With cold and flu season around the corner, it is more important than ever to bolster your immune system this fall and winter. Here are some natural, simple solutions that will help protect you!
Treat your body right!
Manage your symptoms and triggers, pay attention to these early symptoms: fatigue, irritability, sneezing, coughing, a runny nose, and a sore throat. These could be early indicators that you're getting the flu-but you still have time to prevent a full-blown illness. The viral load is still low in the early stages, and that's when you'll have the greatest chance to gain the upper hand. The best treatments are the simplest: rest and relaxation. And understand that poorly managed emotional stress is an immune-system threat. Try to keep your stress levels low while you're dealing with early flu symptoms. If you're overtired, stressed from being stretched too thin, or feel like your body is trying to fight something off, for heaven's sake-stay home. Your body is waving a red flag!
Get 7-8 hours of sleep-studies show that your immune system function drops by an average of 60% after just three nights of poor sleep. Most people really need about 8 hours per night for optimal health. If your body is fatigued, it simply won't be able to fight off the flu virus (or any other infection) very well.
Exercise regularly-According to recent findings, when moderate exercise is repeated on a near-daily basis, there is a cumulative immune-enhancing effect, which leads to a sustained response by the immune system to illness. When you exercise, your white blood cells -- the blood cells that fight infections in the body -- travel through your body more quickly, fighting bacteria and viruses (such as flu) more efficiently.
Avoid sugar, white flour, and processed foods- these foods even in small amounts can significantly impair your immune function, making you more susceptible to infection. A large amount of sugar, such as the amount found in a normal can of soda, hurts your immune function for hours.
Drink lots of purified water and add a squirt of fresh lemon-keeping your mucous membranes well-hydrated is a key to helping them fight off viruses. Shoot for about your body weight in ounces per day.
Eat immune-building foods-a healthy diet, including a few proven immune-boosting foods, is one of the best ways to avoid catching the flu. The best flu-fighting foods are:
- Fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables - Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are packed with healthy phytonutrients that can strengthen your immune system, lowering your susceptibility to the flu virus.
- Fresh raw or lightly-cooked garlic and onion - have strong natural antiviral properties that can help to fight off a flu virus. Sulfur compounds in garlic/onion may make us 2.5 times less likely to get sick this season these compounds have been shown to kill viruses. Fresh garlic has more immune-boosting potential than cooked, so add a clove of fresh minced garlic at the end of cooking.
- Green Tea - Like garlic, green tea has shown the ability to both kill viruses and stimulate the immune system to fight off flu infections, especially when used daily. Try to drink 3-4 cups of strong green tea per day during the flu season.
- Cayenne Pepper - Cayenne has a long list of health benefits and is believed to be a mild immune booster. Also, cayenne contains large amounts of natural vitamin A, considered to be an important "anti-infection" nutrient.
- Spices like ginger, turmeric, clove, and cinnamon all have anti-viral properties. Ginger contains gingerol, a natural plant compound that can help fight off infection. Put a 1-inch chunk of the spicy root into a cup of boiling water to make ginger tea, or make fresh ginger vinaigrette to top raw or cooked vegetables. Here's how: Mix 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Try mixing some cinnamon into your morning oatmeal or sprinkling extra nutmeg over a bowl of applesauce.
- Nuts like Brazil and Almonds-excellent sources of the disease-fighting antioxidant vitamin E. Aim to have 1 ounce per day as a snack; use chopped almonds on oatmeal, salads, or stir-fries; or try this recipe for sugar-and-spice almonds: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lay raw (unsalted) almonds on a cookie sheet, spray with sesame oil spray and sprinkle with brown sugar and a pinch of cayenne. Bake for 6 minutes, cool, and eat! Brazil nuts contain selenium, another great antioxidant.
- Sweet potatoes' beta carotene content makes them an immune-enhancing food. Beta carotene the vitamin that gives sweet potatoes their orange pigment is converted to vitamin A in the body, which research suggests may be particularly helpful in the treatment of respiratory infections.
- Chicken Soup-research study published in the medical journal Chest found that chicken soup has mild anti-inflammatory properties, which may help prevent colds and flu by decreasing mucus production and throat swelling and irritation (so you might be spared the sniffles or sore throat associated with colds).
- Oysters contain more zinc a mineral that keeps our immune system strong than any other food. Eating just three oysters gets you the daily recommendation for zinc. Since oysters may be difficult to include in your diet regularly, the following foods can also help you get your zinc: sunflower seeds; baked beans; or pumpkin seeds.
Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, mouth and ears-the flu virus enters your body through the eyes, nose, mouth, and possibly even the ears.
Wash your hands frequently to prevent viruses and bacteria from entering your system.
Drink little to no alcohol-too much alcohol impairs liver and immune function, which leaves you open to all kinds of infections. Heavy drinkers are especially susceptible to flu infections. Also, alcohol dehydrates your body which is always bad during flu season.
Don’t smoke and avoid smoke-filled places- first and secondhand smoke significantly impairs your immune system. It also dries out your nasal passages and paralyzes cilia, the small hairs in your nose and lungs that help keep out viruses.
Take regular saunas-many experts to believe that taking a sauna several times a week can help to keep you from getting the flu. Many people, especially in Europe, take saunas just for this reason. The air you breathe in a sauna is too hot for cold and flu viruses to survive.
Get fresh air every day. During the winter the dry heat from indoor heating systems dries out your mucous membranes and makes you more susceptible to viruses. If you can, during the day, crack open a window or two to give your body some relief.
Dry skin brushing helps the body detoxify by removing dead skin cells. Detoxification is performed by a number of organs, glands, and transportation systems, including the skin, gut, kidneys, liver, lungs, lymphatic system, and mucous membranes. See separate informational handout
Stimulate your thymus-your thymus is a fist-size gland located behind your sternum in the center of your chest. It plays a critical role in the functioning of the lymphatic and immune systems. It develops over time, reaching peak size when you are in your early 30s, then begins to physically diminish until it shrinks to the size of a pea around age 70. To support thymus health, the Chinese use astragalus root. Studies show astralagus is an adaptogen, which means it corrects both high and low metabolic imbalances, acts on invaders wherever they attack the body and promotes overall vitality. The usual dosage is 100 to 150 mg per day in capsules or you can drink astragalus tea. Another way to stimulate your thymus is to use acupressure. With your index and middle finger, gently tap against the sternum (midway between the nipples) 50 times, in the morning and evening.
Heal your body right when it does get sick!
Stay home, especially if you’re running a temperature.
Use Vitamin C (acerola and/or rose hips, with bioflavonoids) to lower your temperature and boost your immunity-for adults 100-200 mg per hour, children 50-100 mg every two hours. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin so one doesn’t need to worry about getting too much because the body will eliminate what it doesn’t need through the bowels. So lower your dose if diarrhea occurs.
Homeopathic Gelsemium, Arsenicum, or Oscillococcinum are very effective, inexpensive, and easy to use. There are certain dos and don’ts with the use of homeopathic remedies that are important. Ask Better Living staff for the Use of Homeopathics’ handout.
Black Elderberry (Nature’s Sunshine Elderberry Defense) is an excellent anti-oxidant and stops viruses from replicating. Nature’s Way Sambucol is also a very good product.
Bee propolis is rich in flavonoids that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains terpenoids that possess antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti protozoan agents. Not unlike some prescription antibiotics, propolis prevents bacterial cell division and breaks down the invading organism's cell walls and cytoplasm. Buy honey from your local area will provide you with the best Bee propolis available and builds immunity to pollens in your home area.
Nature’s Sunshine VS-C which is a Chinese virus formula is excellent as a preventive and if illness appears.
Young Living essential oil Thieves and ImmuPower are excellent in boosting immunity. Both of these are blends of multiple essential oils with antiviral, antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal, and immune-building properties.
Massage and Lymphatic Drain can help detoxify tissues and move lymphatic fluid into the circulation to be excreted from the body. Make your appointment today!!!
These are just a few of the ways to both prevent and combat the flu.
Nature’s Sunshine and Young Living products are available through Joan Prentice, RN, ND.
Written by Joan Prentice, RN, ND