10 Tips to Avoid Getting A Cold or the Flu
By: Shandalla Seirawan, M.Sc., LMP
As a natural health practitioner, during this time of year, I get asked regularly, "How do you prevent yourself from getting a cold or the flu?" Here I'm going to reveal what I, and other natural health practitioners due on a regular basis to prevent illness. The best offense is a good defense. The biggest thing I do for myself is keep my immune system functioning at it’s most optimal. Prevention is the key because once you have an illness, the only thing you can do is support the immune system, rest, hydrate, and wait until your body does its job to fight off the virus.
· First and foremost, WASH YOUR HANDS....A LOT! I can't express this enough. If someone sneezes into their hand, opens a door, and then you touch the same door they did, BAM, you have just contacted whatever nastiness was lurking on their hands from the sneeze. Then, you scratch your nose, rub your eyes, touch something, or worse, you eat something and/or lick your fingers. Now you've just ingested that nastiness they were carrying. By touching your eyes, nose or mouth, you just let it enter your body through the thin mucous membranes and turn you into a host. Now you have a virus. Wash your hands, often, especially before eating anything. Avoid rubbing your eyes, nose, or touching your mouth without a barrier or cleaning your hands. Most viruses and bacterium enter the body through these locations.
· Stay hydrated, especially during those long holiday trips when it's easy to skip water. Carry a water bottle with you and fill it up with water when you can. Try to stick to the guideline of 8-8 oz glasses/day. This is easy to incorporate by filling up when you stop to get gas or using the airport water fountains. This will give your body some well needed benefits, like the ability to have your blood move around more easily, which transports ALL your cells, including the cells responsible for boosting immunity. Further, it helps to eliminate toxins and prevents dehydration, which can prevent travel fatigue.
· Absolutely get 8 hrs of rest to keep your brain and immune system at maximum capacity.
· Get a least SOME exercise 3-5 times a week. Even if it's just walking for 20 -30 minutes or running up and down the stairs at home or work. Any exercise counts. With the New Year right around the corner, get a jump start and invest in your health by getting a fitness tracker like a Fit Bit or getting a gym membership. If you want something SUPER COST EFFECTIVE, get a plain old pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a day. Exercise has been shown to boost your body's natural immune system.
· Take a probiotic. This contains good bacteria that increase your immune system. They are found in yogurt, kambucha, and fermented foods. This will increase the good bacteria in your intestines and prevent the bad bacteria that cause intestinal issues and other health problems from colonizing in your body. Probiotics help your intestines stay in proper working order. This is important because elimination through bowl movements gets rid of your body's toxins. In natural medicine, one of our main pieces of treatment to boost the immune system is to promote proper intestinal function and assist in elimination.
· Eat mushrooms, on everything. Or better yet, see your naturopathic physician to see if a mushroom extract is right for you. Mushrooms have been clinically proven to boost the immune system even better than the more well-known cold fighter, Echinacea.
· Consume vitamin C and eat citrus fruits. This time of year, I personally take 1 packet of Emergen-C and eat citrus regularly to boost my immune system.
· Eat a lot of garlic or take encapsulated garlic. This boosts your immune system function and has been shown to be antibacterial and antiviral. Take the encapsulated garlic as directed. You can take it with orange juice to get your vitamin C and kill the taste. The smelly kind works best, but for those who just cannot handle that, they make a garlic pill that is odorless.
· Get your vitamin D levels checked. With winter coming, there's very little sun available to those located in the Pacific NW. Our body uses the sun to create vitamin D. Without it, we're at risk for depleted vitamin D levels. This can cause depression, winter seasonal affective disorder, fatigue, chronic pain, and decreased immune function.
· Finally, for the sweetest immune booster, my personal favorite is elderberries. This can be taken in pill form, extract form, as a tea, or in syrup. Not only are elderberries delicious, but they give your immune system a huge bump when taken regularly throughout the season. You can sweeten your tea or water with the syrup, or take about a 1/4 of a spoonful of the syrup for the fullest flavor. Consume daily as directed for fullest benefits.
So there you have it. A natural healthcare practitioner's guide to keeping her immune system strong. This is in no way completely inclusive, but this is a good start as we enter the holiday season. If it seems like too much all at once, the first 4 tips are the most important and then you can add any of the others, 1 or 2 at a time where possible. Keep your eyes open for more tips to come on staying healthy.
I want to say that this material is meant for the average healthy adult who is not taking any medications, with no allergies or medical illnesses. Further, it is in no way meant to replace any doctor's advice or the advice of your primary medical practitioner. Consult with your physician with any questions or before adding any new herbs, health regiments, exercise, or health practices to your lifestyle. This advice is not meant to treat any illness or meant to take place of any advice, recommendations, prescriptions, or treatments from your doctor.