Although the change of seasons is often greeted with cheer, there may be an underlying dread that accompanies the change. As people start to spend more time indoors, the likelihood of catching a cold or flu skyrockets. Fortunately, there are small steps you can take to lessen the chances of spending fall and winter sick.
Stock up on superfoods: Altering your diet can have a huge impact on your immune system. As David Grotto, author of 101 Foods that Could Save Your Life, writes, “Now, there’s really good research that shows foods can help with fighting virulent strains of bacteria.” Grab a bowl of soup packed with mushrooms and barley, which will help boost immune power with beta-glucan. Don’t underestimate the old-fashioned remedy of tea with honey; with high levels of antibacterial and antiviral polyphenols, tea and honey can help prevent sore throats and infections. Last, ward off sickness and bump up energy with unprocessed foods found in nature. Peppers, nuts, berries and sweet potatoes are all disease-fighting forces. If you like tomatoes, add a little olive oil to assist in the absorption of lycopene, an effective antioxidant.
Wash, rinse and repeat: Mom may have reminded you repeatedly to wash your hands, but now doctors and scientists are claiming that it’s the single most effective way to prevent the common cold and the flu. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend washing your hands for two minutes – but if you’re in a rush, go for a vigorous 20-second scrub. If you want to change it up a bit, wash with a boiled potato, which works just as well as standard soap and will leave your hands feeling surprisingly soft! Hand sanitizers work well for washing on the run, but make sure the active ingredients include ethyl alcohol, ethanol or isopropanol, and that the concentration is between 60 and 95 percent. Keep a small bottle in your car or purse, and be sure to send one along with your child to school – where germs are everywhere.
Sleep deep at night and stay active during the day: It may not be as warm outside or stay light as late, but staying active, especially outside, is an essential part of staying healthy. Put simply, there’s no substitute for fresh air. Rake the yard or clean out the garage to make more room for your car during the winter. Working up a sweat may leave you tired, but it allows your body to flush out toxins. At night, make sure you’re getting adequate sleep, as fatigue will make you more vulnerable to germs in the air. Try to stay on a schedule as well; it will make getting up in the morning easier – even if your alarm goes off before the sun comes up.
Of course, vitamins and herbs can work wonders to prevent colds and soothe the aches and pains of flu season. Watch your stress level, too; chronic physical or emotional stress can make your body much less able to fight viruses and bacteria. Excessive caffeine, alcohol and even central heating in your home can also dehydrate the body and weaken immune systems. Fortunately, the common cold and flu are preventable––many people swear that they’ve been able to ward off sickness year after year just by changing their diets or lifestyles.
So grab some orange juice and cook up a hearty vegetable stoup. If you treat your body right, germs may not stand a chance.