By Terri Wiebold
You don’t have to fall victim to this incredibly unpleasant flu season. The following are a few tips for staying healthy while the flu is upon us:
Your gut is the first line of defense
Probiotics are the “good” live micro-organisms (bacteria) that line your digestive system and ensure proper nutritional absorption from the foods you eat. They also fight off “bad” bacteria and viruses – like the flu. Eating foods rich in probiotics like yogurt, sauerkraut, dark chocolate (yes, you have permission), green olives and soft fermented cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan and Gouda are a great start to tackling this flu season. Drinking fermented beverages like kombucha and red wine (sorry, beer is not there quite yet) are other ways to also improve your gut health. Do your research and touch base with your doctor to find what will work best for you.
Wash your hands
This is pretty self explanatory, but using soap and washing your hands for a longer duration may assist in removing bacteria from the surface of your skin – although it doesn’t necessarily kill the bacteria. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Washing before, during and after preparing meals, before eating food, after using the toilet, after blowing your nose, after touching garbage or after coming in contact with any bodily fluids (phlegm, saliva, feces, etc.) is especially important. Data (or lack thereof) on the importance of using an anti-bacterial soap indicates that lathering with regular soap in warm water does the trick just fine. Be sure the towel you are using to dry your hands is also clean. Remember to treat your hands with a moisturizer after every wash to avoid that unpleasant dry feeling.
Once again, drinking plenty of water seems to top the list of healthy habits for your body. The more hydrated you are the better your body can fight infection. One reason people can get dehydrated during cold and flu season is because these illnesses tend to happen in the winter months when the air is drier. This is especially true if you are indoors and the heat is turned up. This may cause your nose, eyes and mouth to be dry. It is best to avoid sugary beverages and alcohol, as they have inflammatory properties. Depending upon the type of flu and your symptoms, dehydration can be a severe problem. If you’re sweating a lot, vomiting or have diarrhea, drinking a liquid with added electrolytes may be beneficial.
Give your immune system a boost
If you are one to take natural supplements, there are a few specific things your body may benefit from in the immunity department. Vitamin D has been shown to strengthen the immune system, thus increasing the body’s ability to fight off illness. Vitamin D supplements are one way to increase your vitamin D intake, but remember that the sun is an excellent source of vitamin D as well.
Turmeric, a plant from the ginger family, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which can be key when fighting infection. This may be taken as a supplement or used as a spice in food. Lastly, supplementing with oil of oregano, which is believed to be an effective natural antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal, may offer a boost in immunity.
And yes, mom’s advice still holds true … get plenty of rest.