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Can You Prevent Colds or the Flu?
Did you know that American’s “catch colds” a BILLION times every year? And that doesn’t even take into considerations when American’s “catch” the flu. Is there any way to prevent getting a cold or flu?
The answer is yes, we can prevent a lot of cases of both colds and flu. There are two main methods of prevention:
Support your immune system with overall health
Avoid coming into contact with a cold or flu virus
Support your Immune System with Healthy Living
The immune system has evolved to fight off infections by viruses such as the cold and flu viruses. A healthy immune system can be your best plan of prevention—and even if you DO get sick, you are likely to be less sick and for a shorter period of time with a strong and effective immune system. According to Harvard Medical School, there are several ways you can support your immune system, including eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and “down time”, not smoking or consuming alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and practicing good hygiene.
While it is difficult to say one approach is the “best”, there is certainly a good argument to be made that a nutritious diet is extremely important to supporting the immune system and overall health.
Stick with a whole-food approach and avoiding all processed foods. Plan meals around a variety of vegetables and fruit. Add small amounts of whole grains, lean meats such as grass-fed beef or buffalo, free-range poultry, fish, beans, legumes, nuts and, seeds and always remember to drink plenty of pure water. Herbal teas are great too—some herbal teas, such as echinacea tea may also support the immune system and may help prevent a cold and the flu.
Regular exercise has been shown to support the immune system in several ways:
Exercising appears to “flush out” microorganisms from the respiratory system, possibly by increasing the rate of breathing and blood flow.
Regular exercise increases the response of both the cellular immune system, by increasing the effectiveness of white blood cells, as well as the humoral immune system, by increasing the level of specific antibodies and producing these antibodies more quickly.
During exercise, body temperature increases, making it more difficult for viruses and bacteria to survive. In this way, exercise performs the same function as a fever.
Stress and the resulting stress hormones can suppress the immune system. Exercise reduces the levels of stress hormones by directly reducing stress.
Sleep, Rest and Relaxation
Another very important—but often difficult to achieve—approach to supporting the immune system is getting enough sleep, rest and relaxation . . . or “down time”.
Lack of sleep suppresses the immune system. Getting enough sleep does just the opposite—it can boost the immune system. It makes perfect sense after all—how often in your life have you felt tired or even exhausted and just to make matters worse, you catch a cold or the flu? This is likely because lack of sleep suppresses your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to infections like the cold or flu.
Rest and relaxation have a similar effect on the immune system—without enough rest and relaxation, the immune system is suppressed, partly because the immune system is responsive to aspects of mood. People who are depressed, have a negative outlook on life, who feel overwhelmed or “on edge” tend to get sick more often—and tend to be sicker for a longer time.
Avoid Getting Sick
We “catch” a cold or flu by coming into contact with their virus-filled droplets. These droplets are commonly breathed, coughed or sneezed into the air by people who are already sick. It would be great if anyone with a cold or flu could wear a protective mask, but even if all sick people did, most people do not even know they are contagious until after they have been unknowingly, passing along the virus. What can you do?
One approach is that you wear a mask during cold and flu season! You may have noticed this is becoming more and more common in public places; but this isn’t the only option.
Remember these virus-droplets like to enter your system through your eyes, nose and mouth. Washing your hands and arms up to your elbows with warm soapy water for at least 20-30 seconds is one of the easiest and best things you can do. Elementary schools often teach the children to sing the A-B-C song while lathering up and before they rinse, to ensure enough time to kill germs. When washing, remember to clean under your fingernails and jewelry and between your fingers. Use a fresh clean towel every time and use the towel to turn off the water. Even though your hands may be clean, it’s always a good idea to avoid putting your hands and fingers near your eyes, nose and mouth.
Other ways to avoid getting sick are to be aware of your hands and the surfaces they touch. Besides the obvious of bathroom and kitchen sinks, counters and surfaces, think of door knobs, desks, steering wheels, phones, grocery carts, gas pumps, money, shaking or holding hands, giving “5”, giving a hug or kiss etc. To help prevent the spreading of “germs” at home, don’t share dishes, glasses, sheets, pillows, blankets or towels. Use disposable items when possible.
Beating the Season
By eating well, drinking plenty of water, exercising, sleeping and resting well and by following simple prevention methods, you can avoid many cold and flu viruses. You may not be 100% virus-proof, but even if you do get a cold or the flu, you are much more likely to be less sick and recover more quickly. Good health comes from small daily decisions over time. Now is the time to focus on building your immune system. Remember, YOU have the power to transform your health … ONE healthy choice at a time!
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