While this time of year certainly brings a lot of new beginnings, it can also be a prime time for catching some pretty nasty bugs. I think we’ve all been there, getting caught up in what we know as “flu season.” I don’t know about you, but in my house it always seems like when one person gets it, the whole family goes out like dominoes! And when that happens, the last thing you want to do is run to the pharmacy and get some of those awful over-the-counters that are available, trust me! They will only cover up the symptoms while your family still suffers.
Below are helpful tips to arm yourself against the flu, and what to do if it catches up to you.
6 General Cold & Flu Prevention Tips
Keeping your immune system strong is the best way to avoid catching flu in the first place. Here are our best tips for building your flu-fighting power.
1. Nurture Your Gut Microbiome
Believe it or not, most all disease begins in the gut. That’s because eighty percent of your immune system is located in there. Supporting the beneficial bacteria with a diet of nutrient-dense organic whole foods and a good quality probiotic is perhaps the most significant key to keeping healthy. Just eat real food. Additionally, consider adding a high quality probiotic supplement to your daily health regimen.
2. Say Sayonara to Sugar
Sugar not only opens the door to a number of gut infections, autoimmunity, and even cancer, but it also suppresses your immune system. Try using natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup instead. And be sure to read labels. Sugar is in all types of packaged foods from bread to pasta sauce, and even some tortilla chips! All the more reason to stick with whole foods.
3. Relax and Enjoy Life
Stress is part of life, but don’t let it take over. Stress is a significant factor in as much as 90% of doctor visits! Find a practice like yoga, meditation, or qigong to stop time and help you reduce the impact of stress on your life. Be sure to schedule activities that bring you joy. If it’s on your calendar, you’re more likely to commit to allowing yourself a break from your stressors.
2 R’s Of De-Stressing: Retreat and Refresh
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4. Get Plenty of Sleep
Your body recuperates from the day’s physical and mental stressors during quality sleep. Even just a couple nights of getting less than you need can leave you with reduced immune function and unable to resist illness. Get more sleep!
5. Optimize Vitamin D
Vitamin D is key to regulating autoimmunity, going a long way to shortening and avoiding illness. Spend some time in the sun every day and have your doctor monitor your vitamin D levels.
6. Get Moving
Consistent exercise is directly linked to duration and frequency of colds and flus. Not only does exercise reduce stress, but it increases your circulation, moving antibodies throughout your bloodstream. Keep in mind, though, that overdoing it will actually impair your immunity. Consider 30 minutes of moderate exercise or shorter bursts of high-intensity exercise three times a week for natural immunity and a fit body.
14 Tips for Getting Over the Flu Fast
Prevention is always the best, but if the flu manages to catch up to you, there are many strategies you can implement to knock it out quickly and thoroughly. Choose a couple from the list below and stick to them religiously. Above all else, be sure to sip water throughout the day and allow yourself plenty of rest.
1. Raw garlic
Garlic is a powerhouse immunity vegetable! It’s a natural antibiotic and is anti-inflammatory.
Finely mince one or two cloves and mix with a little water. Add a little raw honey if you’d like to counter the intensity of the garlic.
You can also put some garlic into vegetables and steam or sauté them, make a vegetable soup and put a few cloves in, and even throw it into a smoothie for an extra kick!
This is another favorite, especially this time of the year. It also has a bit of a kick, so add to a homemade salad dressing, put some in your morning juice, or have ginger tea!
3. Herbs / Teas
Particularly the herbs that belong to the category anti-microbial herbs possess powerful properties that can help you fight off the flu. The main function of anti-microbial herbs is that they destroy and keep unwanted bacteria, viruses, and parasites away. A great way of getting them into your system is by mixing them with lemon and drink as a shot or make herbal tea.
Peppermint is good for soothing a fever, as well as the gut. Make your own tea with ginger and lemon for digestive upset or respiratory symptoms. Chamomile is also great for digestive upset and to help with falling asleep. The used chamomile tea bags work wonders on infected eyes. Adding cinnamon to your tea helps relieve cough and congestion.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
This is a classic that most people have heard about in the context of cold and flu preventatives. The taste may not be the most appealing, but a tablespoon is quite enough and can make a big difference as the liquid is packed with antioxidants. It can also do wonders for a sore throat.
Apple cider vinegar can be consumed on its own, diluted with warm water, or sweetened with honey.
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5. Elderberry syrup
Elderberry is well-known for supporting the immune system. Use it during flu season for prevention, but double-down if you get sick. There are recipes for elderberry syrup easily found online, but you can also find tinctures now in many stores for a reasonable price.
Vegetables such as spinach, parsley, oregano and kale are great sources of nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin B6 and folate. These can favorably be mixed together or combined with other vegetables and fruits.
An ideal source of beta-carotene, carrots help us fight off the sniffles by strengthening our mucus membrane, making it more difficult for bacteria to reach our inner organs through our blood stream.
They are one of the most antioxidant-concentrated fruits, and can protect you against a whole bunch of conditions. Studies have also shown that the substance called pterostilbene, which can be found in blueberries, helps fight off the flu when combined with vitamin D.
9. Citrus fruit
Lemon in particular is a popular natural medicine in times of sickness. It has a high concentration of vitamin C and anti-inflammatory properties. Other citrus fruits that can help strengthen your immune system are grapefruits, oranges, mandarins, pomelos, etc.
Turmeric one of the best anti-inflammatory, anti-viral spices you can have in your cabinet! The mild taste make it easy to sprinkle onto a salad, into a smoothie, over your vegetables or in marinades for meats. Anywhere you can get a little turmeric, you are sure to be building up your defenses against colds.
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11. Cayenne Pepper
Just like turmeric, this spice will kickstart even the most stubborn immune systems, and germs just don’t stand a chance! This is due to its capsaicin content which can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, protect the immune system via its many antioxidants, and relieve cold and flu symptoms including sneezing, stuffy nose, post-nasal drip, and congestion, according to a 2016 study.
Cayenne pepper can even ease a sore throat. Just mix ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper into a warm glass of water and gargle for a few seconds and repeat as needed.
This one is less known for its medicinal properties because it’s just so darn tasty! The truth is that it actually stimulates the flow of blood and strengthens the immune system, making it a great addition to our diets this time of year. You can add this to any of your favorite dishes, but one great place to put cinnamon is in tea! Try making some dandelion tea and adding a little almond milk, a dash of cinnamon, and a bit of honey for an after-dinner treat!
13. Antibody Supplements
Antibodies (aka, “immunoglobulins”) are your immune system’s first responders. When something bad pops up on the radar, they’re deployed to neutralize any unwanted guests. To stay healthy, your body needs lots of first responders—especially Immunoglobulin G (IgG) which makes up almost 80% of your total immune fighting force. However, in times of high stress, your production of IgG can dwindle, leaving you vulnerable. That’s why it’s a great idea to supplement antibodies, especially when you feel a cold or flu coming on
14. Spore Probiotics
While probiotic-rich foods are great addition to any diet, when a cold or flu hits, you need to hit back even harder with a double dose of probiotic goodness. Make sure you are ready with a high quality spore probiotic supplement. Spore probiotics are unique in that they are able to arrive in your gut 100% alive where they can do their work, thanks to their armor-like outer shell (known as an endospore).
We all know the the flu can be a real downer, getting in the way of our lives and making us feel awful. But, with an ounce of prevention and a pound of cure, you can make sure that your time spent dealing with the flu is shorter and less frequent. Of course, if your symptoms ever concern you, like a fever that won’t go down, extreme lethargy, or the flu along with a chronic condition or pregnancy, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor.
We hope these tips will inspire you to try a natural way of fighting off the flu and other health issues. Remember that even if the flu is not your main concern, consuming these immune system-strengthening foods as often as you can is always a good idea.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 7, 2018 and has been updated for quality and relevancy on December 23, 2022.