In the U.S., cold and flu season typically starts in October and peaks between December and February. On average, the season lasts about 13 weeks. It usually ends in April, but in some years, it goes into May.
To protect yourself from the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting your annual flu shot during October.
Keep your masks on when you are in crowded indoor spaces and be vigilant about practicing physical distancing, especially when someone close by is coughing or sneezing. Hand washing and not touching your face are always important. And, it’s time to give our bodies an extra boost to fight off infection. Here are 4 areas you can start now:
Eat Real Food
Mushrooms have antiviral properties that can help strengthen your body against the flu virus. They contain many essential vitamins, such as vitamin B, C and D and are also high in protein, which is vital to build and repair body tissue and fight viral and bacterial infections. Our antibodies and immune system cells rely on protein. Too little protein in the diet may lead to symptoms of weakness, fatigue, apathy, and poor immunity. Every mushroom offers something different, so optimize your immune support by incorporating a variety into your dishes, like cremini, shiitake, white button and enoki.
Load up on members of the allium family, like garlic, onions, shallots, and chives. Garlic has been shown to reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms by increasing the activity of natural killer cells. Onions have properties that increase white blood cell counts, essential in fighting off pathogens. Sauté garlic and onions with mushrooms. It’s a winning cold/flu-fighting combination.
Carrots are an excellent source of beta carotene, which gives them their bright color. One of beta carotene’s jobs is to support the body’s mucus membrane, which lines the respiratory and intestinal tracts, making it harder for bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause trouble. Only eat organic carrots since it is root vegetable will absorb any pesticides and soil toxins. Cauliflower is high in choline which keeps your cells functioning properly and helps support a healthy gastrointestinal barrier, keeping bacteria safely confined in the gut. It is also rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off infection. Put both in your chicken vegetable soup!
Dump Highly Processed Foods
Highly processed food causes the wrong bacteria and yeast to grow in our bodies. Our immune function becomes compromised and then we aren’t able to fight off colds and flu. These foods contain a lot of extra sugar, salt, oil, and calories.
A good example is frozen pizza. Additives and preservatives are also added to increase the food’s shelf life. Watch out for ingredients like dextrose, maltose, sodium nitrite, BHA/BHT, benzene, trans fat, and hydrogenated oil. Foods loaded up with these are bad for our bodies.
Studies have shown spikes in sugar intake suppress your immune system. When your immune system is compromised, you are more likely to get sick. If you eat a lot of foods and beverages high in sugar or refined carbohydrates, which the body processes as sugar, you may be reducing your body’s ability to ward off disease.
A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes. Laughter boosts the immune system, decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, improving your resistance to disease. So stay away from depressing movies/TV shows and treat yourself to comedies or read the comics. Make sure you laugh a lot every day.
Move, Move Move
Less sitting more moving! Physical activity helps flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This can reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.
Exercise causes change in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). WBCs are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease. Aim to get your 10,000 steps done every day. Walk, stretch, dance, housework and gardening all count. Find the movement that you enjoy. Many of the things we do for fun (and work) count as moving. Raking the yard counts as physical activity. So does ballroom dancing and playing with your kids or grandkids. As long as you’re doing some form of movement for at least 30 minutes a day, you can consider yourself an “moving” person.