Flu season is right around the corner, as always. And this year, I’ve come prepared.
Every time I get sick, I kick myself for not appreciating what it felt like to be perfectly healthy. So don’t take your health for granted. When you have it – keep it.
It’s not easy, though. The flu is the result of influenza, a nasty virus that can attack the upper respiratory tract. It’s typically spread through the air from person to person, so you have no idea when it might strike.
But you might not want to simply stock up on flu relief drugs from your pharmacy with a huge amount of chemicals on the label. This season, you should seek out more natural ways to fight the flu.
To make it easier, I’ve created this list of 9 natural ways to hold onto your health during flu season.
1. Stay Hydrated
Here’s a tip you should follow whether you’re afraid of the flu or not. Keeping hydrated is one of the best ways to stay healthy – for good.
You need to make up for lost fluids when you have the flu, especially if you have a fever or have been vomiting.
But don’t think you should just drink a few glasses of water – there are numerous ways to stay hydrated.
For example, if you have a cool-mist humidifier or vaporize, plug that bad boy up to add moisture to the air, which will help a stopped-up nose.
You can also suck on ice chips or even a frozen Popsicle to numb throat pain and provide extra hydration as they melt.
Try drinking hot liquids to help relieve nasal congestion and soothe inflamed membranes in your nose and throat. One study found that people who drank a hot beverage felt immediate and lasting relief from a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and a sore throat.
2. Keep Yourself Clean
The CDC recommends you get a yearly flu vaccine as the most important step for fighting the flu – but there are many ways to keep the flu from spreading to you and your family:
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Instead of allowing germs from sneezes and coughs to build up on your hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, and wherever else they might land, keep sanitizer nearby and wipe yourself down.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to stop the spread of germs.
- Wash your hands with soap and water every time you get out of bed.
- Blow your nose thoroughly, as often as necessary, or even before you really need to.
- Disinfect surfaces and objects that could become contaminated with germs like the flu.
These cleanliness tips are great for flu season, but you should practice them year round!
3. Stay Rested
Yes, exercise is key to good health. But when you’re sick, your body needs a break.
So, instead of directing your body’s energies towards work – moving around, exercising, or anything remotely strenuous – just relax.
Your body needs all the help it can get to fight off the flu in the battle for your health. So forget about your daily chores and spend all day in bed if you can.
Besides, the flu is a great excuse to get out of just about any responsibility and focus on getting better!
4. Stock Up On Nutrients
When you’re sick, the body needs all the help it can get. Here are some of the best nutrients you can find to strengthen your immune system against the flu:
- Vitamin C should be at the top of your list for battling the flu and other viruses. When the body is under attack from any sort of bacteria, viruses, or toxins, your need for vitamin C goes through the roof. So, keep vitamin C tablets or foods/beverages with high amounts of this important vitamin.
- Omega-3 fatty acids increase the activity of phagocytes – cells that fight flu by eating up bacteria. A study from Britain’s Institute of Human Nutrition and School of Medicine showed that omega-3s increase airflow and protect your lungs from colds and respiratory infections.
- Zinc may shorten the length of the cold-like symptoms of flu. David L. Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center said, “30 mg [of zinc] taken at the very start of a cold will shorten it by about half a day.”
- Astragalus is a Chinese root shown to stimulate the white blood cells that fight infection, according to Prevention advisor Andrew Weil, MD. However, it may take up to 6 weeks to reach its full effectiveness.
- Vitamin D is also an important player in preventing the flu from occurring in the first place. It provides an overall healthy immune system, but also is an effective antimicrobial agent. A 2010 study demonstrated the effectiveness of vitamin D as a preventive strategy against influenza, showing that children taking a low dose of vitamin D were 42 percent less likely to come down with the flu.
Remember that you can find all of these nutrients in a well-balanced diet. If you eat poorly all the time, you may have it worse than someone who stays healthy when the flu does hit.
5. Eat Healthy Foods
Your diet is seriously important when it comes to preventing and fighting off that nasty flu.
Garlic may be effective in fighting off the respiratory infection aspect of the flu. One British study found that people taking allicin supplements – the antimicrobial compound found in garlic – suffered 46 percent fewer colds than people who did not.
A Harvard University study found that drinking five cups of black tea a day quadrupled the body’s immune defense system after two weeks.
Researchers at Tufts University found that almonds provided the immune-boosting antioxidant vitamin E, which can reduce your chance of developing severe respiratory infections. Eating a handful of almonds every day might be your ticket out of flu season.
6. Apply Hot or Cold Packs to Your Sinuses
Depending on how you personally feel, you may want hot or cold packs to help you feel more comfortable. You can find them in reusable packs at your local drugstore.
If you have no way of getting one, make one yourself! For warmth, simply heat a damp washcloth in the microwave. For cold, take a small bag of frozen peas from your freezer.
Then, apply them to your cheeks, forehead, and even the glands along your neck. They’ll ease your soreness, and temporarily distract you from your sickness. Repeat as often as you like.
7. Gargle Salt Water
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before – and for good reason!
You really don’t know how many times you swallow during the day until each time you do becomes a painful experience. Thankfully, gargling helps.
Gargling can moisten a sore throat and provide temporary relief of pain and put a stop to that irritating tickle. Salt helps kill pathogens, and gargling it in warm water will ease inflammation and loosen mucus.
The best-recommended mixture for a glass of salt water is around half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water.
8. Take a Hot Shower
First of all, when you’re sweating in bed all day with the flu, you probably need a shower.
But besides cleanliness, a shower can be an extremely relaxing experience.
A steamy shower can moisturize and clear your sinuses and nasal passages, especially if you gently blow your nose while sucking in the warm moisture from the water.
But be careful not to spend too much time in the shower, or else you might become dehydrated and dizzy. Keep a big glass of cool water nearby just in case.
9. Avoid Certain Foods
If you’re a regular reader here, you surely know how much impact your diet can have on your overall health. And just as you need certain nutrients to strengthen your body against the weakened immune system of flu, you should also avoid certain foods that could make the problem worse.
- Sugar and carbs – These can decrease your white blood cells that are valuable in fighting off infection.
- Fruit juices – While orange juice contains plenty vitamin C, you’ll find more in fruits and vegetables. Most fruit juices are high in sugars, which you should avoid if you have the flu.
- Dairy – According to WebMD, dairy products make some people produce more mucus. They can also make your nausea and vomiting worse.
- Caffeine – Heavily caffeinated beverages dehydrate you and deplete the body of electrolytes. When you have the flu, you need to do the opposite.
- Processed foods – These foods are generally bad for you, for a huge range of reasons. Focus on those nutrient-dense fresh fruits and vegetables which will fortify your body’s defenses.
One Last Thing
You probably expected me to mention chicken soup, didn’t you?
The truth is that chicken soup itself doesn’t really provide any sort of genuine cure or relief. Here’s what really happened when your mom brought it to you when you were feeling miserable:
- You inhaled warm, soothing steam.
- You felt better emotionally because someone was taking care of you.
- Chicken soup is delicious, and it always hits the spot.
So if you have the flu, you should definitely try a bowl of chicken soup. It won’t actually make you any better, but it’ll help get you through those tough sick days.
All I can say is that the flu is no fun. We all go through some sort of sickness at some point in our lives, so knowing what you can do to prevent and fight it ahead of time is a great way to get back to good health.
Get well soon.
What natural methods have you used to fight off the dreaded flu? Let us know in the comments!