Someone asked me the other day if I am getting a "flu shot because its flu season” so I thought I would compile some tips to keep your immune system in top form for a "non-flu season".
Sound good? I think so!
The last time I recall getting a flu shot was probably 20 years ago. At the time I was a clothing buyer for an upscale retail business which involved frequent traveling to trade shows and their many retail stores scattered around the United States. The winter prior I had gotten the full-blown flu after returning from a trade show in Las Vegas and I missed a week and a half of work; I say full-blown because people often refer to the common cold as the flu and when you get the actual flu you learn that there is quite a difference! In my mind, the flu was never happening again. Flu shots were now on my radar and part of my non-existent health regimen.
Did I even pop an occasional vitamin back then?
Now, looking back at this scenario, I understand why I got the flu to begin with as my perspective these days is so much more about prevention and self care than it used to be. But even now, if I stray too far from the conscious self care path, reminders (symptoms and not feeling too energetic) show up in my life to get me back on course. With some conscious effort, you too can give your body a hand in maintaining balanced health during the winter and all year long.
So back to the flu vaccine...
I do feel that getting one is very individual so best to make your own decision with your health care provider but regardless, there are things you can do to stay above the viruses that get passed around when we are indoors during the chilly months. And as we learned last year, the flu vaccine isn’t always a match to the virus that’s out there so best to be proactive even if you do get vaccinated.
Some general tips:
Drink plenty of water: Poor hydration weakens the bodies immune system and leads to chemical, nutritional, and PH imbalances. We lose a quart and a half of water daily just through breathing so be sure to drink half your body weight in ounces per day, more if you are active.
Check your mineral and vitamin intake: Do you know that minerals such as zinc, magnesium, iodine, and selenium keep every cell in our bodies in top form and that most of us are deficient? Minerals compose about 4% of the human body and our bodies don't produce them so we need to get them through food and supplements. Without enough minerals our cells have trouble maintaining healthy function; not a win for healthy immunity. Vitamin D, a necessity, enables your body to produce well over 200 antimicrobial peptides which are indispensable in fighting off a wide range of infections, and B vitamins stimulate immune T cells that recognize and destroy pathogens. Are these part of your health regimen yet?
Take a probiotic: The profound benefits of probiotics and a balanced microbiome are being understood more and more each day. But for the sake of keeping it brief and in direct relation to colds and flu, research is finding that colds and the flu are decreased in those consuming probiotics regularly. A recent study published by the National Institute of Health found that healthy children ages 1 through 6 who consumed probiotics had significantly fewer colds. Get some!
Consume a nutrient rich diet devoid of sugar, processed and chemicalized foods: No need for discussion on this one as sugar, chemicals, and processed foods down-regulate immunity and cause imflammation; a trigger for most chronic and serious conditions. Increase consumption of nutrient dense foods such as greens, vegetables, some fruits, and whole grains.
Get fresh air and outdoor time, a.k.a Vitamin N (nature): Sunlight spurs your body to make vitamin D (you will still need to supplement though) and fresh air contains more oxygen which is revilatizing to all body systems. Time outdoors reduces stress, combatting hormones that increase inflammation and decrease immunity, such as cortisol.
Keep stress in check: Stress hormones are an immunity deal breaker folks. Find ways to lower stress whether it be through conscious breathing, exercise, yoga, meditation etc... Find something that helps you de-stress daily!
Exercise: Exercise leads to an increase in natural killer cells, neutrophils and monocytes, which ultimately increases immune function. Get your exercise outdoors for some immunity multitasking as you’ll get a dose of vitamin D if the suns out and extra oxygen with it!
Stay warm: Keeping warm and increased circulation go hand and hand and a healthy body has optimal blood circulation. A cold body has thicker, more viscous blood; not what you want when trying to fend off germs and mount an antibody response. Wear appropraite clothing, drink hot tea, eat warming foods and use warming spices in cooking. Listen to your body as cold smoothies and raw foods might not be what it needs to be in balance.
Practice self care above and beyond these healthy lifestyle practices: Take an epsom salt bath, get a massage, stretch your muscles, add some positive affirmations into your day etc... Whatever fuels you so your tank stays full, readying your body for any extra stressors that show up.
Stay away from people that are sick: Another no brainer here. If its a cold January day, do you really need to go to the mall to get those new boots? Tale a hike outside instead.
Wash your hands thoroughly in warm/hot soapy water often: Does not have to be antibacterial soap and pass on the hand sanitizer when you can as it contains chemicals you don’t want. In a pinch though, use it.
Get adequate sleep!
If you are really diligent about all of these things and want to step it up I would consider adding an adaptogen to your supplement regimen such as Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, or Siberian Ginseng as they help offset stress and the ensuing cellular strain that occurs from it, thereby increasing immunity. Adaptogens are herbs that balance and strengthen your whole body and help it adapt to stressors; good stuff all the way around!
In addition, because awareness is a beautiful thing, think about the last time, or better yet several times, you were sick. What was happening in your life before you got sick? What were you doing, who were you with, what was happening for you? You might notice a pattern of what was taking place in your life. This might give you an indication of why you got sick and you can adjust things accordingly.
Be well Friends!
**Information provided here is not meant to replace that of your healthcare provider. Always check with your provider before adding supplements to your health care regimen.