Think a flu shot is all you need to protect yourself from the flu? Think again. The flu shot protects against most, but not all strains of the flu. Fortunately, there are some natural ways to prevent the flu. For additional protection against the flu and other respiratory viruses, try these tips to help boost your immune system, so if you are exposed, you have a fighting chance.
What to Eat to Prevent the Flu
First and foremost, cut back on alcohol, and any foods with added sugar like desserts or soft drinks, because all can wreak havoc with your immune system. Instead of sugar, substitute more citrus fruit and berries to satisfy your sweet tooth. These are high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, which can boost the immune system. Eat two to three servings, of oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries each day.
Also, make sure you include lots of ginger, garlic, and onions in your diet, especially during flu season. All have compounds that prevent the growth of bacteria, viruses, and disease-causing microorganisms.
You might not realize it, but your digestive tract is also a major immune organ. Keeping it healthy and balanced with probiotics (healthy bacteria) can be another line of defense against viruses and bacteria.
A serving of yogurt, kefir, or fermented vegetables (like refrigerated sauerkraut or kimchee) every day provides the probiotics that help to strengthen the gut’s immune system. Just be sure to look for the words “live and active cultures” on the label. It’s also smart to buy several different brands, because each brand contains different strains of healthy bacteria.
Supplements That Can Help Prevent the Flu
Next, check your vitamin D stores. Studies suggest that individuals with low Vitamin D levels are about 40% more likely to report cases of cold or flu. Low vitamin D levels are also linked to worse cases of Covid-19, so bumping up your vitamin D level is a great natural way to prevent the flu and other viruses.
Since most of your Vitamin D is made when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it’s understandable to have lower levels in the winter. But if you’re over the age of 40, you don’t make as much vitamin D, even in the summer. It’s recommended that adults get between 600-800 IU of vitamin D each day, but I like to see most people get closer to 1,000 IU or even more if their levels tend to run low.
Salmon, fortified milk, (or orange juice), and egg yolks, are the best food sources. Three oz. salmon has about 500 IUs and 8 oz of fortified milk or OJ has about 130 IUs. One whole large egg provides about 44 IUs. Unless you’re eating a lot of these foods, you should consider a vitamin D supplement.
Finally, consider trying an adaptogenic herb like Ashwagandha or Astragalus. They’ve been used in traditional Indian and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, as a natural way to boost your body’s defenses. Adaptogens work by increasing your body’s resilience to physical and emotional stress. Too much of any type of stress wears down your immune system so using these herbs during cold and flu season (or for as long as you need them can help strengthen your body.
Try Mom’s Traditional Remedies
If, despite your best efforts, you do come down with the flu or a nasty cold, make sure you rest and hydrate. And believe it or not, research really does show hot liquids like good old chicken soup and hot tea are natural ways to fight the flu.
I love to sip this Flu Fighter Tea. It’s soothing to your throat and helps break up congestion and lessen your symptoms if you do come down with the flu or a cold, but it might also help prevent it.
Flu Fighter “Tea”
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 Tbs honey
- 1 tsp finely chopped peeled, fresh ginger
- 1/2 tsp whole cloves
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
- splash of cranberry juice
- Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain solids and pour tea into a mug.
Do you have any tips for natural ways to prevent the flu?