As I now sit here with a stuffy nose and 2 snot nosed kids, I’m reminded of the steps I took last year that seemed to help keep virus’ at bay. So here’s a rerun post while I rest up today!
While we did not get the flu shot this year, that doesn’t quite mean I’d actually like the flu! There are some natural ways to boost your immune system and give your body a helping hand at actually fighting it (and the common cold) off should you come in contact with some sniffling folk.
First off what’s the difference between the cold and flu?
Basically both of them are respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.
- Symptoms come on very quickly, within a few hours. You go from feeling well one minute to horrible the next.
- Usually consists of a fever (my last flu bug had me at 103.5 for 2 days!)
- Chills from the fever
- Horrible body aches
- Moderate to sever chest congestion
- Dry cough
- Extreme tiredness
- Basically an all around “can’t get out of bed” feeling
What the flu is NOT: It is not a stomach bug. Although many people refer to throwing up as the 24 hour flu, people actually rarely throw up when it’s the actual flu. So if it’s intestinal, you’ve caught some type of tummy bug like the norovirus or rotavirus.
- Symptoms come on gradually over the course of a few days
- Normally consists of stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, and the stuffy head feeling
- Mild tiredness
- Fevers not unusual but are normally only slightly elevated if at all
- Productive cough
Ways to protect yourself and your family from illness throughout the cold and flu season:
- Cut waaaay down on your consumption of sugar and processed foods! Studies have shown that the chemical process of your body digesting these foods depresses your immune system. A can of pop can actually weaken your immune system for up to 6 hours after consumption. Cutting out obvious sugars is easy (desserts, pop, candy, etc.) but don’t forget to look out for all the hidden sugar in food (which is why you should also cut out processed foods -they’re full of them!). Check the labels of yogurt, granola bars, and other seemingly “health” foods for any type of sugar, corn syrup, any ingredient ending in -ose (fructose, glucose, etc.) and even barely malt.
- Get your rest and make sure your kids do too. Stress and fatigue also lower your immune system. And if you feel something coming on, it’s best to sleep as much as possible.
- Wash your hands (especially before meals!!), but forget about antibacterial soaps. Seems kind of funny, but it’s actually detrimental to your immune system to use antibacterial soaps. Allowing your body to come in contact with germs allows it to “work out”, so when an actual virus comes around, it’s “fit” for keeping it in check. (Now, I say that as I also use some antibacterial gels. I know, a bit hypocritical. But, I do carry hand sanitizer in my bag so that we can “wash” our hands when there is no clean facility in which to do so. But I do not have antibacterial soaps in my house!) Normal hand washing should last long enough to sing the ABC’s, using soap and warm water, and lots of scrubbing. Also make sure you dry them completely.
- Eat plenty of probiotics. Think plain yogurt or things like kefir and kombucha. The good bacteria that lives in fermented foods supplies your intestinal tract so that it can fight off bad bacteria that enter it. (Did you know that 80% of your immune system is in your digestive system?) I also take probiotics in capsule form as well.
- Take Cod Liver Oil. It’s high in vitamins A & D, both of which help your immune system.
And at home:
- Make sure to wash odd objects that get touched often. Things like light switches, doors, the phone, handles on the fridge, oven and dishwasher. Take a hot rag and wipe them down or use a rag soaked in vinegar and spritz the object with hydrogen peroxide, then rub with the vinegar rag for a disinfectant.
- Keeping a humidifier helps as well since certain viruses need a low level of humidity to survive. Plus, when your mucous membranes dry out, they can’t trap the virus as it enters the body.
- Sanitize your toothbrush by dipping in hydrogen peroxide, run boiling water over it, (boil a small pan of water and pour over the toothbrush), or I’ve even heard of folks running them through the dishwasher (not with dishes) to clean them up since the water gets hotter than tap water.
- Teach your kids to cough into their elbow and not their hands. This way they don’t get transfer the virus from hand to object.
Even though you take all of these steps, it is still quite possible to contract one of these not-so-fun winter ills. But should you take some precautions and eat a healthy diet as well as feed your body good bacteria, even if you do contract it, you can lesson the symptoms you feel and get over it faster.
What are ways you boost your immune system?