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Aargh! The flu season is back upon us again. It’s a viral infection that is much more severe than just a cold and brings with it a whole host of nasty symptoms such as runny noses, fevers, sore throats, muscle aches and horrible headaches. In fact, flu accounts for an astonishing 3500 deaths each year in Australia, over 18,000 hospitalisations and 300,000 GP consultations.
Whilst there isn’t a cure for the flu, there are many powerful (or effective) lifestyle hacks we can keep the virus at bay and get you back on your feet even faster. Here are the top 5 ways you can stay flu-free naturally.
1. Ditch The Junk Food
Eating real food in its most natural form is by far the best way of boosting your immunity and keeping flu away. Because, as much as we might try to deny it, the food we eat really does influence our health. If you’re eating crap, you leave yourself wide open to illness and disease. In fact, a study published in the Nutrition Journal 2014 demonstrated that people who ate a Western Diet (including junk food) had problems overcoming infection, suffered more auto-immune disease and allergies and also increased their risk of cancer.
Part of the problem is that the Western Diet is highly-processed and produced from nutrient-poor soil. This depletes the majority of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients from the food, leaving primarily ‘empty’ calories from sugar and unhealthy fats in its place.
Even if you’re a die-hard burger and fries fan, think twice about gulping down that soft drink- a famous study carried out at Loma Linda University in 1973 showed that sugar affects the activity of your white blood cells (your immune defence), making them significantly less efficient.
2. Get Fresh Air! (But Stay Warm!)
We might feel like staying inside when the temperature drops, but research tells us that we’d be better off getting out into the fresh air and sunshine instead.
Fresh air and sunshine helps boost our vitamin D levels which helps keep our immune systems healthy, keeps bugs at bay and speeds up the healing process.
It does this by increasing the numbers of our natural killer cells, neutrophils and monocytes, which help fight off illness and disease. The powerful benefits of vitamin D was proven in on study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which showed that supplementation of the vitamin (in children) decreased the risk of contracting the flu. And that better way to enjoy the vitamin than through the sunlight? Getting outside is also great source of that green vitamin which keeps our spirits up when the days are cold and keeps our minds healthy.
But don’t forget to stay warm when you’re out there. Although cold is not the direct cause of the flu, scientists have found that exposure to cold air could decrease your immune response inside your nose. That means it’s time to pull out your scarf and mittens!!
3. Manage Your Stress
If you’re serious about fighting off flu you absolutely must make an effort to get to grips with your stress. According to one study, stress, depression and anxiety reduce the efficiency of your immune system and leave your more vulnerable to illness and disease.
This is because stress triggers your fight-or-flight response, releasing the hormones cortisol and adrenaline so you’re prepared to run from that lion you encounter on the savannah or fight back. These stress hormones also flood your immune cells, preventing the production of disease fighting molecules called cytokines and leaving you more susceptible to disease and inflammation.
Obviously, you’re also more likely to neglect your health when you’re under stress- you’ll sleep less, develop poor eating habits and forget to exercise. Again, all of these things lower your immune response.
4. Mind Your Hygiene!
Flu is spread by from person to person through the small droplets that are spread when we cough, sneeze, or talk. Therefore, one of the simplest tricks to keep these viruses and germs at bay is to clean up your hygiene habits. Here’s what you need to remember:
Cough and sneeze into your elbow (not your hand)
When you sneeze into your hand, you spray a huge quantity of germs which can then be spread to the people around you. Instead, cough and sneeze into your elbow. It might take some getting used to, but it’s far more hygienic.
Wash your hands with regular soap
Forget those anti-bacterial gels and soaps and turn to regular soap instead. Anti-bacterials won’t work on viruses like flu and only end up creating super-resistant bugs.
Stop touching your face
When you touch your face, you’re more likely to catch whatever germs you have lurking on your fingers. A surprising 2008 study from the University of California found that the average person touches their face around 16 times per hour! Wow!
Avoid contact with sick people
If you know someone with the flu, steer clear until they are better.
Avoid touching surfaces in public places
Public transport and other surfaces in public places are notorious for increasing the spread of illness and disease. Try to avoid touching places like railings, door handles, light switches and other similar places.
5. Drink Turmeric Tea!
If you only use one herbal remedy in your fight again the flu, make it turmeric. This yellow spice is used widely in Indian cookery and contains amazing anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Its active compound is called curcumin and has been shown to help contain the spread of the flu virus, boost your immune system and even help fight it faster. It’s also very inexpensive and really easy to include as part of a regular diet. Simply sprinkle some of the spice into your meals, enjoy warming turmeric tea or even take a capsule.
You don’t have to succumb to the flu season without putting up a fight- all of the tricks here will help boost your immune system, prevent the spread of the flu and help you to get back on your feet faster.
Part of staying flu free also depends on what we eat, a good place to start you have a lack of healthy recipes is the clean recipes cook book. Find out more about it below