As a medical professional, I am in frequent contact with people who are ill or contagious, but thankfully I rarely get sick. The same can be said for many other people who work in close contact with others, such as doctors, teachers, and sales associates. I find this very interesting because it indicates that exposure to viruses may not the sole reason for people becoming sick from them.
In temperate climates such as North America and Europe, the flu virus seems most active in autumn and winter. The reason for this is unknown; some speculate that as children go back to school they get infected and bring it home, although that doesn’t explain where the children get it from in the first place and how it seems to occur simultaneously across entire continents. Flu symptoms can vary from person to person but typically include the following: fever, muscle aches, chills and sweating, cough, fatigue, sore throat, and nasal congestion.
In the autumn in Canada, anytime you pass a pharmacy you’ll see the ‘get your flu shot’ signs. Some people swear by it as a preventative measure, but others never get the vaccine and are in constant contact with the public, yet rarely fall ill. How can that be? Some people simply have a very effective immune system. In my personal and professional experience, it seems that people typically get sick when they are run down or dealing with significant stress. How can you keep your immune system strong more resistant to viruses such as the flu?
Prevention is far more effective than treatment because once the virus has a hold, recovery typically takes one to two weeks. Your best defense against flu is a strong immune system. Here are the top seven ways to achieve that:
- Get enough vitamin D throughout the year. I recommend 4000IU daily, though sun exposure is arguably more effective. The human body body produces 20,000IU of vitamin D from 20 minutes of sun exposure, provided a good deal of exposed, unprotected skin. Lots of research has shown that vitamin D is a strong immune builder, (1,2,3,4) but be mindful to not get more than 15 minutes of exposure without adequate sunscreen.
- Get enough rest. Many studies have linked immune weakening with sleep deprivation. The recommended amount of sleep is eight hours per night.
- Get enough nutrients. Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and healthy protein and fats. Limit excessive eating and processed sugar rich foods.
- Get adjusted regularly by your chiropractor. A healthy spine equals a healthy nervous system and that’s essential for a properly functioning immunity.
- Take regular breaks from work or training. Over working and/or training is again linked to immune suppression.
- Wash your hands frequently. Remember to be aware of things in public places such as handles, water fountains, and railings. Tip: After you’ve washed your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, rinse well and use the used paper towel to open the bathroom door.
- Spend time with loved ones doing things you like and laugh regularly and you’ll enjoy a stronger defense against bugs.
If you have already fallen ill with flu, the best thing you can do now is support the healing process. Here are a few ways to reduce the severity and length of the infection:
- Stay hydrated. Hydration loosens phlegm and helps flush toxins out. Water is ideal for hydration, but in a weakened state, herbal teas and soups can provide additional nutrients and have a more soothing effect. Avoid beverages such a milk, coffee, and pop.
- Both vitamin D and good multi-strain vegan probiotics will also boost immune function. Take both for stronger benefits. Quality sources of oil of oregano and vitamin C can be effective as well.
- Stay well-rested. Rest is vital and it’s important to listen to the body when feeling fatigued.
- Be thoughtful about what you eat. Avoid foods high in protein as it takes lots of energy to break them down and that energy is better spent healing. Carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, and grains like oatmeal are easy to break down and give the body energy. Garlic also has powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
Wishing you have a healthy and happy autumn and winter!
- Heaney, R. Vitamin D in health and disease. Clin J Am Soc Neph. 2008. Vol 3(5):1535-1541.
- Cannell, J. et al. Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiol Infect 2006, 134(6):1129-1140.
- Urashima, et al. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza in schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. May 2010. Vol 91(5):1255-60.
- Yamshchikov, A. et al. Vitamin D for treatment and prevention of infectious diseases: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Endocrine Practice. 2009. Vol 15(5):438-449.