Yes, what you’ve heard is true – this year’s flu season has been the worst since the 2009 swine flu epidemic. And it still isn’t over… But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doomed to be bedridden this year. Whether or not you’ve decided to get the flu shot (I’m not a big fan), there are measures you can take to prevent contracting the virus. And even if you’ve gotten the flu shot, you’re not immune to contracting the flu. In a good year, that leaves a large margin for illness.
For starters, it’s important to remember that the flu is viral—meaning antibiotics aren’t effective at fighting it. It also has two different strains, types A and B, and subtypes within them. There can be multiple sub-types of the flu circulating at the same time, and the virus can change over time. Hence the reason why I’m not a big fan of the flu shot since the strains they use to make the shot are 2-3 years old. This is why it can be hard to formulate a perfect flu vaccine year after year—and why protecting yourself in other ways is vital.
Luckily, there are a lot of ways you can reduce your risk of getting sick from the flu. Most of them have everything to do with strengthening your immune system with proper nutrition, appropriate supplementation to keep it rockin’, healing your gut and of course, reducing stress.
Here are a few ways to start:
1. Wash your hands, regularly
How simple – right? Hand washing is your first defense against any infection, including the flu. Use warm water and soap and wash your hands thoroughly. If you don’t have access to soap and water, hand sanitizer is your next best bet. Remember to wash your hands before meals and after commuting or being in other public spaces, like the gym, grocery store, or library. Cleaning your cellphone regularly is also a smart move.
2. Reduce stress
Do you know that stress can affect all areas of your health, especially your immune system? Chronic stress can decrease your immune cell numbers and increase certain mechanisms that suppress your immune system. It also promotes inflammation, which makes you more susceptible to illness. Activities like meditation, journaling, exercise, and spending time out in nature are all proven ways to relieve stress.
3. Prioritize gut health
I talk about the importance of gut health ALL the time and we should focus on our gut health year-round, but it’s particularly important during flu season because a thriving microbiome leads to greater immune response. Taking a daily probiotic can improve your gut health. (You can also get that in the protein smoothies I recommend each morning – how easy is that?). Eating whole foods, including lots of greens and other veggies, also helps to feed your gut bacteria.
4. Get your vitamin D
An estimated 42% of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency, and this number may be higher during the wintertime, when we get less sunlight, which is necessary to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with an increased susceptibility to infection due to its role in immune function. Get your levels checked and I suggest supplementing if you’re low. Here is what I highly recommend.
5. Get extra rest
Don’t feel bad about sleeping in or napping while you’re home sick – it can actually help you recover faster from the flu. All studies indicate that when we sleep, we rejuvenate. The extra sleep may help the body to bounce back more efficiently by facilitating an immune response, according to research in Sleep.
6. Stay hydrated
When you’re sleeping more, feeling lousy, and outside your normal routine, it’s easy to forget to drink water throughout the day. But hydration will ensure that your kidneys have enough water to do their job of eliminating waste and fluids and also keep the rest of the processes in your body running normally, allowing your natural defenses to take over. If you have a fever, it can also worsen dehydration and vice versa, so fluids are key. Hot liquids, like broth or herbal (non-caffeinated) tea, will help to loosen mucus and are easier for the body to absorb.
7. Try immune-boosting foods
There’s no cure-all food for the flu, but it won’t hurt to try foods known to assist the immune system or ease symptoms. Fresh ginger has been shown to have antiviral properties, while turmeric (with a pinch of black pepper to aid absorption) is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Berries are another good source of inflammation-fighting compounds. In general, try to stick to whole, nutrient-dense foods with lots of fruits and veggies to get a dose of vitamins and minerals that will strengthen your defenses.
8. Take these supplements
I recommend a variety of high quality, pure and potent supplementation that boosts the immune system naturally. Let’s start with Nutriferon, one of my signature products that keeps your immune system boosted throughout the year. At the first sign of a tickle or feelings of leathery or malaise, try Defend and Resist. And lastly, I also recommend high-doses of vitamin C, at 2,000 mg twice daily, which has anti-viral properties, especially against the flu during early stages. My favorite product is Vitalized Immunity. This is an effervescent tablet that has the equivalent Vitamin C of 16 oranges!
Remember, prevention is the key but all these other tips will assist you in coming through it with ease.
Note: And always, if you have a fever above 102 degrees F, are unable to keep down liquids, or are in respiratory distress, visit your doctor or the emergency room. The above does not replace your personal doctor’s medical advice.