We were selling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door this weekend and I couldn’t help but notice that A LOT of people were sick. Peeking through a crack in the door, sniffing and sneezing through her presentation, or texting me from inside to let me know they were quarantining themselves….the majority of our little community as been suffering.
There a bunch of bugs floating around this year and they are particularly nasty! But have no fear! It is very easy to prevent colds and flue this season – without having to get a flu shot.
Did one of those nasty bugs catch you? There are also plenty of natural remedies to help you minimize your suffering and fast forward your healing process!
Put Those Flu Fears Behind You for Good
If you read the statistics on the CDC website, you may legitimately fear flu season. When I read that 9.2 – 35.6 MILLION people get the flu every year and 140,000 – 710,000 of those people are hospitalized, I get scared too!
The flu is not life-threatening (assuming you are an otherwise healthy adult), but it is not pleasant either. Who has time to lay in bed and recover? Who wants to sniff, sneeze, cough and wheeze, feeling like they’ve been run over by a tractor for days?
Now, you can get a flu shot. They are available everywhere, affordably. As a pharmacy technician, I have to get a flu shot to work in the hospital, just as most healthcare professionals do. However, I have found that the years I get a flu shot are the worst years for sickness. So, I prefer to avoid it when I can.
Does this mean I am opening myself up to these little buggers? Oh hell no! There are plenty of ways to avoid the creepy crawlies that cause us to suffer. Most of these you can do with things you have in your house already!
So sit back and get ready to fight….
Naturally Boost Your Immune System for Flu Season
1. Elementary Hygiene Rules
We all remember our teachers and parents consistently reminding us about these things when we were growing up:
“Wash your hands!”
“Cover your mouth!”
Right? Well, here’s the thing….they weren’t just annoying adults, repeating themselves relentlessly! (I know because I am one of those adults now) These two things will save you from the flu. Point. Blank. Period. If the germy bugs can’t get inside your body – if they get washed away before they can do harm – then they can’t make you sick.
Simple, right? I know! Now, go wash your hands.
You can take this a step further and use a hand sanitizer or sanitizing spray. There are several brands on the market. However, you can also DIY your own sanitizing spray at home! Don’t have the time or patience for DIY? You can buy roller bottle blends and sanitizing sprays from my Etsy shop.
2. Pump Up Your Nutrition
Next, focus on your diet to boost your immune system naturally. During flu season you should stay hydrated, reduce sugar intake, increase your greens, and seek foods that are high in vitamins C & D, and omega-3. While you can take supplements containing these vitamins and minerals, getting them directly from food allows your body to utilize the micronutrients more efficiently.
Stay hydrated. Be sure to drink your daily water requirements, while avoiding caffeine and alcohol as much as possible. Your body is 70% water. Staying hydrated ensures your body is working at top performance. Caffeine and alcohol dehydrate you, causing a sluggish immune system, and should be consumed in small amounts. Studies show that caffeine and alcohol also disrupt your REM sleep, which leads to low sleep quality and a depressed immune response.
Reduce sugar. Refined sugars slow down your immune system. Reducing the amount of processed and refined sugar allows your body to function at its best, fighting off bacteria and viruses. Ever wonder why the peak times for colds/flu are after Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas? All those sugary treats may have something to do with it! We try to stick to one sugary treat per day in our house all year round.
Increase greens. Greens are jammed-packed with vitamin, minerals and nutrients that your body needs every day. Increasing your intake of greens during the flu season will provide your body with the key nutrients needed to remove toxins causing stress or inflammation. These powerhouse veggies can be eaten in salads, hidden in your favorite recipes, or turned into yummy green smoothie treats.
Vitamin C has been linked to the immune system for ages. However, form matters here. Vitamin C in the form of absorbic acid will not help prevent illness. Additionally, supplements containing vitamin C would have to be taken in large quantities to be effective on their own. This can also lead to toxicity in the form of kidney stones or upset stomach. Your best bet is to increase foods that contain high amounts of vitamin C, along with the other vitamins listed below.
Vitamin D is the sunlight vitamin. Vitamin D helps produce cathelicidin, a protein with virus-killing qualities. A Harvard study shows that those most likely to have upper respiratory infections also have the lowest vitamin D levels. It also shows that asthma patients with low levels of D got sick 6 times more often. You can increase your vitamin D through diet (fish or fortified dairy) or supplementation. This is a supplement you should take year-round, unless you’re lucky enough to be in the sun all day, every day. It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from sun and diet alone.
Omega-3 is a fatty acid with powerful immune boosting abilities. If you don’t like fish, or don’t eat it often, omega-3 can be taken in supplement form. A study by Britain’s Institute of Human Nutrition and School of Medicine shows that omega-3s increase the activity of phagocytes. Phagocytes are cells that eat up the bacteria to help prevent illness. Another study shows that omega-3s increase airflow and protect lungs from colds and respiratory infections. You should choose a supplement that has at least 1 g of EPA and DHA combined.
Astragalus is a Chinese root. According to Dr. Andrew Weil and several studies, astagalus stimulates the infection fighting white blood cells. Another study shows a boost in the immune systems of mice, while a separate study shows promise in humans as well. However, its effects are not immediate. You should supplement astragalus well before flu season because it takes 6-8 weeks to reach its full potential within the body.
3. Try Essential Oils
If you can find yourself some high-quality, pure essential oils, then you can add a drop of prevention to your routine. There are several companies that offer them; if you’d like to know more about the oils I use, please ask me! The following essential oils are useful for immunity boosting and germ killing:
- Melaleuca (Tea Tree)
Many immune boosting blends may also contain peppermint and/or eucalyptus. However, these essential oils should not be used with children under 10 years old without physician direction and dilution.
OnGuard is doTERRA’s Protective Blend of essential oils. This blend combines clove, oregano, blah, blah, and blah for a powerhouse of protection. Diffuse in your main living areas to benefit the entire family, add to your laundry to wear the benefits all day, or roll it on the bottoms of your feet for daily protection. You can also put a few drops on the air filter in your house; not only will you disperse protection everywhere, but your house will smell divine too!
Tackle the Tickle Before it Tackles YOU
Yikes! You feel it. That tickle in the back of your throat. It starts as an annoying scratch that eventually knocks you on your butt for days. Don’t ignore those first signs! This is the perfect time to give your immune system a big, one-two punch.
You can stop that tickle in its tracks! Tackle it when it first presents itself and you can save yourself days of suffering (or rid yourself of that nasty bug before it invites its rude friends)!
Zinc supplementation can slow down the multiplication of bugs in your throat and nose. While zinc won’t stop illness in its tracks, it will shorten the length by a day or so. You can find lozenges with zinc added at your local pharmacy or grocery store; when you feel something creeping up on you, start with a lozenge every 1-2 hours. Don’t over do it! High doses of zinc (above 50 mg daily) can have the opposite effect!
Ginseng root will also help stop those bugs. A study by the Center for Immunotherapy of Cancer and Infectious Diseases at the University of Connecticut found a 50% reduction in the occurrence of illness after taking a ginseng supplement daily. Those participants that did get sick found a drastic reduction in the duration of symptoms as well.
Elderberry and elderberry syrups are excellent immune boosters! You can purchase a ready-made syrup or DIY your own. Anthocyanidins are chemical compounds found in elderberries that have been shown to have immunostimulant properties. Elderberry extract is both a natural preventative and symptom-busting herbal; add some echinacea at the first signs of a cold and drastically reduce the illness’s time frame.
Echinacea has been shown to reduce cold and flu symptoms in several studies, but less effective in others. This herb needs further research to determine its effectiveness, but in the mean time – echinacea’s white blood cell support helps fight infections. When added to other immune boosting agents, echinacea adds an important factor for reducing symptoms and stopping colds/flus.
Natural Flu Relief When All Else Fails
If you find yourself sick, even after all of that prevention, hop on over to Herbal Academy to find 8 Herbal Home Remedies For Colds And Flu. This article is great because it provides a list of ingredients that you can find at your local grocery store (or in your kitchen already)! You can whip up a little cold and flu relief quick, fast and in a hurry. OR prepare ahead so you don’t have to bother when all you want to do is lay in bed!
Flu season is scary. The statistics are worrisome. The actual sickness is far worse, but there is no need to fret! Prevention is KEY and super EASY to do! A few changes to your normal routine will help avoid the flu all together. Stock up your kitchen with some key ingredients and you’ll be immune boosting in no time!
Starting to feel sick? It’s not too late! Bump up your immune boosting, then prepare for symptom relief. If you come down with the flu, the best thing you can do is REST!
*Always check with your healthcare provider before making major health-style changes!
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