Flu is one of the most common conditions on the planet. Most people have had to face it at some point or another. But as winter sets in, the temperature falls, the days get darker and it seems the threat of flu is everywhere. While the cold weather doesn’t cause flu per se, our winter lifestyle adaptations provide the perfect environment for the virus to flourish. We stay indoors more, breathe the same circulated air as people in our homes or offices, and are exposed to less sunlight – the perfect cocktail for a debilitating flu infection. But don’t worry; there are things you can do to prevent flu impacting you this winter season, and they’re all perfectly natural to boot.
Don’t Neglect Healthy Sleep
An easy one to start off with. One of the best ways you can inoculate yourself against the flu naturally is to sleep more! Most of us are chronically deprived of sleep; this ‘sleep debt’ builds up over time and can lead very quickly to a diminished immune system. Many people know all too well the feeling of fighting off the urge to get your head down, but what you may not know is that this internal battle severely depletes your immune system. Ideally, you should be aiming for about seven to nine hours a night, uninterrupted if possible. However, this is more about listening to your body than it is about measuring a specific number; your body will have no problem letting you know when it’s time to rest!
Keep Your Vitamin D Levels High
While vitamin C is important for a healthy, functioning immune system, it’s not the one-size-fits-all magic bullet that some people think it is. Further highly important is vitamin D; this is the one you should be prioritising in the winter months. Usually, we receive vitamin D from the sun’s rays, but due to the lack of sun in a typical winter, our supply dries up. If we haven’t built up enough of a reserve over the summer, our immune system and our moods can suffer. Thankfully, there are many foods out there with a plentiful supply of the stuff, including salmon, tuna, herring, egg yolks, oats, milk and orange juice. Adapt your menu to increase your vitamin D, and help your immune system along.
Switch to an Immune-Boosting Diet
Speaking of food, your whole diet can adapt to winter, giving your immune system the best chance to fight back against infection. While this may sound intimidating, it shouldn’t require that much of a switch-up; there are fortunately a lot of delicious foods out there that can fortify your immune defences. Citrus fruits and vegetables like peppers, avocado, spinach and broccoli are fantastic options, as are almost all types of fish, yoghurts, almonds, chicken and even dark chocolate. Many of these contain antioxidant properties, as well as a significant supply of various helpful vitamins and minerals. Fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut are also extremely beneficial, as they contain probiotics that aid in digestion and make the gut healthier.
Try Mixing in a Supplement
All-natural supplements are a fantastic way to give your immune system that extra little boost it needs to protect you all season long, and they work great with a balanced, nutritional diet. They’re named supplements, not substitutes; they’re meant to enhance and beneficially increase an existing diet, not replace it altogether. There are companies like Make Well who specialise in this area, creating natural herbal supplements to help patients with all sorts of health concerns. If you suffer from a chronic condition and are worried about the winter, then talk to your medical professional about available supplements. Make Well works in conjunction with doctors to make their products available to patients everywhere.
Cut Down on Sugar, Alcohol and Processed Foods
Easier said than done during the free-for-all buffet that is the Christmas season, but cutting down on these enemies of the immune system can have a huge impact on your overall health. If you cram yourself full of too much sugar, you can easily suppress your immune system, while drinking copious amounts of alcohol puts it under serious strain. Processed foods have the same effect, and can dramatically reduce your immune function. So while everything is OK in moderation, watch what you’re putting inside your body!
Exercising can be a great way to fight back against a Christmas over-stuffing, and increases your circulation, leading to an improved immune system. While the immediate connotations of exercising involve the outdoors (and who wants to go outside in winter?), there are plenty of ways to get in a healthy round or two of activity inside. Try taking up yoga, or simply pick up an exercise mat and do some basic routines in the comfort of your living room. Just remember to keep yourself fully hydrated with clean, pure water as you work out. Most infections enter our bodies through the nose and mouth, so you have to keep those membranes moist and functioning at optimum level!