Few people make it through the winter without coming down with a cold or flu. It is inevitable. Not getting enough sleep, natural vitamins, or when we inadvertently are around people with weakened immune systems can put our health at risk. Before you know it, you wake up with those tell-tale symptoms.
The CDC is reporting widespread flu activity in 29 states, primarily in the South and Midwest. That’s twice as many states as in the previous week. A reason for this onslaught is an inefficient flu vaccine. “The stuff [flu] that’s circulating out there is different than what they made the vaccine against,” said CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. “Though unfortunately, as of today, it’s only about 30 percent well-matched.” We can prepare for this ahead of time by boosting our immune system and adding some natural flu preventatives to our flu arsenal.
The Best Defense is a Natural One
Boosting your immune system before a virus has had a chance to overtake your immune system is a far easier regimen than bringing your health back from a full on flu assault.
1. Keep Your Hands Clean
This is a no-brainer right? We all know the importance of washing your hands during heightened flu seasons, but it is easy to forget that we touch our faces an average of 3.6 times per hour. It is important to add that viruses can survive on non-porous surfaces for hours. Therefore, if our hands are not clean, then we make ourselves more susceptible to illness.
Having hand sanitizers in the rooms we are frequently in can ensure we keep our hands clean. I have found that store bought hand sanitizers are harsh on my skin and prefer to make my own. Check out this all-natural recipe for hand sanitizing lotion.
2. Use Herbals to Relieve Symptoms
Herbs and essential oils are considered mankind’s first medicine and it has been used throughout history for medical treatment. Using herbs can significantly reduce cold and flu-like symptoms.
In my home, we drink a lot of herbal teas with honey, lemon, ginger syrup added to it. As well, we include a lot of fresh vitamins from fruit and vegetables; and, if we are beginning to feel the onslaught of the flu, we begin taking a vitamin regimen of zinc and Vitamin D and spoonfuls of homemade elderberry syrup.
Using herbal teas and tinctures are great to get the most medicinal benefits. I buy herbs and organic raw unfiltered honey in bulk and have plenty leftover to make more syrup throughout the flu season. Here are some other great herbs to add to your natural medicine cabinet.
Essential oils can also be used for assisting in relieving a myriad of medical ailments associated with the flus. Some more popular ways of using essential oils are aromatherapy, herbal soaks, compresses, tinctures and salves.
There are two types of essential oils you should stock up on:
Antibacterial – Due to the increase of antibacterial resistant illnesses, many are turning to essential oils such as basil, cassia, cinnamon, clove, cypress, eucalyptus, geranium, lavender, lemon, marjoram, melaleuca, myrrh, orange, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, tea tree and thyme.
Antiviral – Oils that have been studied to help control viral infections include: basil, cassia, cinnamon, eucalyptus, frankincense, lemon, lemongrass, marjoram, Melaleuca, myrrh, oregano, and thyme.
This essential oil kit is great for beginners!
One of my favorite ways to use essential oils when one of my family members is ill is by making a steam bath and adding a few drops. The steam helps to loosen mucus, as well they also acts as a carrier to help the essential oil quickly alleviate flu-like symptoms.
Herb Infused Face Steam
This soothing face steam will help loosen congestion and kill viruses and bacteria in the lungs, bronchials and sinuses.
- 2 cup boiling water
- 2 drops thyme
- 2 drops rosemary
- 2 drops oregano
Cover pot for 5 minutes and then put face directly over pot with a towel covering your head. Breathe in the steam for up to 15 minutes.
Another way to create a soothing steam bath is by adding essential oils in bath blocks.
3. Diet Alterations
Although heating healthy during the holiday season can be difficult, by keeping your diet as clean as possible and not overloading it with excessive indulgences of sugar, carbohydrates and reducing dairy will boost your immunity system and lessen your chance of catching the flu. Some foods that will provide you with optimum health are:
- Organic fruits and vegetables
- Fermented foods such as kombucha, kefir, yogurt, kimchi, etc.
- Organic, pastured meats and eggs (including 100% grass-fed beef)
- Healthy fats, such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts.
- Avoid sugar, especially refined sugars. Sugar weakens the immune system. If you need sweeteners, use raw honey, maple syrup, & stevia.
- Drinking teas high in antioxidants such as green tea can stimulate production of immune cells.
- Raw honey has antibacterial, antifungal, & antiviral properties (LOCAL raw honey is best, especially for allergies).
- 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar per day.
- Eating nuts such as almonds have an immune-strengthening antioxidant.
Mushrooms are an untapped medicinal source that could help fend off the flu due to their high antioxidant content, anti-viral and antibiotic properties. All of these mushrooms have high amounts of proteins present in them, as well. With their high protein sources, they can be used as meat alternatives which would be easier on the body’s system, specifically our nervous systems. Over time, these health enhancing properties synergize and build up in the body and improve health.
Bone broth is another way to boost your health and is one of the most healing of diet staples. This used to be a dietary staple with our ancestors as was fermented foods. It helped with digestion, contained easily absorbable minerals and was great for the immune system. Bone marrow helps the immune system by carrying oxygen to cells in the body.
Drink lots of water. Simply put, water helps to filter the impurities out of your body. Over time, this keeps your body functioning and in optimum health.
4. Take Your Vitamins
Vitamins A , B, C, D, and E has been shown to promote a healthy immune system. Take a high quality, organic multi-vitamin. (I like this one)
Although the sun is the best way to receive vitamin D, we cannot always absorb it in the dead of winter. Take at least 3000-5000 IUs of Vitamin D3 daily – research has shown a link between a Vitamin D deficit and susceptibility to the flu. (This one has 5000 IUs)
Other important immune-boosting vitamins are Vitamin C and Zinc. Since our bodies do not naturally make vitamin C, we need to ensure we take steps to get it in order to boost our bone, muscle, cartilage and vascular health. The best way to get vitamin C is right from the source. Rather than taking a GMO vitamin, make your own vitamin C powder.
These Zinc Lozenges are good tasting and high quality.
5. Get Plenty of Sleep
Your health depreciates when our bodies are run down. As a result, our immunity system has to work overtime if it is run down. You workaholics out there need to pay attention to this. Get a minimum of 7-8 hours per night. Further, if you feel your body coming down with an illness, stop pushing yourself and give your body what it needs: rest.
This is the season to nurture your immune system and give it what it needs to fight of the flu. These five immune boosting steps are the best way to naturally stave off this year’s flu.
Tess Pennington is the editor for ReadyNutrition.com. After joining the Dallas chapter of the American Red Cross in 1999, Tess worked as an Armed Forces Emergency Services Center specialist and is well versed in emergency and disaster management and response. Tess is the author of The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals. When a catastrophic collapse cripples society, grocery store shelves will empty within days. But by following Tess’s tips for stocking, organizing, and maintaining a proper emergency food supply, your family will have plenty to eat for weeks, months, or even years.