In case you haven’t notice, the flu is everywhere right now. It’s winter, so it's not entirely surprising, but this year’s flu season has been a rough one. And if you’re a busy mom (what mom isn’t?), chances are you don’t have time to deal with being sick as a dog for weeks on end. In fact, you probably want to keep your family healthy. Dealing with the flu is one thing, but an entire household that’s sick is pretty miserable. So the question on everyone’s mind right now is, of course, how to boost your immune system so your family doesn’t come down with the flu and make your daily life the seventh circle of hell. Thankfully, you have some options.
Just recently I was wracking my brain incessantly, trying to figure out how I could keep myself, and my family, healthy. Then we all caught the flu just as December closed out, so I guess you could say I never did find the answer. Instead, I found a new definition of the word "miserable." There were times when I didn't know if we would make it out of a seemingly never-ending cycle of poop, vomit, fevers, and more poop, alive. The flu will break you, dear reader. It will break you so tough.
Tensions were high as a result of our miserable states, so my husband and I weren’t exactly avoiding fights. It was bad. Like, really bad. And that's when I decided to start researching all the ways I could live a somewhat healthier life by boosting my immune system. There was nothing I could really do about the flu at that moment, but you bet your ass I was invested in finding a way to avoid it in the future. So, with that in mind, here are a few practical tips and natural methods that can assist you in making sure your body is strong enough to fight whatever flu might come your way.
You need sleep. It’s this restful period of time when your body gathers strength to help repair and rebuild whatever your body needs. If you don’t sleep, your body has no time to work its magic. Go take a nap. Yes, now.
Eating a "well-balanced diet" sounds simple, but it's not exactly easy. My trick? Make sure your plate is colorful. If it’s full of beige foods (macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and chicken nuggets), you’re going to want to add some additional colors. Aim for plenty of greens with some reds, purples, and oranges for good measure. When I’m not sure what veggies to add to my plate, I try to throw in a few handfuls of leafy greens in the mix. You know, just for good measure.
Numerous studies have shown that probiotics can have a positive effect on the immune system by way of regulating immune response. While more studies need to be done to show more conclusive evidence, it’s a solid start. Buy a probiotic supplement, eat more fermented foods (like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt), or drink your probiotics (via kefir and kombucha).
Exercising does a number of things to your body. It makes you physically stronger. It often prompts you to make healthier, more nutritious eating choices. It helps regulate your sleep patterns. It reduces stress. All of those things will help your immune system fight anything that comes your way.
While some doctors might tell you that vitamins aren’t really necessary so long as we’re eating a well-balanced diet, how many of us are always eating perfect plates of kale, sweet potato, tofu, and salmon? While eating well is very important, we have to acknowledge the undeniable fact that we might sometimes skip a meal or eat out. That’s OK once in a while, but that’s also why you should take a multivitamin (or at the very least take supplements for whatever vitamin deficiencies you may have).
Elderberries have been shown to have antiviral properties, and can increase inflammatory cytokine production (thus helping out the immune system). I was surprised when a Physician’s Assistant friend of mine (who isn’t normally into “natural” remedies) even recommended it. Elderberry can be taken at the start of an illness to help decrease the length of its course. Some folks even take it, in minimal doses, preventatively during the flu season.
Echinacea has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries. These days, we opt for things like antibiotics and antiviral medications, but some medical practitioners (like those practicing at the University of Maryland Medical Center) still recognize the medicinal properties of the herb, and how herbalists continue to recommend it to help the immune system.
If you have no known allergies or other health conditions that might interact with it, echinacea tea isn’t a bad way to go. At best, it will help you stay healthy. At worst, you’ll have a nice cup of tea (which is great whenever you’re sick, anyway).
After experiencing this latest flu strain, I am fully committed to washing my hands all day, every day, almost all the goddamn time. Yes, I should have been doing this anyway, but what can I say? Guys, sometimes I'm lazy. I’ve also got baby wipes and a giant container of hand sanitizer in my car, plus an extra bottle of hand sanitizer at home when hand soap is no longer available. If it’s good enough for hospitals, it’s good enough for me.
This is tough, because I unconsciously touch my face with my hands all the time. I push my glasses up. I scratch an itch. I rub my eyes. It's just a thing. Still, try and do your best to remember to not to touch your mouth, eyes, or really your face before washing your hands. This is arguably the easiest way for those microscopic germs to make their way into your body.
If you can help it, stay away from big crowds until flu season is over. That means skip out on the concerts and sporting events. Instead of flying, try road tripping in your own car. And in the future, make sure you do all your shopping and other chores where there will be large crowds (like, say, the DMV) from home.
Sure, some people might construe it as rude, but if someone sneezes or coughs around me, I cover my face with a scarf or my sleeve and/or walk away. I don’t need to be catching whatever germs they’re expelling from their body. No, thanks.
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