Get the 411 for the flu season

The beginning of Fall marks the start of the cold and flu season.  In reality, the flu or cold  can strike at anytime of the year.  As some of you have come to find out from battling not just illness, but hot weather at the same time.

With kids back in school and everyone spending more time indoors, germs can spread quicker than wild fire.  It is estimated that some where between 5%-20% of the United States population will suffer from the flu each year. If you are on the crunchy side like me getting a flu vaccine is definitely not on  your radar!  Personally, anyone I have ever known that has received  a flu shot has also gotten sick.  Not to mention some of the not so nice ingredients like formaldehyde and thimerosal.  Or you may have religious convictions that keep you from vaccinations.

Whatever your reasons are for taking the natural route, here’s the 411 on boosting your immune system for the flu season.

 Sugar

We all know that sugar puts you at risk for many health concerns such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, but it also affects the health of your immune system.  Having high levels of sugar in your blood can inhibit the germ-fighting white blood cells ability to fight off bacteria and viruses.

Alcohol

If you like to enjoy a night cap or glass of wine every now and again it’s ok, but it is recommended to decrease alcohol consumption during flu season.  Not something most people  want to hear enetering the holidays.  Drinking in excess can lower your immune function , not too mention putting yourself at risk for diseases down the road.

Dairy

Curb your love for dairy products during the flu season.  Dairy products can often produce more mucus as well as being high in sugar.  Not a good combinations for clogged lungs and a soar throat.

Processed Foods

Poor diets loaded with processed foods not only affect your immune system, but also your overall health.  Processed foods can lead to increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, and less intestinal flora.

Zinc

While most people have heard of the importance of Vitamin C, many are unaware of the studies that show the healing abilities of Zinc.  Zinc has powerful immune-boosting and protective effects and may stop the replication of a cold’s cell.  If you feel a cold coming on, supplement a healthy diet with 25 mg of zinc per day on a short-term basis.  Of course Always check with your Physician.

Exercise

As if you didn’t need another reason to hit the gym, research shows that people who exercise in moderation don’t get sick as often as people who do not exercise.  Exercise can be an immune booster.   On the other hand, there is also evidence that too much intense exercise can reduce immunity.  Moderation is always best.

Sleep

Sleep deprivation can effect your immune system. More and more of our population is suffering from inadequate sleep.  When you do not get enough rest, your immune system  can answer with an inflammatory response. Not good news if you’re already ill.  Shoot for at least seven hours of sleep a night and try taking a 20-minute power nap if you’re falling short.

Air

Improve the air quality in your home by opening windows. Indoor air can be up to five times as polluted as outdoor air.  Houseplants are another great tool that can keep the air clean in your home.  Houseplants such as aloe vera, spider plants, golden pothos and peace lilies filter out common VOCs  (volatile organic compounds).  It’s also important to get your heating and cooling system cleaned annually.

Sun

Scientists have known since the early 20th century that our bodies are stimulated to make vitamin D from the suns rays.  Getting natural Vitamin D from the sun can be difficult in the cooler months.  Studies in the United States and abroad increasingly point to vitamin D as perhaps one of the immune system’s strongest allies against disease.  Vitamin D is critical to T cell function. Without sufficient sources of this vitamin in your blood, the T cells remain dormant and are therefore incapable of ‘activating’ to fight foreign pathogens.

Clean

This may sound like a no brainer, but keeping your surfaces clean will greatly reduce your chances of getting sick.  Highly contaminated spots you might not think of are door knobs, cabinet pulls, small and large appliances, phones, computers, desks, and dressers.  Also, replacing your toothbrush more often can help keep germs at bay.

Essential Oils

Pure essential oils can help in the holistic treatment of colds and the flu.  When it comes to using essential oils there are many ways to implement their application.  Diffusers, room mists, surface sprays, hand gels, inhalers, and chest rubs can all assist in combatting the cold or flu.   There are many essential oils that can help, but for the sake of not writing a small book I will focus on a few. Peppermint: Relieves headaches caused by congestion Eucalyptus: Decongestant; soothes respiratory problems Oregano: Proven antibacterial; fights sinus infections

Probiotics

When you think of probiotics you might relate them to only digestive health, but emerging science has shown that probiotics also play an important role in immune system health.  About 60 to 80 percent of our immune cells are associated with gut cells.   Having a healthy supply of ‘friendly bacteria’ can make your immune system in a better state to fight off infections or reduce the symptoms from the cold or flu quicker.   On the whole, your  immune system does a remarkable job of defending you against the flu.  But sometimes no matter what we do to try and boost our immune system a germ successfully invades our body.  No lifestyle is perfect, but trying to live healthy everyday is the key to faster healing and illness prevention. It should go with out saying that if you want to try and steer clear of the flu this year you should keep your fingers out of your eyes, ears and nose.  And of course wash your hands.

What do you do to boost your immune system for the cold and flu season?  Let me know in the comments below!

photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net “Woman With High Temperature” by marcolm

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