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. For additional protection against the flu, and other winter viruses, work on boosting you immune system, so if you are exposed, you have a fighting chance.
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. 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 at least three servings, of oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries each day.
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. Since most of our Vitamin D is made when our skin is exposed to sunlight, it’s understandable that we can have lower levels in the winter. Wild salmon, and fortified milk and orange juice are the best food sources, so if you live in a northern latitude, and don’t get several servings of these foods daily, it may be wise to take a supplement. 600-800 IU/day is recommended for adults. Four oz of wild salmon has about 500 IUs (farmed salmon has much less) and 8 oz of fortified milk or OJ has about 130 IUs.
You might not realize it, but the 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. Eating a serving of yogurt 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.
Finally, 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.
If, despite your best efforts, you do come down with the flu or a nasty cold, make sure you rest and hydrate. Hot liquids like this Flu Fighter Tea, are soothing to the throat, and help to break up congestion and lessen your symptoms.
- 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.