Posted on Dec 04, 2020, 3 p.m.
It’s that time of year when many people get sick and we seem to be surrounded by coughing, sniffles and sneezes. Are you familiar with the lifestyle steps that you can take that can help you to fend off this round of cold and flu season?
Chances are that the last time you got sick it was because you came into contact with airborne secretions from an infected person or you touched an infected surface. While the flu shot is recommended by some experts it does not fully protect you from illness, even with it many people will still experience feverish chills, fatigue, headaches and nausea this cold and flu season.
There are steps that you can take to help prevent yourself from getting sick. Obviously, the most important one is to avoid coming into contact with anyone who may be infected and to steer clear of crowded places with poor ventilation. During cold and flu season you should also stay on top of your hygiene game, preferably washing your hands frequently when out and about in the public frequently with soap and water, or following up with soap and water as soon as you can after using sanitizer. It is also important to try not to touch your face or food before washing your hands during cold and flu season to avoid giving those icky pathogens free access to your mucous membranes where they will run amuck much to your dismay.
The flu will typically last 1-2 weeks, but it can linger much longer, and it is important to stay home from work/school/shopping to avoid coming into contact with other people when you feel the flu coming on to stop the spread of infection. One of the best ways to avoid getting sick is to strengthen your immune system and practice good hygiene as well as preventive care to stay healthy.
Most people don’t realize that a strong immune system relies heavily on a well functioning gut because 70% of the immune system is in the gut, as such probiotics can help to keep the gut immune connection running smoothly. The microbes residing within the gut help to digest food, regulate metabolism, hunger, weight, and the immune system. Probiotics are a good source of good bacteria that help to decrease inflammation and prevent infections, they can also help to reduce the severity of a cold/flu. You can also help to support gut bacterial health by consuming fermented foods such as unpasteurized sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir.
It is best to avoid processed foods, they won’t be doing you any favors during cold and flu season, and to be honest at any time. Consuming foods that are rich in antioxidants like fruits and vegetables will significantly help to boost your overall health and protect you from pathogens all year long. Anti-inflammatory properties in nutrient-dense foods such as berries, sweet potatoes, salmon, and dark leafy greens will help to build your immune system defences, while processed foods and added sugars have been shown to dramatically decrease immune function.
Vitamin C is probably the most well-known addition to a cold/flu season regimen due to its well documented anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant activity and antibiotic qualities. Zinc has also been shown to help shorten the duration of a cold by a few days due to its powerful immune-boosting and protective effects that may help to stop the replication of a cold’s cell. Zinc can be found in many foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, oysters, nuts, and beans. You can also get zinc supplements, but getting it naturally through diet is recommended whenever possible.
Exercise can also help to reduce the risk of catching a cold, research shows that those who exercise in moderation report fewer colds. Exercise is a known immune booster and it can be helpful. But don’t give up sleep to exercise as getting enough sleep is a key component of not getting sick this cold and flu season.
Many household products and hand sanitizers contain triclosan which has been shown to cause hormone disruption in animals. Which the FDA has not officially banned these products, the agency is investigating this potential health hazard to humans. Currently, we are experiencing an antibacterial craze, these harsh products increase the risk of creating resistant bacteria as well as dry out and crack the skin making pathogen transmission easier. Soap and water is far more effective than sanitizers and is the recommended method. If one must use sanitizer because soap and water are not available try using a few drops of lavender essential oil for a natural hand sanitizer that is also good for soothing dry, crack skin that can occur during harsh weather conditions.
Cleaning the house and car is also important during cold and flu season as one of the easiest ways to come into contact with a pathogen is by touching a contaminated surface then placing your fingers near your mouth, nose, eyes and ears. Common contamination hot spots include phones, mobile devices, computers, desks, door handles, elevator buttons, countertops, cabinet doors, and appliance handles. For those looking to avoid harsh chemicals that prefer more natural cleaning solutions, you might be interested in tea tree oil because of its potent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that have been shown to help treat psoriasis, nail fungus, and acne. If you can’t find one to purchase you can make your own by combining equal parts of distilled vinegar and water with several drops of tea tree oil.
Have you ever felt like your home is stuffy and making you feel unwell? You are probably not far off the mark because indoor air can be up to five times as polluted as outdoor air. To combat this you can simply air out your home by opening your windows. Houseplants are also great at helping to keep indoor air clean. Houseplants like aloe vera, spider plants and peace lilies help to filter out common volatile organic compounds, as a plus these beautiful indoor plants are among the easiest to care for.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement