5 Natural Ways to Stay Well During Flu Season
It’s that time of year again when people around you start experiencing a runny nose and a scratchy throat. Time to wrap your scarf tighter around your neck. It’s winter and with it comes cold and flu viruses just waiting to attack your lowered immune system. Most Americans get about 2-4 colds a year, but thankfully, there are natural ways you can boost your immune system and give it the fighting power it needs against these viruses. We are sharing 5 natural ways to stay well during cold and flu season.
A cold vs. the flu, what’s the difference?
Colds and the flu are usually mentioned in the same breath because they start off with similar symptoms, but the disease progression of the two differ.
Symptoms of the Common Cold:
- Caused by inhaling a virus or touching a contaminated object
- Scratchy throat
- Nasal discharge
- Stuffy nose
- Rarely fever symptoms
- Rarely body ache symptoms
- Can lead to sinus infections
- Can lead to ear infections
- Lasts about 4 days on average
Symptoms of the Flu:
- Caused by the Influenza virus
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Fever or chills
- Body aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Can lead to secondary bacterial infections that can lead to pneumonia
- Can last more than 7 days (up to 14 days)
Why the flu season occurs
According to Harvard researchers, the flu virus is more prevalent during the winter months primarily due to the lack of sunlight and different lifestyles people lead during these colder months. According to Harvard Health:
1) During the winter, people spend more time indoors with the windows sealed, so they are more likely to breathe the same air as someone who has the flu and thus contract the virus (3).
2) Days are shorter during the winter, and lack of sunlight leads to low levels of vitamin D and melatonin, both of which require sunlight for their generation. This compromises our immune systems, which in turn decreases the ability to fight the virus (3).
3) The influenza virus may survive better in colder, drier climates, and therefore be able to infect more people (3).
How to stay healthy during flu season
Natural remedies aim to help you build a strong immune system so that you do not become susceptible to cold and flu viruses in the first place. Some natural health researchers feel cold and flu season exists because of the Always remember to thoroughly wash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap. Disinfect areas you think might have become victim to a sick person’s sneeze by using antiseptic or antibacterial surface sprays and wipes.
Take natural supplements to boost your immune system
Supplements containing vitamins, antioxidants with natural anti-viral and antibacterial properties can boost your immune system and is a natural way to stay healthy during the flu season.
There are loads of different immune-boosting products on the market. Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly which one to choose. Keep an eye out for the following ingredients known to help prevent cold and flu symptoms:
- Vitamin C – has antioxidant properties that fight oxidative stress that can lower your immune system. It is known to prevent cold symptoms.
- Probiotics – encourage good bacteria growth in the gut that plays a role in your immune response
- Zinc – has natural anti-viral activity and can reduce the duration of colds and flu
- Elderberry – has natural anti-viral properties and is high in vitamin C
- Echinacea – can possibly reduce the potency of cold and flu symptoms when taken early or as a preventive treatment
- Ginseng – helps your body to resist stress that can lower your immune system and can boost antibody production
- Brewer’s yeast – packed with B vitamins and chromium and can help prevent flu symptoms
Take a walk in the sun for a dose of vitamin D
Studies have shown that vitamin D can modulate your immune response and that people who are vitamin D deficient, can suffer from autoimmune diseases. During wintertime, it might be too cold and rainy to go outside. If the sun is shining open the curtains and embrace it for a few minutes a day. Your body uses sunlight to synthesize its own vitamin D. Otherwise, if the weather is acting up, you can take a vitamin D supplement to help boost your immune system.
Amp up your diet and eat more vegetables and fruits
Fresh vegetables and fruits may be your best weapon yet to help you stay healthy during the flu season. Cruciferous green vegetables and brightly colored fruits and vegetables (think orange, yellow and red) are all packed with phytonutrients and vitamins that help boost your body’s immunity and fight against inflammation.
Other beneficial foods that can help prevent colds and flu include chicken soup, bone broths, raw honey products, turmeric, ginger, and garlic.
Avoid eating refined sugars and carbohydrates that can cause inflammation in your body and lower its immune response and keep down your alcohol intake. You can read more about anti-inflammatory foods in our post on the Top 12 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Eat Everyday.
Get enough rest
Sleep is an important part of keeping yourself healthy. When you sleep, your body goes into recovery mode and tries to fix everything that seems to be out of balance and re-energizes you for the next day. Poor sleep patterns disrupt these processes and can lead to a weak immune response and even inflammation flare-ups.
Lower your stress
Constant stress is a known cause of a lowered immune system. Try to reduce your stress by doing light exercise or meditation. Once you lower your stress levels, your body will have time to recover from the constant exposure to stress hormones that causes inflammation and inadequate immune response.
If you follow these tips and practice some self-care this winter, there’s a good chance that you will make it through without catching any viruses. If you do become sick and you feel like your symptoms are worsening, consult your nearest healthcare practitioner for a check-up and check out the article we wrote about other natural remedies if you’re sick.