The hot topic these days is:
How can I avoid coming down with the flu this year?
The Answer? A healthy immune system is always your best defense against the flu. Influenza and viruses that cause flu-like illness are most active from fall through spring. During these months, exposure to potentially infective viruses is inevitable, so it is especially important to ensure your immune system is healthy and equipped with the necessary resources to prevent infections from developing.
Here are My Top 10Tips for Preventing Flu and Flu-like Illness:
1. Wash your hands – frequently with regular soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds. Be sure to scrub the webs between fingers and under the fingernails. Dry your hands thoroughly with a clean towel.
2. Eat Right!– A healthy diet is always important, but even more so when viruses attack! Your diet should be full of fruits and vegetables, adequate proteins, essential fatty acids and fibre. Cooking warm soups and stews makes the nutrients most digestible. Remember that your entire body, including the cells, antibodies and biochemical messengers of your immune system, are literally made of the mole cules you provide your body through the food you eat! Avoid proce ssed foods, refined sugars, and any foods that your body may be sensitive to. Sugar in particular does a number on the immune system. DId you know that flu-incidence peaks right after Hallowe’en? Coincidence? I think not!
3. Avoid exposure – when possible. I’m not really big on becoming a hermit and I am by no means a germaphobe BUT if you can minimize exposure, do it. Avoid contact with people who are ill or symptomatic, e.g. coughing, sneezing, congested, feverish, etc., especially crowded public places with dry, stale air. Also, get out of the habit of touching your face, mouth, eyes and nose, as this gives potentially infective microorganisms the chance to move from your hands to those warm, moist mucus membranes where they love to take up residence….and wash hands frequently! (See #1)
4. Nasal and sinus lavage – Bacteria and viruses LOVE to replicate in our warm, moist nasal passages. Using a neti pot containing a pinch of sea salt and baking soda, a saline spray or a steam inhalation, gently rinse bacteria, viruses and fungi from the mucous membranes to prevent them from setting up infective colonies. Sinus lavage also removes irritants and allergens from the mucous membranes.
5. Keep hydrated – to function correctly, our cells (including our immune cells) need to be plump like grapes, not wrinkled like raisins. Sip, sip, sip throughout the day on water (warm or room temperature) and try dilute herbal teas like ginger or licorice, homemade chicken broth, or Change-of-Season Soup. How do you know if you’re drinking enough? Urine should be pale yellow.
6. Keep warm and moist! – the infection-resisting work of our mucus membranes depends on their being moist. Increase the humidity of indoor heated-air environments with a warm or cool humidifier at work and home, especially throughout sleep. Avoid getting chilled, which increases vulnerability to infection, by dressing for the weather with breathable layers; keep your feet warm and dry; and avoid exposure to cold drafts.
7. Take your probiotics – beneficial bacteria that promote the protective capacity of the mucus membranes and immune system are killed off when exposed to antibiotics (including some natural antimicrobials like oil of oregano), daily stress and dietary influences. If you’re not sure which probiotics to take, contact your ND.
8. Sleep! – the immune system depends on adequate sleep and rest to function properly and to promote healing. Start your “electronic sundown” around 8pm (turning off the TV, computer, PDA), be in bed by 11pm, and try to get 7-9 hours of sleep.
9. Move the lymph – regular, moderate exercise has been proven to improve immunity. Muscle contraction and good circulation move the lymph fluid through the lymphatic vessels, allowing the immune system to function. Also try daily dry skin brushing from the extremities toward the core; daily abdominal massage with castor oil; and alternating hot and cold showers, (always finishing with cold) to improve lymphatic drainage over time.
10. Manage stress – the physiological effects of stress decrease the body’s capacity to resist infections. Take the time for recreation, for getting into nature, for laughter, hugs and other pleasurable activities. Eating right, sleeping and staying warm also reduce the amount of stress on the body.
Other Important Stuff!
In addition to these important daily basics, Naturopathic Medicine offers an outstanding range of effective prevention and treatment strategies for decreasing the risk, severity and duration of flu and flu-like illnesses – including botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, acupuncture and clinical nutrition – all individualized to your unique needs and state of health. For your individualized flu prevention and care program, or in the event that you do become ill, contact your Naturopathic Doctor (N.D.) or other primary health care provider.
Jillian Murphy, BSc.Kin, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine
Professor: Fitness & Health Promotion, SLC Kingston
By appointment only