How to Survive Flu Season Unscathed

Feb 14, 2018, 09:48 AM by Amanda Blankinship

If you are one of the many miserable people who will catch the flu this season, you know how debilitating it can be. In some cases, catching the flu can even cost you a trip to the hospital. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health, there have been a total of 3,008 hospitalizations since the beginning of flu season in October. 

However, there is good news ahead: “Flu season in Colorado is close to peaking,” says John Ingold in the Denver Post

The flu virus can spread like wildfire, literally. There are many ways you can catch the flu, such as touching a surface with a flu virus on it, then rubbing your eyes, mouth or nose, or even being in close contact with an individual who has it. While it does seem that one is helpless against catching this horrible nuisance of a condition, there are steps you can take to prevent or lessen your chances of contracting it.

Here are six tips and tricks that you can practice to arm yourself against getting the flu, while living a healthy lifestyle at the same time.  

1. A Healthy Immune System

Eat healthy to prevent getting sick
Your immune system is your body’s immediate line of defense against invading pathogens like the flu virus. It’s important to make sure your immune system is working at optimal levels, to fight off viruses that can leave you feeling helpless and weak. A healthy lifestyle goes a long way in establishing a healthy immune system. For starters, make sure you are eating a healthy diet. According to The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, dietary factors that depress the immune system include nutrient deficiency, excessive consumption of sugar, consumption of allergenic foods and high cholesterol levels in the blood. On the other hand, dietary factors that enhance the immune system function include all essential nutrients, antioxidants, carotenes and flavonoids. Consistent with good health, an optimal functioning immune system requires a diet that includes:

• Whole, natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, seeds and nuts
• Low in fats and refined sugars
• Contains adequate but not excessive amounts of protein 

Moreover, key nutrients for supplementation to support the immune system are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc and selenium.  Always, discuss any changes to your diet or lifestyle first with your physician. 

2. Elderberry Extract (Sambucus) 

There is no magic cure for the flu, but according to a research study, black elderberry extract may shorten flu symptoms. Elderberry is a plant, and its berries are used to make medicine (it’s not to be confused with American Elder, Elderflower or Dwarf Elder).  Elderberries are used to make a syrup that can be taken to boost the immune system and fight the flu. You can usually find Elderberry syrup at your local natural foods store, but first consult your physician.  

3. Adequate Sleep

get good sleep to prevent the flu

I’m a health coach, and I see this all the time with clients not getting enough rest. Lack of sleep can crush your immune system and cause you to become ill. Lack of sleep also boosts your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels are raised it causes your body to store fat, particularly around your midsection. Sleep deprivation can also make you less likely to be active. Think about it: When you are already tired, the last thing you want to do is head to the gym. The lack of exercise combined with increased cortisol levels can deliver a serious blow to your efforts to live a healthy lifestyle. So help support your immune system by getting a good night’s sleep. 

If you have trouble falling asleep, you can prep your room by putting lavender oil in a diffuser and running it 30 minutes before you go to bed. Also, turn off all electronics at least an hour before bedtime for best results. To relax, you can also try taking a hot bath right before bed. If you want to get 7-8 hours of sleep, what time do you need to go to sleep tonight?

4. Get Moving with Exercise & Physical Activity

Let’s talk about exercise for a moment, shall we? 

Have you heard this saying, A body at rest tends to stay at rest? It’s true. Likewise, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Get moving and exercise will naturally boost your energy levels and slow the release of stress hormones in your blood. 

When you think of exercise think of preventative medicine. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day is so important for good heart health, diabetes, weight management, lowering cortisol levels and staying strong. In addition, just being physically active — like taking a walk, playing golf, or bicycling with your kids or grandkids — counts too.

So you got 30 minutes?

5. Stay Hydrated

drink water and stay hydrated

So let’s address a practice that’s not always easy to remember to do: drink enough water. 
Drinking adequate amounts of water daily will help your body stay hydrated so it can work more efficiently and fight off colds and viruses. It is especially important when exercising to make sure you are hydrating with water. Reaching for sugary sports drinks during your workout may be tempting, but do your body a favor and hydrate it with water instead.

While sweet drinks may give you a temporary energy boost, they can also cause your energy levels to crash shortly after. The more sugar you consume, the more you crave it, leading to a never-ending roller coaster ride of sugar highs followed by crashes. The only way to break the cycle is to eliminate (or drastically reduce) your sugar consumption. Try trading out sugar-laden or artificially-sweetened drinks for water or unsweetened iced tea. 

This will help you stay hydrated without adding unnecessary calories. If you are really craving some flavor, try infused water. You can infuse your water with fruits or vegetables to improve the taste without sacrificing your health, and it’s super refreshing.

6. Wash Your Hands!

Would you like to drastically lessen your chances of catching the flu? Wash your hands and do it often! The pesky flu virus lives on surfaces that other people have touched that have the flu virus. So an easy remedy would be to wash your hands periodically throughout the day, especially if you have touched frequently handled surfaces such as: grocery carts, handrails, door knobs etc. 

Stay healthy my friends!

Amanda Blankinship is a current intern at the YMCA of Boulder Valley, finishing  her capstone project to complete her degree requirements in health & wellness management. Amanda also holds an AAS in Complementary Alternative Medicine from the American College of Healthcare Sciences and is a recent graduate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition with her certification in health coaching. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys hiking, natural soap making, cooking, and working out. 

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