Flu season sneaks up on you just as the holidays provide a distraction from your regular diet and lifestyle habits. The worst of it occurs between December and February, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, seasonal influenza is reported as early as October and sometimes as late as May. That is a fairly long window of opportunity to catch the flu; however, there are some ways to boost your immune system in hopes of avoiding this highly contagious respiratory illness.
The holidays come and go and you probably ate some things you wouldn’t normally eat. Try to get back on track as soon as possible. Eating nutritious food is important to maintaining a strong immune system. In order to get the vitamins you need every day, you should eat a varied diet. The Cleveland Clinic recommends the following food sources of vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A – yellow and orange vegetables like carrots and squash
- Vitamin B6 – chicken breast, bananas, hummus and cold water fish
- Vitamin C – leafy greens and strawberries
- Vitamin D – fatty fish like salmon
- Vitamin E – almonds, peanuts and sunflower seeds
- Selenium – garlic, Brazil nuts and broccoli
Reduce the sugar in your diet. It feeds yeast and generally decreases the strength of your immune system. The same goes for simple carbs that have little nutritional value, such as crackers and chips. A healthier snack might be carrots with hummus or a handful of nuts.
It can be difficult to get all the vitamins you need if you do not make a conscious effort to eat a variety of foods. Supplementing certain vitamins and minerals can be a great addition to your wellness plan. Keep in mind that supplements should be taken regularly to boost your immune system so you don’t end up running on fumes during flu season. Zinc and folate are both excellent for decreasing inflammation and excreting toxins. Probiotics are good bacteria in powder or capsule form and support a healthy gut. The small intestine is where a lot of your immunity is developed; a healthy gut gives a strong immune boost and absorbs nutrients and vitamins much better than a damaged one.
Wash your hands regularly, but do not use antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer. These products remove good bacteria from your skin – bacteria that would be helpful in getting rid of bad bacteria. Staying active helps your body remain at the same relative metabolic rate instead of becoming more sluggish, so it has an easier time finding and fighting off invading germs. Getting enough sleep also boosts your immunity since a rested body is better able to go on the offensive.
If you do become sick
In the case that seasonal flu does find you, your time spent sick may be shortened. Vitamin C is readily available in powdered form at your favorite grocery store; large doses are helpful. Mincing up a clove of garlic releases its allicin, which has antibacterial and anti-viral qualities. Swallowing it with some orange juice is an easy way to boost your immune system quickly. Drink green smoothies to give your immune system an extra boost. You can include many of the aforementioned fruits and veggies.