Can you really afford to be sick this year? Five Steps to Keeping the Flu at Bay

Posted on Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
Written by: Angela, Nutritionist

It’s not every day that the federal government offers guidelines to small businesses in preparation for the flu season. Since the H1N1 outbreak is fore casted to reach a world pandemic, this is not your every day flu. The guidelines listed at are meant to help companies develop response and planning strategies around employee absenteeism. This strategy may help small businesses with employees survive the season, but what happens to your company when you are your company? In an uneasy economy, can you really afford to be sick this year?

I want to stress that a shortage of the flu vaccine does not mean a shortage of options that make it less likely to get a cold or even the flu. In my practice, I have had great success recommending an approach that focuses on building a strong immune system. Adhering to the approach outlined below will not only help ward off the flu, but will be your foundation for improved overall optimal health. Your risk of absenteeism will be greatly reduced as your company charges full steam ahead. Building your immunity against all invaders is a much more comprehensive approach than the singularly focused flu vaccination and can be accomplished by following five easy steps:

1.    Hygiene

2.    Diet

3.    Supplementation

4.    Sleep

5.    Reducing Stress

Step 1: Hygiene — Why Hand Washing in the Usual Fashion is Not Enough

The flu, as with colds, is spread from person to person. The way these germs are spread is not by inhaling them, but by picking them up on our hands and spreading them to our face where they can gain entry to our body. This is why the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends health habits to prevent the flu such as: wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. While this is good advice, it may not be enough. Cleaning the hands in the usual fashion only rids them of a small percentage of all potential pathogens. Furthermore, as most people will wash with an antibacterial soap, these soaps are harsh and can destroy the natural defenses the skin has in order to protect us from potential illness.

The first step of hygiene starts with a semi-soft natural soap. I instruct my patients to push their fingertips into the soap in order to address the area in and around the fingernails, an infectious hotbed where the overwhelming majority of germs on the hands reside. Think about your habits. Your fingertips come in contact with elevator buttons, computer keyboards, telephone buttons and your eyes, nose and mouth. Even the most religious hand washer will get sick if they do not clean under their nails. Use a nailbrush and frequently put the nailbrush through the dishwasher cycle or heat it in the microwave (if it does not contain metal). While you are washing your hands, be sure to sing Happy Birthday all the way through, to ensure that you spend enough time at the sink.

Use cleansing wipes on your computer keyboard, telephone (cell phones too!) and door knobs daily.

Step 2: Diet

A whole foods-based diet adds to overall human health and immunity. Examples of “immune-enhancing foods” are locally grown meats, poultry, dairy, fruits and vegetables raised organically and chemical-free. Fresh fruits and vegetables are especially vital in this capacity. While no health official would argue with the consumption of fruits and vegetables, we can take our diets a step further if we really want to bolster our immune system!

Maintenance of optimal blood sugar will significantly reduce infection with most (if not all) pathogens. The best way to insure proper blood sugar control is to avoid added sugar and highly refined starches such as pasta, rice, potatoes and breads. Unfortunately, these starchy foods are the backbone of the “comfort foods” that make up our diet during this time of year. Focus on small frequent meals, bright colors and pair up a carbohydrate with a protein at each meal and snack.

Step 3: Supplementation

In general, I recommend my patients use supplement formulas made from “whole foods” that have been fermented. Since the majority of the immune system is located in the gastrointestinal tract, balance of intestinal bacteria is vital to helping our bodily defenses function properly. Key supplements to help bolster immunity include:

Probiotics: Probiotics improve the body’s ability to fight infection and enhance the immune response.

Whole food Mushroom Blend: Mushrooms can enhance immune-competent cell activities, have immunostimulating properties, and can pack a “one-two punch” for increased immunity when paired with probiotics.

Omega 3: Studies indicate that high omega-3 fatty acids (found in cod liver oil and other foods) positively modulate immune response and have increased survival rates and reduced disease severity. Cod Liver Oil is also one of nature’s richest sources of vitamins A and D. However, since high dose Vitamin A can be potentially toxic (usually when taken over a long period of time and not in the mycelized form) a knowledgeable health practitioner should be consulted before using this remedy.

Coconut Oil (minimally processed): Lauric acid found in coconut oil is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-protozoal–and monolaurin (found in lauric acid) can destroy lipid-coated viruses such as influenza.

Whole food supplements: Herb and spice extracts such as goldenseal, elderberry, garlic, ginger, oregano and horseradish have been used traditionally for thousands of years. Formulas that utilize a combination of herbs seem to be most effective.

Vitamin C supplement: 500 mg/ twice a day can best be obtained through whole foods and supplements. At symptom onset, effective dosing seems to be in the range of 3-4 grams (that is 3000-4000mg) per day in 3-4 divided dosages. It also seems to be most effective when taken within the first 24 hours of symptom development. Dosages in this range are probably best taken in a powdered form. As with all mega-dosing, a knowledgeable health practitioner should be consulted.

Not into taking supplements? Try using traditionally healing herbs and spices in your cooking and teas to give another immunologic punch to your diet.

Step 4: Sleep

Consistent, adequate sleep is vitally important to overall health and paramount to a healthy and well functioning immune system. Recent studies have shown that proper restful sleep is intimately tied to the balance of a number of hormones, most notably cortisol and melatonin. Adequate levels of these hormones are vital to a properly functioning immune system in order to prevent both acute infections and long term illnesses (such as autoimmune disorders and cancer.)

More important than how long you sleep is when you sleep. To insure proper glandular function, sleep is optimized when in sync with the day-night cycle. That means the optimal spring/summer bedtime is between 9 and 10 p.m. and the optimal fall/winter bedtime is between 8 and 9 p.m. It also appears that sleep cycles started before midnight are far more effective than those started after midnight– regardless of the number of hours slept.

While admittedly these parameters are very difficult to observe given our lifestyles, if you feel like “you are coming down with something,” rest and proper sleep may be one of your cheapest and most enjoyable remedies!

Step 5: Reducing Stress

Stress is linked to six of the leading causes of death: Heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide–and too much stress also hinders the immune system. Constant stress could increase risks associated with a variety of conditions such as heart, allergic, and immune diseases.

While most of us equate stress with psychological challenges, physiologic stress also must be considered. While moderate strenuous activity and exercise can be immune-enhancing, if we begin to cross this line, these activities can be immune-weakening. An ounce of common sense can spell the difference between a healthy versus a “sickly” cold and flu season.

Overall, if you can’t try all of the five tips for avoiding the flu, in my opinion the single best choice would be to practice correct hygiene. However, I believe that if you are willing to try all of these five practical tips for avoiding the flu that you’ll feel healthier all year long – not just during flu season – and your clients will thank you for it!

Angela Pifer, Certified Nutritionist

Seattle Nutritionist– I work Nationally through Skype

Categories: Current Affairs

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