There’s no mistaking it. We’re in the throes of flu season. It’s the time of year when we all need to be proactive about avoiding germs and preventing illness. It’s tempting to keep the kids home and barricade the doors while running an industrial air purifier until the first signs of spring emerge. But, we’ve all got things to do, and life doesn’t stop for illnesses. Read on for a few ideas on how to increase your chances of staying healthy all winter long.
1. Load Up on Water
You may not feel as thirsty during the winter months, but your body needs just as much water when it’s 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside as it does when it’s 90 degrees. One of the easiest and healthiest things you can do to keep your body operating at peak condition is to drink two cups of water, upon waking, every single morning. After eight hours of sleep, your organs are in dire need of hydration. Two glasses of water can both rehydrate your body and flush out toxins in your system. Coffee won’t do the trick as the caffeine will only add to your dehydration. Pure, clean water is the best thing for your body each morning. Staying hydrated is essential to boosting your immune response during flu season or any time of the year.
2. Limit Your Refined Sugar Intake
One of the biggest enemies to the body’s immune system is refined sugar. In addition to reducing the production of antibodies — the blood proteins that fight viruses, bacteria and foreign substances in the bloodstream — researchers have found that sugar can hinder the germ-killing function of white blood cells for several hours after consumption. Sugar also inhibits the body’s normal absorption of vitamin C, making for a double whammy for fighting illnesses.
Definitely limit your refined sugar, but don’t shy away from fruit. Eat as many whole fruits as you like this winter. When you eat a handful of grapes, you’re taking in plenty of sugar. But, along with those natural, fruit sugars you’re getting vitamins, minerals and enzymes that help your body use those sugars for good. Conversely, when you drink 8 ounces of soda, which has about the same amount of sugar as the fruit, your body has to give up vitamins, minerals and enzymes to process the refined sugar. Those nutrients are leached from your organs, creating a deficit and weakening your immune system.
Do your best to keep your refined sugar intake to less than 20 grams per day. An average slice of whole wheat bread contains 5 grams of sugar. Marinara sauce can contain around 10 grams per serving. Even foods like peanut butter and hot sauce have added sugar. Check the nutrition labels closely and beware of foods with labels like “low fat” or “fat-free.” Companies often add sugar to packaged foods to make up for the lack of fat.
3. Get Plenty of Good Rest
The National Institute of Health recommends that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. School-age children and teenagers should get 10 hours or more. These recommendations are especially important during flu season. Studies show that people who don’t get adequate amounts of sleep are more likely to develop an illness when exposed to viruses like the common cold. Your body has a much better chance of fighting off illness when it isn’t worn down and tired.
If you have trouble shutting it off at night, consider taking melatonin about 30 minutes before bed. It’s a natural, nonhabit forming supplement that helps you get solid sleep. In addition to helping regulate the sleep-wake cycle, melatonin is a powerful antioxidant. Hot milk is another natural way to usher in a good night’s rest. Try heating it slowly — on the stove, not in the microwave — and adding a touch of cinnamon, vanilla and honey to it. When milk is heated, an amino acid called tryptophan is produced. Tryptophan has a calming effect on the body and can help you relax at night.
4. Take Your Vitamins and Eat Them Too
Taking a high-quality daily multivitamin is a good practice to supplement your overall nutrition. However, during the winter, when coughs and colds seem to abound, it’s important to take measures to beef up your immune system. Here are a few supplements that will give your body an immune boost:
- Coenzyme Q10: Increases immune function, provides energy and oxygenates the cells; find it in dark green vegetables, nuts, beans and alfalfa
- Vitamin C: An immune system powerhouse, it increases your body’s natural antibody response, protects cells against viruses and increases the effect of antioxidants; good sources of vitamin C include tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, citrus fruits and kiwi
- B complex: Affects all functions of the immune system and also provides a natural source of energy; take this supplement sublingually (under the tongue) for best results; you’ll find B vitamins in whole grains, beans and nuts
- Zinc: Offers a plethora of disease-fighting benefits; it creates enzymes that destroy viruses and also protects against free radicals and helps regulate T-cells (white blood cells that directly attack bacteria and viruses); foods high in zinc include seafood, beef, lamb and wheat germ
If you work in an office, consider loading up your candy dish with vitamin C gummies instead of jelly beans for you and your co-workers to share.
5. Essential Oils Can Help You Fight Germs and Stay Healthy
Essential oils have been shown to fight diseases naturally and effectively. Oils like lemongrass, thyme and tea tree have antimicrobial, antibiotic and antifungal properties. Cinnamon bark essential oil, eucalyptus and lavender are also natural antivirals. It makes good sense to integrate essential oils into your health regiment. They aren’t always crazy expensive, either. Be sure to look for 100 percent pure essential oils in amber glass or cobalt blue bottles.
Essential oils can be used to clean your hands when soap and water aren’t available. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is fine if it’s the only thing you can find. However, a better and gentler solution can be made at home easily. Here’s a recipe for an essential oil hand sanitizer that smells like heaven and removes bacteria too:
Easy-on-the-Hands Sanitizer Spray
- 4 ounces pure aloe vera juice
- 5 drops clove essential oil
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
- 3 drops thyme essential oil
- 1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (with no sugar added)
Combine the above ingredients and store in a 4-ounce spray bottle. Apply to your hands and rub vigorously as you would with any hand sanitizer.
Essential oils can also be used in a diffuser or humidifier to ward off germs. Blend rosemary, lemongrass, eucalyptus and lavender essential oils and put them in a diffuser. Run it in your office or home for a pleasant smelling, germ-fighting, sickness preventing ambiance.
6. Fight Illnesses with Garlic
Despite all of your best efforts, you may still find yourself under the weather this season. After all, when we are symptomatic, it means our body is healthy enough to fight off an illness. Help your body win the fight quickly without pharmaceuticals.
At the very first sign of sickness or if your entire family is walking around with the sniffles, and you’re desperate to stay healthy, take five cloves of garlic and chop them into pill-sized pieces. Then, brace yourself and swallow them with a large glass of water. No kidding — this works. Surprisingly, you won’t smell like garlic afterward. Do this once a day for three days or until you feel better. Swallowing five cloves a day has been known to wipe out strep throat and other common winter illnesses completely. If you can’t bring yourself to swallow the garlic, try mincing the five cloves and mixing it in with fresh salsa to eat with chips. Eating the garlic is a little intense, and you will smell more garlicky afterward. But, the garlic gets into the bloodstream a little faster when chewed and swallowed.
This remedy works because garlic has been shown to have strong antibacterial properties that rival those of synthetic drugs. Scientists have studied it side-by-side against lab created antibiotics and found that raw garlic can be more effective as a broad spectrum antibiotic than synthetics. It is only effective as an antibiotic in its raw state. Cooked garlic and processed garlic tablets have other benefits, but will not work as antibiotics to fight illness.
Try the garlic remedy next time a virus is going around. You’ll knock it out in no time, and we guarantee there won’t be any vampires hanging around your house, either. Now that’s a win-win!
Wintertime can be rough on the body. We’re often burning the candle at both ends. The kids are in school, and we’ve got sporting events, choir performances and holiday parties to attend. It seems like there’s always someone coughing behind us in line at the supermarket. We’re being assaulted on all fronts with germs threatening to sideline us during all the holiday fun.
Pump up your body’s immune system and defend yourself against the season’s worst germs with these fail-proof tips for staying healthy this winter.
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