It’s influenza season.
Everyone needs to be taking a proactive approach to staying healthy this year.
No matter how you feel about the vaccine, you need to be doing the following. As you probably know, the flu shot is based on an educated guess. Some years, they help, other years they don’t. But the things outlined below do work. So, I will not debate the vaccine other than to say I choose not to get it and every year more than one patient I see in the Emergency Department moans, “but I got the flu shot this year” after they test positive for influenza.
With or without the flu shot, here are some steps you can take to support your health:
Prevention is best
- Wash your hands frequently, but especially before eating. You touch a lot during the day and can pick up germs and viruses on your hands. You don’t want to bring those to your face or contaminate your food.
- Cough/sneeze into your elbow or shirt, not your hands. Many germs and viruses are spread by droplets. Have you seen the super slow-motion video of a sneeze? Gross. Cover your cough and sneezes.
- Exercise regularly. During exercise, blood is pushed through the lymph system (one of the body’s garbage disposal systems) and is cleansed. Also, sweating eliminates toxins. Your body’s overall bacterial content is reduced when you exercise regularly.
- Give your body enough hours of quality sleep. Experts suggest most people need 7 – 9 hours per night. There is a reason you have heard this advice since you were a baby. It is important. Your body requires sleep so it can restore, repair, and rejuvenate… among many other functions. This is important when you are healthy, but especially if you fall ill.
Eating, drinking, and vitamins
- Water is always important, but especially if you end up sick. Aim for half your weight (pounds) of water (ounces) each day. So a 200-pound person would drink 100 ounces. This is another thing that, like sleep, is important every day, but especially if you end up sick. If you are ill, you need even more water to prevent dehydration. Fevers come along with influenza and they can cause you to quickly become dehydrated.
- Keep your cells healthy. You have 50 trillion of these little guys and each one needs vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats, energy, and water. The more stress you are under and the more illness your body is fighting, the more resources it needs.
- Eat well: consume a lot of colorful vegetables and fruits, decrease your processed foods. Colorful foods contain antioxidants and phytonutrients. These are important for your immune function.
- Consume probiotics. 60% or more of your immune function is in and around your gut; daily probiotics help your digestive tract function better. Foods and drinks like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha contain probiotics as do fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut.
- A double-blind research study showed that college students taking probiotics recovered faster (by 2 days!) from an upper respiratory infection. Not only that, but their symptoms were less severe by 34% than the placebo group.
- Vitamin D: this is one of the best things you can do. Many studies show the benefits of vitamin D. In fact, one study found that healthy adults with higher vitamin D levels were 50% less likely to become ill with influenza than those with lower levels. There are two great compilations of research about Vitamin D and influenza you can read here and here, but the main takeaway is that you should supplement with D if you are not obtaining enough in your diet.
- Beta-Glucans are found in certain types of mushrooms like reishi, shiitake, and maitake. They prepare the immune system and activate certain cells and proteins that attack things that don’t belong. One double-blind study found that people taking beta-glucans missed 1.38 fewer days of work due to upper respiratory illnesses than the group not taking the beta-glucans.
- The easiest way I have found to increase my beta-glucans is with LifeVantage’s probiotic. The probiotic itself the best I’ve found on the market and it also includes beta-glucans! (Affiliate link.)
But what if I’m already sick?
If you do end up with an influenza-like illness make sure you continue doing all of the above and add elderberry extract, Vitamin C, and zinc. I take a product called “Daily Wellness” every single day that contains these with a few other things; I take a second dose in the evening if something is going around our house.
One Simple Product Stack That Includes Everything:
Here is an affiliate link to the products I trust and use: This “Immune Health Essentials” bundle is what I take daily. It contains what you need to activate your body’s own production of antioxidants, the best probiotic on the market, beta glucans, and the Daily Wellness. I take a few other products (an omega and an eye health supplement) but these are foundational to my plan for health during the winter months.