Severe headache, chills, fever, cough, your throat feels like it’s on fire, and you’ve never been more tired in your entire life. These are all possible flu symptoms. The tricky thing about the flu is, medical professionals don’t really know what this year’s symptoms are going to be until people start getting ill. Each flu season is unique, presenting different combinations of influenza strains that reveal their own, miserable symptoms.
You have likely already been offered the flu vaccine at your doctor’s office or pharmacy. You might be wondering how it’s possible to get a flu shot if we don’t yet know what flu strain(s) will infect us this season. Well, the flu vaccine is formulated based on a prediction of what strain(s) of influenza will circulate for the upcoming flu season. Since flu viruses change and mutate frequently from season to season and even within a particular season, the flu vaccine can fail to protect against getting sick.
A great addition or alternative to the flu shot is ensuring your immune system is up to par and ready to face any and all potential invaders. Lifestyle modifications are one of the easiest and most effective ways to boost immune function. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits (such as an anti-inflammatory diet) delivers essential antioxidants and vitamins. Avoid foods that trigger inflammation—simple carbohydrates, sugar, gluten, and dairy—this will take the load off the immune system and allow it to focus on fighting off viruses like influenza. If you want to kick it up a notch, ask your naturopathic doctor to run a blood test that looks for food sensitivities. This way, you can avoid these particular foods during flu season—a happy gut is a happy immune system.
In addition to diet, exercise and adequate sleep have been scientifically and clinically proven to stimulate the immune system. Both of these activities lower your stress level and consequently take the load off your adrenal glands, which have a large impact on immune function.
This fall and winter, ensure your best health. Relying on the flu shot alone to keep you healthy during flu season is a gamble—it may or may not work. Why not take simple steps to get your immune system up and running and ready to shield you from the nasty influenza? What do you have to lose? Improve your diet, add exercise to your daily routine, and stay on a healthy sleep schedule to keep your immune system strong and your body feeling great.
- Wash your hands frequently! Flu germs can live on any surface for at least two hours. If someone in your office or home is carrying the flu, infected germs can be on everything and anything they touch: phones, doors and cabinets, pens, etc. Wash your hands with warm water and soap (soap is critical) for 20 to 30 seconds. Don’t just let the water drizzle over your hands; really scrub each finger, between the fingers and under the nails, and sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to be sure you disinfected yourself. This is the easiest way to avoid getting sick, and it’s habit forming!
- Enlist Vitamin D, the virus warrior! Double your regular dose of supplemental vitamin D during flu season, as vitamin D is an absolute warrior against viruses.
- Be courteous to others; practice good hygiene. Cover your nose and your mouth with a tissue or the inside of your elbow each time you sneeze or cough. Wash your hands soon after to prevent spreading the virus. If a sink isn’t nearby, keep hand sanitizer by your desk to disinfect your hands; it isn’t as good as soap and water, but it is better than nothing!