Autumn is officially upon us –– and with it, the inevitable cold and flu season. At a recent lecture in our Thrive series, Goshen Health’s Sonam Desai, a Naturopathic Doctor, spoke about both the natural and medical ways we can stave off sickness (and treat it if it occurs) during flu season.
1. Don’t forget your flu shot!
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that everyone older than six months receive the flu shot annually. This is especially important for people who tend to easily catch the flu and/or are exposed to people with compromised immune systems.
Even though the vaccine composition is reviewed each year and updated based on which influenza viruses are making people sick, getting your flu shot can still minimize both the severity and duration of your flu. Always discuss the flu vaccine with your healthcare provider if you feel you have conditions or allergies that would prohibit you from receiving the flu shot.
2. Eat flu-fighting foods
Boost your immune system during cold and flu season by eating vital, flu-fighting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Who knew fighting the flu could be so delicious?
- Eat lots of protein (20 to 30 grams at each meal) to help generate a strong immune defense.
- Eat a rainbow of whole fruits and vegetables, especially the dark greens, oranges and whites as these contain vital antioxidants that support your immune system during cold and flu season.
- Several studies have also shown that mushrooms of all kinds are high in beta-glucans which promote cellular activity that boost immune function. Your immune system needs a variety of vitamins and minerals to perform optimally so the more diversity you consume in your fruits and vegetables the better off you are. Avoid highly processed foods, foods high in sugar and those high in saturated fats as these tend to be pro-inflammatory in nature and will only weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and flus in the long run.
- Adding fresh garlic and ginger to your foods also naturally boosts the immune system. Both contain antimicrobial and antiviral properties that help your immune system fight off all kinds of bugs. Turmeric (in any form) is also great and high in anti-inflammatory properties. Also, cook with warming spices: nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.
- If you're someone who needs frequent prescriptions of antibiotics, consider adding both prebiotics and probiotics to your routine. Probiotics contain billions of good bacteria that live in your large colon which perform several functions from regulating digestive health to helping absorb vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal immune function. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods such as cheese, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi, etc.
Prebiotics are foods high in fiber which are necessary to consume because they feed the probiotics. Examples of prebiotic food sources include celery, raw asparagus, chicory root, artichoke, leeks and onions. Either can be consumed in capsule form as well.
3. Treating the flu naturally
If you do catch a cold or other virus this flu season, there are many natural ways to get back on your feet that go beyond antibiotics.
- Use some eucalyptus essential oil (or Vapo Rub) in a pot of steaming water (careful with the steam and heat). Put a towel over your head to trap the steam, inhale the eucalyptus and steam as this can help with phlegm.
- Approximately 10 to 15 minutes of mid morning to afternoon sunshine helps your body produce adequate levels of vitamin D. The ideal time is between 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We are not in the winter season yet, so soak up the sunshine. Always wear sunscreen before/after the 10-15 minutes of sun exposure, even during colder seasons.
- Studies have shown that those who are deficient in vitamin D are more likely to be susceptible to illness, autoimmune disease and even cancer. During gloomy winter months, consider supplementing with 1,000 IU.
Are you interested in learning more about how to optimize your health? Join us for our monthly Thrive series this November and December on the first Tuesday of the month from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. at Greencroft Community Center at 1820 Greencroft Blvd, Goshen, IN 46526. At November's meeting we’ll talk about How Music Affects Your Health. Registration is not required. Please call (574) 364-2496 for information or click here.