The Centers for Disease Control recommends most everyone should get the flu shot each year, with special attention given to people in high-risk groups . However, this recommendation is not without controversy. The evidence of the effectiveness of the flu shot is conflicting, and some concern exists about the safety of the mercury found in the shot itself.
But anyone can take steps to reduce the chances of getting the flu – whether you get the shot or not. Building your immune system, combined with a little bit of common sense, is critical to staying healthy during the cold and flu season.
Much of this advice is not new. The fact that you have heard some of it before indicates that these tried-and-true measures have stuck around for a reason – they work.
Keep in mind that 80 percent of your immune system is in your gastrointestinal tract. That’s why many of the tips below have to do with food and drink choices. Keep reading to learn more tips on how to avoid the flu naturally and visit your local Weston chiropractor at Innovative Health to learn more.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Staying hydrated will support all of the functions of your body, especially that of your immune system. During the dry winter months, it is important to drink extra fluids to stay hydrated. Drink tea, eat broth-based soups, and keep a bottle of filtered water at your side. But avoid sugary drinks and concentrated fruit juices, which can actually be harmful to your immune system. If you do drink juice, dilute it (1/3 parts juice, 2/3 parts water).
Avoid Sugars, Grains, and Processed Foods
Consuming too many carbohydrates (such as sugars and grains) affects the flora in your gut. Sugar has been called a “fertilizer” for the bacteria, yeast, and fungi in your gut. This can make it easier for respiratory viruses to attack you.
Increase Probiotics in Your Diet
Eat foods that are high in probiotics or beneficial bacteria. One popular source of probiotics is yogurt, another is kefir, a yogurt-like drink. Other fermented foods are also beneficial, including fermented vegetables (such as sauerkraut and pickles), miso soup, and kombucha tea. However, helpful bacteria can be killed by heating and processing, so be sure to check the label for words like “live cultured” and know how to prepare the items in a way that does not reduce their effectiveness.
Eat Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
Choosing colorful fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and phytonutrients will make your immune system stronger. You should eat three to four servings of fruit and four or more servings of vegetables each day. Choose dark green, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables including more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes, and squash.
Spice Up Your Food
Onions, garlic, oregano, ginger, and turmeric are natural immune boosters.
Include Lean Proteins
Proteins are the building blocks of the body and make your immune system and detoxification systems stronger. Choose lean animal proteins, organic when possible, and also plant-based proteins such as legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Get Enough Sleep
Your body heals and restores during sleep – that is why it is so important to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. You know how hard it is to get through the day when you are tired and stressed. The same is true for your immune system. If your body is not well rested, it will not be able to fight off a cold or the flu.
Stress has a major impact on your immune system. Studies have confirmed, and you have likely noted, that you are more likely to get sick when your stress levels are high. Learning how to manage and reduce stress will go a long way to keeping you healthy.
Mild to moderate exercise will boost your immune system, while overexertion can actually wear you down and lower your immune defenses. Studies have clearly shown that regular exercise will significantly reduce your chances of contracting the cold or flu virus by improving the circulation of immune cells within your body.
Wash Your Hands
Most cold and flu viruses are spread by contact. The germs spread by sneezes and coughs can live for hours on door handles, keyboards, and other common areas. The best defense is to wash your hands throughout the day. Be sure to lather for at least 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice).
Try a Saline Flush
Flushing your sinuses with a mild salt water solution will keep your mucus membranes moist to help protect you from viruses and wash away harmful bacteria. This can be accomplished with a neti pot or with drug-free, over-the-counter saline flushes.
Cover Sneezes and Coughs
It is best to sneeze or cough into a tissue or the crook of your elbow, rather than your hands, to avoid spreading the germs to those around you.
Increase Essential Vitamins & Minerals
Certain vitamins, minerals, and herbs are known for their immune-boosting properties. It is always best to get these into your diet naturally by consuming the right foods. When that is not possible, high-quality supplements are the next best choice.
In addition to taking a high-quality multivitamin each day, the following will also improve your body’s immunity: vitamin D3, buffered vitamin C, zinc, probiotics, fish oil, and anti-viral/anti-bacterial herbs (including astragalus, echinacea, green tea extract, and elderberry, among others).
If you choose to take supplements, it is important to know which supplements are right for you and choose a high-quality brand. First, you need to be aware of how the supplement may interact with other supplements or medications that you are taking. Equally as important, you need to be sure that the supplements are from a reputable company. Most people are surprised to learn that dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA and that there is little oversight in the supplement industry.
Your best bet is to enlist the help of a healthcare professional when choosing to add supplements to your diet.
The most basic tenet of chiropractic care is to enable your body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. This is accomplished by correcting structural problems in the spine (also known as subluxations).
When the spine is not functioning properly, it interferes with the proper function of the central nervous system. This is important, because the central nervous system controls the function of all of the systems of the body, including your immune system.
Chiropractic adjustments release pressure on the nerves to enable the central nervous system to operate at its optimal level. This helps all the systems of your body — including the immune system — to work better. Additionally, adjustments can reduce stress in your neck to help the lymphatic system to drain better, and cranial work can open up your sinuses.
Your chiropractic provider can be one of your best allies in helping you to stay healthy naturally. Talk to any of our local doctors about adjustments and natural supplements to help keep you healthy this cold and flu season. Contact Innovative Health clinic in Weston today at 715-355-4224 or book online. Initial consultations are always done free of charge.