We’re thick into the middle of winter (aka flu season) and everyone I know seems to be getting sick. And whether it’s a minor cold, or fever and chills, getting sick is never fun. But luckily there are things that you can do to help stay healthy and avoid getting sick altogether. Here are a few tips that I share with my clients (and practice personally) in order to avoid the flu during flu season.
What is the flu?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Normally, it infects the nose and throat, and sometimes even your respiratory tract. Obviously, symptoms and their severity heavily depend on the strength of your immunity, but typically, if you have the flu you can expect to experience a fever, sore throat, and a cold.
Because of this, the best way to avoid getting sick is to build up your immunity, and you can do this through the foods you eat, the lifestyle you adopt, and the nutrients that you take.
A Great Way To Avoid The Flu Is To Get A Flu Shot
Getting a flu shot is one of the best ways of preventing the flu- studies by the CDC have shown that it ranges between 40-60% effective at preventing you from getting the flu. By getting the flu shot, not only are you protecting yourself, you’re also protecting those around you from getting sick.
But there are also some natural ways to build up your immunity and help avoid getting sick. Though they’re not 100% guaranteed to stop you from getting sick (there is nothing that is 100% guaranteed not to get you sick!), they do a pretty good job at minimizing the risk. And if you do get sick, your symptoms are not as severe as they would be otherwise. I say this from experience.
So, here’s what you can do.
1. Minimize Stress and Maximize Sleep
Your immune system is directly correlated to your stress levels and sleep patterns. If your body isn’t getting enough sleep to help it recover, and recharge, then its ability to function at 100% is obviously compromised. Think of it this way, if you don’t charge your phone at night, or charge it for an hour or two, your battery is still at 20%, and your phones going to die. Similarly, if you don’t get adequate sleep, your body will only function at a certain level. And the less sleep you get, the weaker your body - and immune response - gets.
In addition, constant high stress levels can really take a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing, and your body’s response to external toxins, viruses, and bacteria is weakened.
So the first thing you can do to protect yourself is get 8 hours of sleep a night, and try to minimize your stress levels throughout the day. Try meditating before bed, reading a book, or doing something that you love that will help wind down. In addition, you can try using a sleep aid or stress solution to help if you.
2. Eat Healthy, Nutritious Foods
Yes, an apple a day CAN keep the doctor away. Mother earth has given us natural resources that are filled with the nutrients our bodies need to function properly. And yet, we often resort to highly-processed foods and take out, and this is often the leading cause of a weakened immune system.
So, regardless of how busy life gets, try to make it a habit to fill your diet with fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, lean protein, etc. All of these food groups can provide your body with the right vitamins and minerals that it needs to stay functional and strong (and more importantly, to fight infections).
And if you’re still finding it hard to consume the right nutrients, or if your diet prevents you from eating certain foods, then look to dietary supplements that can fill those gaps and strengthen your immune system.
3. Practice Cleanliness
Germs are spread through touch. And unfortunately for us, germs are grubby little creatures that like to grasp onto anything in sight- including your hands. And if you touch a germ-infested surface, and continue to rub our eyes, or cover your mouth, you’re essentially welcoming those germs into your body.
So, needless to say, wash your hands regularly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based sanitizer (at least 60%) if you don't have access to soap and water.
All it takes is one second to become infected with the flu virus. It only takes 20 seconds to properly wash your hands.
4. Exercise regularly
This doesn’t have to mean 2 hour gym sessions! But your body needs physical activity to stay healthy. Light exercises, walks, cardio, weight lifting, sports, you name it. All of these can help your body stay healthy and fit, and increase your immunity.
5. Stay Hydrated
Water is an essential building block of life, which is why adequate hydration is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system. Water helps regulate body temperature, deliver nutrients to your cells, and keeps your organs and immune system functioning properly
Try to drink small amounts frequently throughout the day, while also consuming foods high in water such as celery, tomatoes, or melons. This can help ensure you’re properly hydrated throughout the day.
Like I said, the above are not remedies against getting sick. But they definitely help build your immune system, and keep your body strong enough to fight viruses before they infect, which reduces the chances of you getting sick significantly. They’re also just healthy habits that are good for your mind, your body, and your overall well being. So if I have one piece of advice for you, is in 2022, try to incorporate at least some of the above into your lifestyle. Take it one step at a time, and trust me, you will notice a difference!