Cold and flu season has begun, but there are ways in which to prepare and reduce your chances of catching the latest bug. Getting an annual flu vaccine and practicing good hygiene are great ways for a person to protect themselves and others. Some lifestyle and dietary changes can also reduce the likelihood of getting sick. Here are our top ten:
- Wash AND Dry Your Hands – It takes a good scrub with soap and water to actually rub a virus off your skin. Don’t skimp. Try singing the lyrics to your favorite song to ensure proper length of hand washing. And don’t forget to dry them well. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), wet hands are more likely to spread germs than dry ones.
- Take Your Vitamins – Your sunshine vitamin (vitamin D) levels are lower in the winter months when the days are shorter. Canadian researchers have found that taking 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 a week may cut your risk of upper respiratory infection in half.
- Get a Flu Shot – it’s simply the number one thing you can do to prevent the flu. Even if you end up getting another strain of flu, the shot may reduce symptoms. Plus, you’re contributing to “community immunity.” When a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because it reduces the opportunity for an outbreak.
- Practice Yoga – Scientists in Japan speculate that twisting yourself into yoga stretches may help boost your immune defenses, which in turn can better prepare you to fight illnesses like pneumonia, colds, and the flu. The combo of relaxation and physical activity triggers an increase in saliva levels of beta-defensin 2, an antimicrobial peptide that breaks down invading microbes. Just one 90-minute yoga session doubles beta-defensin 2.
- Hands Off – According to a study in the Journal of Occupational Health, people who occasionally touch their eyes and nose are 41 percent more likely to develop frequent upper respiratory infections than hands-off folks.
- Consume Probiotics – Make Greek yogurt part of your breakfast routine and you might just avoid the latest bug. In a study published in Clinical Nutrition, people who consumed a specific strain of probiotics daily reduced their risk of catching one of these bugs by 27 percent.
- Sip a Cup of Tea – As long as it’s green tea. The main ingredient, a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), can damage influenza virus particles and stop them from entering your system, a German study reveals. Researchers also found that catechin may interfere with pneumonia-causing bacteria.
- Use a Humidifier – When your nasal passages get dried out, their natural antimicrobial properties will suffer. Plus, a recent study suggests that maintaining an indoor humidity level between 40-60% can actually reduce the survival of flu viruses on surfaces and in the air. Not at home during the day? Try using saline nasal spray to keep things moist. It acts like a humidifier to keep sinus mucus moving and can help wash away allergens and germs before they cause inflammation.
- Consume Fish – A study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that increasing your omega-3 intake can spur production of infection-fighting cells, which can help protect against certain bugs. Not a fish fan? Try a krill oil supplement. They offer all the omega-3 benefits, without the fishy taste.
- Love Your Honey – A study in the journal Microbiology found that when colonies of Streptococcus pyogenes–the strep throat bug–were treated with manuka honey, the bacteria count fell by up to 85 percent. And a 2014 study from Pakistan found that honey may also inhibit forms of staph, pneumonia, and salmonella.
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