Despite the polar vortex sweeping through the nation (that is, everywhere but here!) this hasn’t been one of those horrendous cold and flu seasons but these nasty bugs are circulating so be prepared
Truth be told, we don’t get sick from extreme temperatures, we get it from one another. Flu is the cause of roughly 36,000 deaths each year and over 200,000 people are hospitalized because of it.
We’re most contagious the first few days we have symptoms, however, we can even be contagious 24 hours before the first sign of cold symptoms and up to 4 days before flu symptoms appear so it’s not easy to avoid the nasty little germs but there are measures you can take to prevent or at least lessen the severity.
1) Drink up
You’ve heard it before but it’s sage advice: stay hydrated, it helps ease a stuffy nose and sore throat and helps flush out those germs. Dr. Oz recommends drinking 4 – 6 cups of elderberry tea a day at the onset of symptoms because medical trials have shown that it helps block viruses from entering your cells and aids in shortening the duration of the flu. He calls it a ‘natural tamiflu’.
2) Gargle with warm salt water
The saline solution has a sanitizing effect that helps flush out viruses and bacteria and clears mucous and irritants, it also reduces inflammation by drawing out excess water from throat tissue. Saline nasal spray (non-medicated) and nasal irrigation systems like a neti pot (when used with the proper solution, not just tap water) help ease congestion and clear out sinuses.
3) Coat your throat with honey
1 – 2 tablespoons of organic honey help sooth your throat and curb a cough. You want organic honey because regular honey is often contaminated, especially if it’s manufactured in China. Raw organic Maunuka honey (one that has a minimum of UMF 16) has the most healing properties. I highly recommend taking a teaspoon of Manuka honey if you feel you’re coming down with something and if you do get sick, take one everyday, it’s my get well quick secret.
4) Have a bowl of soup
We’ve all heard that chicken soup can help ease a cold, apparently it’s true. According to the doctors at Real Age, sipping chicken soup cuts the duration of a cold by 50%. They believe it’s because cooked chicken releases an amino acid called cysteine that has a similar chemistry to the bronchitis drug, acetylcysteine. Add garlic, a natural infection fighter to your recipe along with some hot red pepper, a strong decongestant and you should feel better.
5) Catch your zzzz’s
Sleep is restorative, our bodies rejuvenate and repair while we sleep. Inadequate amounts of shut eye compromise the immune system and make it difficult for our bodies to fight infection and illness. While you are resting, your immune system is better able to produce cytokines, chemicals that attack virus cells.
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6) Manage stress
Stress depresses our immune system and makes us more vulnerable to illness. Things that cause major stress like the loss of a job as well as little stressors like the jerk that cuts you off on the freeway both take their toll. Meditation helps but if getting your om on isn’t going to happen at least give yourself 10 minutes of downtime to do some deep breathing and get yourself centered.
7) Eat the right foods
The Real Age docs also say that lean protein rich foods such as turkey, tofu, chicken, nuts, nonfat dairy, beans and fish enable your body to make disease fighting antibodies. They also recommend loading up on foods that contain flavonoids and vitamin C like oranges, strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers, tomatoes and broccoli because they help your body produce protective immune cells. Whole grain foods are also beneficial because they have immune enhancing nutrients like zinc, selenium, and beta glucan.
8) Wash your hands
You touch a door knob after someone who is sick or getting sick has, then grab your cell phone, your Ipad – their germs are all over your stuff. I’m a regular hand washer although I try not to be too crazy about it because exposure to harmless germs and bacteria strengthens our immune system. But seriously,want to get sick LESS often? Do Not eat with your hands unless you have just washed them! Use good old soap and water, NOT the antibacterial type because they kill good bacteria and weaken our body’s ability to fight germs; many health professionals claim that they are to blame for the increase of deadly ‘super bugs.’ Even the FDA is investigating triclosan, a very toxic chemical found in most antibacterial products. I keep eco-friendly chemical free hand sanitizer and baby wipes in my car to wipe away germs my kids and I come in contact with. I use the sanitizer sparingly and only when necessary because overuse of hand sanitizers can be detrimental as well.
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Physical activity boosts the immune system so staying active and working out on a regular basis will help keep illness away. When you do get sick, it’s ok and even beneficial to keep up your physical activity as long as your symptoms are above the neck – stuffy nose, scratchy throat. However, if you have the chills, a hacking chest cough, stomach flu, fever, etc., rest.
Fortunately, I rarely get sick, I’m blessed with a strong immune system but I also have adopted most of these habits that help keep germs at bay.