It’s time for that feeling of dread and terror—that feeling of dodging and hiding, knowing our fate could be lurking just around the next corner. It’s time for the flu season.
Maybe it’s the full-body ache or the ongoing nausea. Maybe it’s the spiking fever or the time spent hunched over, losing your lunch. Whatever it is that sends a shiver down your spine, all of us dread the thought of coming down with the flu.
Germs are abundant this time of year, but thankfully we aren’t as helpless as we may feel in the fight to stay healthy. Here are five ways to proactively combat the flu.
1. Wash your hands frequently
Germs can live on any surface for two hours or more—so unless you adopt some Adrian Monk tactics, you’re going to come into contact with any number of germs throughout the average day. Your simplest and best line of defense? Wash your hands.
Make a habit of washing your hands before eating or preparing food, after using the restroom, and when you return home. In our family we all cycle through handwashing the minute we walk in the door and set our things down. When you wash, antibacterial soap is not necessary, just make sure to give your hands a good scrub—aim for twenty seconds, about the time it takes to sing through the ABCs.
2. Minimize stress
Think you’re doing yourself a favor by pushing it extra hard this time of year? Think again. Stress is known to suppress your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to a whole host of germs. Rather than trying to cram more into each day, focus on your long-term goal of a healthy and productive season and scale back to make time to destress. Consider adding meditation, yoga, or acupuncture—all natural stress relievers—or schedule a weekly call with a good friend, or get to bed earlier.
3. Keep your gut healthy
Nearly 80% of your immune system is located in your gut. Make sure your gut is in tip-top shape, and take a high-quality, multi-strain probiotic with at least 25 billion units. This will keep your levels of good gut bacteria up to help fight off infections.
You can also up your immunity throughout the day by choosing probiotic foods like kefir, yogurt, kombucha, tempeh, and kimchi. Try adding one probiotic food to your diet each day for an immunity boost—you’ll likely find less inflammation and lowered cholesterol too.
4. Get plenty of exercise
Don’t let the cold weather and shorter daylight hours derail your workout routine. Staying active is more important than ever this time of year, as exercise boosts your body’s ability to fight off sickness. Not only is it a great stress reliever—slowing the release of stress hormones in the body—but exercise increases circulation, allowing antibodies to travel throughout your bloodstream faster, making it easier for your immune system to fight off an illness.
Still having trouble motivating yourself to stay active this time of year? Check out our pro-tips here.
5. Eat Foods Containing Phytochemicals
“Phyto” means plants, and the natural chemicals in them give the vitamins in food a supercharged boost. So put away the vitamin pill and eat dark green, red, and yellow veggies and fruits. And you’re in luck, because these are some of the season’s most delicious offerings. Winter is the perfect time for Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes—all known for being rich in phytochemicals.
Try shredding Brussels sprouts and cabbage for a crunchy salad base. Puree sweet potato and swirl into your morning oatmeal with cinnamon and a drizzle of honey. Use riced cauliflower in place of your starch. And look forward to a healthier winter.