Seeing as we live in what CNN recently dubbed “Flu York,” where almost everyone we know is currently coming down with the flu virus, I thought I would share some natural flu prevention methods that will lower your risk of contracting this year’s rather severe flu bug.
But first, a word on flu shots… Are you considering getting a flu shot? Read on to make sure it’s the right decision for you!
There is currently a 35 minute wait at all our neighborhood pharmacies to get the flu shot, obviously due to the pretty severe outbreak we are experiencing. Now I know this is a bit controversial, but I am typically not a huge proponent of flu shots. Due to the natural mutation of the virus, each year’s flu shot gives you only partial, if any, protection. A review of 51 research studies involving 260,000 children ages 6 to 23 months found no evidence that the flu vaccine is any more effective than a placebo. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, the flu vaccine is chock full of harmful toxins like mercury, formaldehyde, and detergent. These toxins lower immunity (ironically making you more susceptible to illness), and have been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. One report showed that people who received the flu vaccine each year for 3 to 5 years had a 10 times greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s than people who never received any flu shots.
As far as I’m concerned, this is reason enough to avoid the flu vaccine… the benefits just don’t outweigh the risks! My husband, my family, and I have rarely gotten a flu shot, and have only come down with the flu a handful of times in our lives. That said, the flu virus, especially particularly rough strains like 2013’s, can be really hazardous to people with already compromised immune systems. Pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone with an immunity-compromising illness should consider the flu shot. But again, make sure to weigh the risks for yourself and your family! As I stated above, the flu shot can actually lower your immune response, and could potentially be harmful to a developing fetus. Think carefully…
How to naturally prevent the flu!
There are many ways to naturally decrease your risk of getting the flu, and whether or not you get the flu shot this year, I strongly recommend making the tips below a part of your everyday routine for the remainder of the flu season!
- Wash your hands. When you get to the office, when you come home, and throughout the day, especially after coming in contact with particularly germy areas like the subway, schools, communal office supplies, and (duh!) people showing signs of illness, wash your hands with hot soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
- Moisturize. With all this hand washing, your hands will naturally be inclined to dryness and cracking, which gives germs a direct pathway into your body. Keep a travel-size bottle of natural moisturizer in your bag (I love Burt’s Bees Farmer’s Friend Hand Salve, which comes in a cute and portable little tin!), and lube up after every hand-washing, or throughout the day as needed.
- Clear out your nose. Yes, yes, you’ve heard me tout all the benefits of the Neti Pot a million times before, but I’m telling you, it is a vital part of flu prevention! Your nasal passages are full of mucous and tiny little hairs that are designed to trap germs and bugs to keep you from getting sick. But they can only do so much! You need to help your nose out by cleaning and lubricating it, and getting all those trapped bugs out of there! There is no better way to do this than regularly using a neti pot. It’s safe to use everyday, but if you feel like your nose is easily irritated, every other day will do the trick as well. Make sure to follow each neti session with some sesame oil or olive oil in your nose, to moisturize and soothe everything!
- Get plenty of sleep! Flu season is no time to start partying and staying up until all hours of the night. Your body naturally needs more rest in the winter months, and when the flu bug is running rampant, getting at least 7-8 hours up’s your body’s first defense against illness. You need to do whatever you can to boost your natural immunity! If getting to bed early is hard for you, check out How to Sleep Better, Naturally!
- Supplement smartly. Even if you’re not big on supplementation, flu season is definitely a time to fortify your system with some strategic vitamins. Vitamin C is of course a big one (opt for 500-1000 mg 2-3 times a day, and make sure to get a formula with rose hips for maximum absorption!). Another immunity powerhouse is vitamin D, which we all need to be taking year-round, but especially in the winter months. Opt for 2000-4000 IU of a liquid, sublingual vitamin D (like this one) every day. Lastly, North American Ginseng (panax ginseng) has been shown to reduce incidence of the flu, as well as duration if you do become ill.
- Stay warm. Although being cold doesn’t actually make you sick, it can definitely lower your immune response, making you more susceptible to contracting the flu virus. So bundle up, and make sure to drink lots of warm liquids throughout the day… Green or ginger tea with raw, organic honey actually does a lot to boost your body’s natural defenses against the flu, due to the honey’s anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties!
- Eat for health. Flu season is definitely the ideal time to get serious about healthy eating. Shoot for having as much of your diet as possible being made up of dark leafy greens, brightly colored veggies, sea vegetables, mushrooms, plant proteins, and fish to boost your immunity and not give your body any other toxins to contend with! Keep alcohol, which compromises your immunity, to a minimum, and drink tons of water!
If you do get sick, STAY HOME!!! The biggest cause of the flue epidemic spreading so rapidly is sick people walking around infecting everyone! Don’t take the risk, and stay home to rest, which will also help you to recover as quickly as possible! Make sure to read my article, 5 Tips to Beat a Cold in Two Days Flat for some great self-care tips to help you get healthy fast!
Do you have any other natural flu prevention tactics or remedies that work for you? Share them in the comments below!