Cold and flu season is in full swing.
In the winter months, nasty bacteria and viruses seem to be lurking around every corner. But as it turns out, catching a cold has little to do with the temperature outside, but more with our bodies’ decreased ability to ward off bugs. Research suggests we get sick more often during winter because our immune systems are weakened this time of year.
Luckily, science has also identified ways to boost your immunity through your lifestyle. Now, living healthily is no guarantee to completely prevent illness, but it does give you a better chance to fight off the cold and flu or shorten the duration of your symptoms if you do get ill.
So beat the bugs this year and have a look at these 12 natural tips to survive flu season.
Prevention: Fending Off Flu Season
Tap into the ‘Medicine Cabinet’ in Your Kitchen
… your spice rack! Our ancestors already knew that herbs and spices are packed with all kinds of health-boosting properties. Garlic has been touted for centuries for its antibacterial and anti-fungal benefits, while ginger is proven to reduce nausea and inflammation in your body. Turmeric, one of the most widely researched spices, is also known for its anti-inflammatory compounds. It’s used in Eastern cultures to i.e. help treat sore throats and stomach aches. Other culinary staples with disease-fighting compounds are oregano oil, cinnamon, sage and elderberry.
So keep the cold and flu at bay by stocking your kitchen pharmacy with healing herbs and spices!
Warning: Check with your doctor before taking any herbal remedies in medicinal doses if you’re pregnant, nursing or have a medical condition (especially one that requires medication).
Your body is largely made out of water and keeping hydrated is essential for your cells, organs and tissues to function well. What’s more, drinking plenty of fluids helps to flush out toxins, viruses and bacteria. For an extra health boost, swap your regular coffee and soda for nutrient-rich teas, bone broths and veggie juices.
Get Plenty of Rest — Physical and Emotional
Did you know that even a few sleepless nights can weaken your immune system? Getting 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye plays an important role in staying healthy and happy. But plenty of physical rest is not enough to ward off illness – your heart and head need a break too. Emotional exhaustion and information overload both attribute to chronic stress – a major cause of illness.
Studies have shown that people who experience greater levels of psychological stress are more likely to develop the common cold when exposed to the virus. Under continuous stress, our immune cells become less sensitive to cortisol, the hormone that regulates our inflammatory response to harmful intruders.
That’s why you should actively try to manage your stress levels to fend off flu season:
- Avoid unnecessary stress by saying “no” more often, eliminating energy drains or simplifying your life.
- When you can’t prevent stressful events, try to change the way you look at the situation or learn better ways to deal with stress.
- Make time for real rest (not the refresh-your-social-media kind but real self-nurture practices) and do something you enjoy every day, if only for a few minutes.
Gently Move Your Body
Exercising on a regular basis helps to keep your immune system strong. It also promotes a good blood circulation, which allows nutrient-rich blood to flow freely through your body while also carrying away a host of waste products.
Obviously you shouldn’t go all-out at the gym if you’re feeling under the weather. But going for stroll or doing some gentle stretches might do you good, even when you’re low on energy.
We all know that consuming too much refined sugar isn’t good for our health. But research indicates that drinking the equivalent of two sodas can suppress the ability of white blood cells to attack bacteria. So try to reduce your intake of simple sugars and refined carbs to get through cold-and-flu season unharmed.
Contrary to popular belief, the evidence is still inconclusive whether vitamin C actually prevents stuffed noses and sore throats. But vitamin C does play a vital role in many bodily functions, including the immune system and healing injuries. So eating plenty of foods rich in vitamin C – dark leafy greens, tropical fruits, peppers and cauliflower – is definitely a good idea during the winter months, especially since these colourful fruit and veg contain many other health-boosting antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Wash Your Hands Properly
This might seem like a no-brainer, but according to the WHO, washing your hands properly still saves more lives worldwide than any other medical intervention. Reduce your risk of getting sick by scrubbing your hands vigorously with soap and water for 20 seconds whenever you sneeze, blow your nose, visit the bathroom and handle food. Still, try not to (unconsciously) touch your face so much to prevent contamination.
Still Ill? How to Get Well Soon
Maybe you don’t want to appear ‘weak’ or let your coworkers and clients down, but going into the office when you’re not feeling well isn’t doing anyone any favours. Aside from possibly contaminating your colleagues, it’s important for you to rest up and help your body fight off sickness. So take the day off to recuperate when you’re under the weather.
Hot & Healing Drinks
You might not feel like eating when you’re ill, but it’s important to stay hydrated, especially if you’re experiencing fever, diarrhea or vomiting. A hot drink particularly can be soothing – and an all-natural remedy in some cases. Warm yourself up and ease your symptoms at the same time with a lemon-ginger-honey tea , spice-infused warm apple and carrot juice or this immune activating elderberry latte.
Eat Light Meals
In order to conserve energy so your body has more resources to fight off illness, you should try to eat small meals that are easy on your digestion but still give you a necessary nutrient boost. Chicken soup is a comfort food classic for when you’re sick, but winter bliss bowls or powerful porridges will also help keep your strength up without taxing your digestive system.
Sick Day Yoga
It sounds counterintuitive right, “sick day yoga”? But when your body is sore and stiff from lying in bed all day, doing some easy yoga poses can loosen you up and relieve aching muscles. Obviously I’m not talking about practicing headstands or endless sun salutations, but a restorative yoga flow like this one from Sublimely Fit to help you rest up and recover.
Look into Natural Remedies
If your symptoms are more annoying than serious, natural DIY remedies can give you some short-term relief. For example, the Neti pot is an age-old Ayurvedic practice that uses saline water to flush out your nasal passages, washing away mucus and leaving your sinuses pressure-free. You can also open up your airways with a herbal steam bath. Peppermint and eucalyptus oil are widely used home remedies for stuffy noses. Saltwater gargle can temporarily relieve a scratchy throat, just like a cup of lemon-ginger-honey tea.
When in Pain, Distract the Brain
Let’s face it, being sick sucks. Make your time under the covers a little more enjoyable by keeping yourself entertained. For ideas other than a Netflix binge, check out these 28 fun things to do when you’re bored and sick at home.
(Bonus): Consult Your Doctor
… when symptoms persist or get worse. Always seek help from a licensed medical professional when you need tailored-advice about your personal health!
What are your tried-and-tested tips to survive flu season?
If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like: