Health Bites

Natural Tips to Avoid the Flu

The days have grown shorter; a crisp chill fills the air; the holidays are over; perhaps snow covers your yard. It’s officially winter, and something sinister is lurking, unseen and not felt, plotting to attack when your defenses are down. While flu season is unpredictable, it can begin as early as October. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people should consider getting the flu vaccine as soon as it’s available.

However, if you’d like to avoid the flu with a more natural approach, the first step is to “eat the rainbow.” In other words, to boost your immune system, eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure you are getting the most you can of the necessary vitamins and minerals. Unrefined foods, as close to their most natural state as possible, contain high levels of immune-boosting vitamins A, B6, C, and E, as well as zinc, iron, copper, and selenium.

In particular, garlic is known for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Two raw garlic cloves a day will provide you with these healthy benefits. (To avoid garlic breath, cut the cloves into swallowing-size pieces and take them like a pill with a glass of water or herbal tea.) Two kinds of mushrooms, shiitake and maitake, have also been found to boost the activity of white blood cells, increasing your chance of fighting off infection. Grill fresh mushrooms, or add slow-dried ones to soups and sauces, stir-fries, casseroles, or rice.

Exercise and proper sleep also play important roles. Exercise not only reduces stress—a factor in up to 90 percent of disease and illness—it also gives your immune system an extra kick. A study performed by Appalachian State University found that those who walked regularly for 12 weeks had half the number of colds and sore throats than those who were less active! Don’t overdo it though; more than 90 minutes of exercise a day could make you more susceptible to the flu. Eight hours a night of good, solid sleep gives your body the strength it needs to recharge itself.

Use water too; drink your eight (at least) glasses daily to clean out your system. (Do juice, soda, or coffee leave your dishes clean?) Externally, frequent hand washing greatly increases your odds of avoiding the flu. Additionally, alternating hot and cold water in the shower increases circulation and boosts white blood cell activity. Use hot water for three minutes and cold for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat three times, always ending with cold. It doesn’t have to be straight cold water; a temperature difference of as little as 20 degrees is enough to affect change within the body. Ending with cold causes your body to work from the inside to warm you up, resulting in an invigorating glow as you towel off.

Finally, as much as possible, avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes to prevent the virus from entering your system. If you still get sick, follow these precautions from the CDC to keep from spreading germs:

    • Use a tissue to cover your mouth or nose when you sneeze, and dispose of it properly.


    • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand gel.


    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.


    • Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, unless seeking medical attention.


    • While sick, limit contact with people as much as possible to avoid infecting them.


    • Proper self-care will reward you with a lifetime of good health. Don’t let the flu virus get you down this year!