Well it’s that time of year again. I saw my first confirmed case of influenza this week. The flu season is early this year and seems to be considerably worse than in recent years.
So with all the coughing, sneezing and misery going around, what are the best ways of avoiding colds and flu?
Some of the best measures are pretty obvious. Some might surprise you!
1. Get a flu shot
So flu is already here. Is it too late to get a flu shot? No. Although it’s true that it takes about 2 weeks to get full protection from the vaccine, the flu season hasn’t peaked yet. The flu shot will give you some protection from exposure late in the season, but if you’re exposed in the next week or two, it won’t help too much.
2. Wash your hands
This is still the best way to avoid all sorts of infections that are transmitted by touch. Colds and flu are transmitted by the spread of infected secretions. So when a sick person coughs, sneezes or blows his nose, the infected secretions are both spread through the air and land on surfaces. When touch the surfaces with live viruses on them, then rub your eyes, touch your nose or eat your dinner, you get infected too.
A 15-second wash with hot soapy water is the best way to reduce the risk of infection. At this point there are enough concerns about antibacterial soaps that I’m not recommending anyone use them.
3. Manage your stress
When you are stressed, your immune system doesn’t work as well. There is good evidence that stress impacts your immune system and decreases your ability to fight infection.
Meditation is a good way to decrease your fight-or-flight hormones and decrease your stress. See more in a recent blog post, Meditation for Stress Relief.
Sleep deprivation is a big stressor. When I’m not getting enough sleep I definitely am more prone to catching colds and other infections. Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep in general, and children (including teens!) need up to 10 hours of sleep per night.
There are a ton of supplements out there that are touted to boost immunity. How do you know what’s worth taking?
(Before I get into my recommendations I want to remind everyone that I work closely with the Shaklee Corporation. You can read my reasons for recommending Shaklee products here.)
Well, first you have to check out the scientific research. For instance, a high-quality multivitamin has been shown to reduce the number of sick days over the course of a year. It makes sense that, given the fact that our food supply is less nutritious than it was in the past, supplementing with a high-quality multivitamin would help fill the gaps. Specifically, lower folic acid and zinc blood levels seemed to correlate with days of illness.
Another supplement proven to lower the risk of infection is a good probiotic supplement. Probiotics have been shown to decrease the duration of respiratory illnesses in healthy adults and children (see the article abstract here).
There is one supplement on the market that has been proven to naturally raise interferon levels. Shaklee’s Nutriferon is a patented immune support supplement and many of my patients rely on it to help avoid infections in the wintertime.
Want to know what I do? ALL OF IT!! I am surrounded by germs all day every day, both at work and at home! I do my very best to sleep and eat healthy every day. I wash my hands all day long. I manage my stress as much as possible. I got my flu shot this year. And I take my supplements every day.
QUESTION: What do you do to stay healthy in the winter? What’s your regimen like?