face-Off. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and lips to drastically reduce the possibility of the virus from entering your body. The University of California, Berkeley, found in a 2008 study, the typical person makes a hand-to-face connection on average 16 times per hour.
- Put Your Hands Up. Refrain from touching surfaces most commonly touched by others by using paper towels to grip door handles and turn on and off faucets. If traveling by airplane, train or bus use disinfectant wipes to clean seats, window shades, tray tables and seatbelts.
- Workout. Stay active with regular exercise. Getting physical has been shown to reduce the number of times a person gets sick per year as well as shortens the duration of the illness. Researchers at the University of Washington enrolled 115 women in either a weekly 45-minute stretching session or 45 minutes of moderate-intensive exercise five days a week. After 12 months, the more active participants significantly developed fewer colds than the lower impact exercise regimen followers.
- Eat Right. Enhance your body’s immune system with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and valuable proteins. Studies continue to show eating sugary snacks or meals can weaken the immune system creating an opportunity for the flu virus to attack.
- Sweet Dreams. Maintaining a balanced sleep schedule is a critical way to sustain a healthy immune system. Adults need 7-to-9 hours of sleep and children require 9-to-12 hours each night to recalibrate the body for another day. Insufficient sleep reduces the body’s ability to defend against viral infections.
- Excessive stress can decrease immune function and make you more vulnerable to catch the flu. Incorporating stress management strategies such as exercise, yoga or meditation can help reduce the impact on your immune system.
- Stay home. Be considerate to those you work or go to school with. While your immune system is actively fighting off an infection, you are also susceptible to other contagions.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a truly healthy immune system depends on a balanced mix of vitamins and minerals over time, plus normal sleep patterns and a hefty dose of exercise.
Top 9 Vitamins & Minerals for Optimum Immunity Performance
- Vitamin C. Not just found in citrus fruits, you can also source vitamin C from green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale.
- Vitamin E. A powerful antioxidant that supports your body’s ability to fight off infection. Almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds as well as, spinach and broccoli are rich in Vitamin E.
- Vitamin B6. Vital to immune system functions. Foods high in vitamin B6 include bananas, lean chicken breast, cold-water fish, baked potatoes and chickpeas.
- Vitamin A. An antioxidant that enhances the strength of the immune system against infection. Concentrated vitamin A foods include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe and squash.
- Vitamin D. Reach for fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines) and fortified foods such as milk, orange juice and cereals to increase D intake.
- Folate/folic acid. To get more folate, reach for more beans and peas on a regular basis. Additional options include green leafy veggies and enriched bread, pasta, rice and other 100 percent whole-grain products.
- Iron. Boost your iron with lean poultry such as chicken and turkey, seafood, beans, broccoli and kale.
- Selenium. This super immunity element is prevalent in garlic, broccoli, sardines, tuna, Brazil nuts and barley.
- Zinc. Zinc assists in slowing down immune response and can regulate inflammation in your body. Zinc can be found in oysters, crab, lean meats and poultry, baked beans, yogurt and chickpeas.
If you do find yourself suffering from the flu, see your doctor and try these nurturing tips to assist you in your recovery.
Nourish Your Way Back to Health Naturally
- Chicken Soup. This traditional remedy can help in relieving upper respiratory symptoms and calm an inflamed throat. A 2000 study published by Dr. Stephan Rennard at the University of Nebraska found the combined ingredients of many vegetables, particularly onions, have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Steam. Treat yourself to a homemade facial steam to loosen congestion and help destroy viruses and bacteria. Simply, boil 1-2 cups of water in a pot and remove from stove. Carefully pour into mixing bowl. Drape a towel over your head and bowl and breathe deeply for up to 15 minutes.
- Eliminate White Foods. Avoid all white foods including milk, sugar, bread, cheese, dairy, soda, etc. These foods interfere with the body’s healing process by quelling immune function.
- Drink & Rest. Stay well hydrated by increasing your water, herbal teas and orange juice intake. Increasing your fluids will replenish the fluids you lose to fever or vomiting, and can also help to ease congestion. Get extra sleep—the body needs extra hours of rest a day to make up for the energy that is being drained fighting off the infection.
This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.