Winter is here. And with it, the cold and flu season is upon us. But not to worry because there are some simple ways to take care of your immune health and avoid cold and flu this winter season.
I know that all of us, especially mamas, are all concerned about catching the ailments of the season- the dreaded cold and flu!
And we also now have COVID the new scourge that seems to be an all-seasons big health issue. As COVID is always rapidly evolving, I advise seeing the CDC guidelines in preventative care as well as what to do if you have exposure or contract COVID. I also have a post that addresses more measures to prevent COVID and also avoid COVID induced anxiety.
- COVID is scary and the best thing is to follow all the guidelines. And be sure to wear a mask when you go out
- Don’t go out if you have been exposed or are sick with covid
- Don’t bring people to your house or gather with others you don’t live with
- Clean clean clean especially your hands and surfaces
Now let’s talk about colds and flu and other gross respiratory illness that plague us during the winter months…
The cold or the flu can make winter even more dreary than the short days, dark evenings, and the bitterly cold weather. As such, we all need to guard against getting sick this winter from the flu, or the cold, or any other contagious maladies.
Being sick really sucks and tends to reduce real-life to a crawl of misery. As mommas, we have goals to accomplish and a life to live and we really “ain’t got time for that!’ No, we don’t! Babies need care, houses need cleaning, the food needs cooking and a whole host of things to do that won’t get done when you are laid out sniffling and aching all over.
That means we have to stop the cold before it begins. We have to have a strong immune system that fights this battle without you even knowing something is going on because the bugs will die before they get you down.
And we have to have environments that are clean.
You know ladies, what happens when you get the cold.
Either everything halts or you continue to run the household regardless.
Let’s beat cold and flu this season with these simple natural tips to optimize your immune health. We can have a healthy winter.
So here are some tips to keep you running at top speed this winter and, thriving in health. Don’t get slowed by the flu this winter.
You see, the cold and flu viruses and some bacteria that cause some respiratory illness are usually contracted mostly through contact with surfaces that are germy, or droplets getting in contact with your mucous membranes.
The gross part of this process is that those germs came from someone else’s nose or mouth and ended up in your nose eyes or mouth somehow.
Yea! it’s gross.
But you can avoid this. You can keep these nasties from coming into contact with you.
You can also arm your immune system to fight for you should these bugs somehow find their way into your body by using the following strategies.
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1. Practice simple hygiene
Keeping proper hygiene is the most important way to keep you, your family and others from getting sick with winter cold and flu. Yes by simply cleaning your hands often you can protect yourself and minimize the chances of getting sick this winter.
The easiest way to contract a cold or flu is to touch something someone with these illness has touched. And those bugs can stay on surfaces you touch for 24 hours. So it is recommended you wash your hands many times per day and wipe surfaces with antibacterial cleaner.
Find a natural alternative antimicrobial cleaner so you don’t bring toxins into your home. You don’t want get sick from toxins in some cleaners either.
We are living in a very toxic world introduced to us sometimes by the household items we use. Clean all surfaces that are touched constantly in your house, and at work if you work in an office.
And do stay away from that public coffee pot. Be wary of the work fridge and microwave for example. Clean the keyboards and all work environments that are touched often.
Wipe down the surface you touch all the time as a family as well. Sanitize surface often. These include fridge doors, microwave doors, door handles, tables, toilet handles, and faucets.
Use a paper towel at work to open doors. I know this is overboard but you can’t be too careful.
And do clean that cell phone with antibacterial wipes. The same goes for your Keyboards, door handles of appliances and door knobs. Anything that people touch a lot needs to be disinfected often. Think of that microwave button also.
Trust me when I tell you that your hands and many of our environments and the things we touch over and over are riddled with millions of germs such as bacteria and viruses.
And for a reason that I need to research, these viruses that cause the flu and cold are just much more active when the temperatures dip. Let me know what this is if you know the answer to that.
2. Hand hygiene.
Hand washing requires a bit more emphasis and elaboration. Hand Hygiene is so important in preventing contagious illness such as flu and cold, so we need to talk about it a little more.
Some people don’t usually think about hand hygiene when they are out and about running errands. You go to the supermarket and you touch the fruits and everyone else touches them. They should I think have hand sanitizer at the door and encourage people to sanitize their hands.
Since writing this I found that my Supermarket, Krogers has this winter began to put some hand sanitizer and wipes at the door. Way to go Krogers! Another place that worries me is the gas station. That pump! eew! Everyone touches the pump. So carry your own hand sanitizer so you can clean your hands when you are in those public places where we all touch the stuff as a community.
Not to forget, wash your hands often even in your own environment at home, especially if you’re sick or there is a family member who is sick. Encourage them to wash their hands often. To thoroughly clean your hands, use soap and water and good friction, rubbing your hands for at least 15 seconds.
Keep paper towels in the bathroom and use one to turn the tap on and then wash your hands. Then use a clean paper towel to dry your hands and if not too wet, use it to turn the faucet off. Sometimes I even use another paper towel to open the door to get out of the bathroom because some people don’t wash their hands. Yuuck!
Sing the ABCD song while you wash to be sure that you have cleaned long enough, and be sure you wash between the fingers and under fingernails. Yea, there is a science to washing hands. This is so crucial that they test health care workers on the science of hand washing often.
Alright, let’s say you somehow got unlucky and are sick with a cold or the flu. Please do throw away the Kleenex every time after use. I know you are saying, Duh!
But I will tell you some people put those nasty things in their pockets! eew! eew! Use a fresh one every time you blow your nose and keep sanitizer handy.
Also, don’t sneeze into the palm of your hands. I know it is the reflex think, but retrain your brain to use the crook of your arm. That way you are not likely to touch other surfaces with the sneezed on hands in case you did not sanitize.
Okay, I know you are thinking. You are supposed to be telling me what to do not to get sick, but now you are talking about what to do if I am sick. What gives? Well, there are no guarantees in life.
(This is in case, somehow you touched a surface that is germy and your immunity is not at par and you got sick anyway.)
So let us just say that somehow in a moment of forgetfulness you touched a dirty surface or someone sneezed into your face, or someone insisted on shaking your hand and they should have known better, and now you are sick.
Well, it is better for all if you keep this from going round and round and the whole household and your office gets sick. So you do your due diligence by protecting others and ultimately protecting yourself.
3. Eat healthily
Eating a healthy diet can go along way in protecting one from the onslaught of the winter flu and cold infections. Make sure your diet includes a healthy dose of leafy green vegetables such as spinach, collards, other colorful veggies, and fruits as well as many whole foods. Include foods rich in healthy fats such as avocados, salmon, seeds, and nuts.
I have found that the old adage, “let food be your medicine and your medicine your food, holds a lot of truth.” Many people who eat primarily the SAD diet, and so aptly named, are just more susceptible to the common cold and other infections. Make your food colorful.
Some people are just susceptible to colds, and the flu due to a weakened immune system for various reasons including diet, age and an overall state of health but eating healthy will protect even those people from frequent infections.
But for many people, it is possible to prevent getting colds and flu if you have taken the necessary measure to arm your immune health through wholesome nutrition. Believe me, there is strength in spinach.
Eating the right nutrient-dense foods for of the right vitamins and minerals, including healthy fats and micronutrients, is like putting armor against microorganisms that try to invade your body. You can beat the cold or the flu by simply eating healthy food.
This is a great reason to ditch processed foods, sugary drinks, and fried foods. Stay with the rainbow and you will be alright, enjoying overall better health.
Apart from strengthening your immune system, you will also combat inflammation, weight gain, and even some mental problems such as depression and anxiety.
Related: Depression Nutrition: Food that Improves Mood and Mental Health
10 Easy Tips to help you Manage your anxiety
4. Try to make sure that you get enough of the following nutrients daily:
I am all for taking that multivitamin. Current American and western diet is extremely lacking in nutrients. However, you can always try to eat mindfully choosing foods that are great for health, ones that are nutrient dense.
I recommend lots of green veggies and fruits. Skip sodas and bottled juices and unless you juice fruits at home the store ones are loaded with sugar and little else of value.
The reason you need a multivitamin or optimizing your diet to ensure you get micronutrients is that almost all the vitamins play a role in keeping you healthy and strengthening your immunity.
- Vitamin E: It is an antioxidant that supports the immune health by scavenging oxidant radicals in the body for a better function immune health.
- Vitamin A. Per 2010 study published in Pub Med, Vitamin A and Vitamin D take center stage in immune health
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C has held a paramount position when it comes to fighting the seasonal cold and flu. We have viewed it as the king of protective vitamins in the area of immune health.
- You can avoid getting the flu or cold during the cold months.
Eat foods that are rich in vitamin C such as oranges, peppers. Red bell peppers, for example, have more vitamin C than oranges. including foods with lots of leafy green vegetables, fruits such as berries, oranges is protective against winter colds and flu.
You have an army of immune cells to fight this battle in the background if you have been eating the right immune health foods.
However, there is now controversy some research is showing that vitamin C may not be all that protective.
Some studies show that it really doesn’t keep one from getting a cold, but it can lessen the length of the illness by at least one day, reports Havard Health Publishing, but when you are feeling miserably ill with a cold, even one day less without a cold is worth it.
I would encourage people to still eat healthily and include all the vitamins and minerals they need because the body requires a plethora of nutrients to function well. And vitamin C is still a potent antioxidant and is beneficial for strengthening the immune system and is needed for many other biological processes.
On the other hand, this 2017 study in Nutrients states that vitamin C contributes to immune health by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and the adaptive immune systems.
For instance, vitamin C helps the phagocytotic immune cells, that kill foreign cells and such as bacteria and viruses or microbial killing.
Without going into all the heavy duty behind the scenes work of vitamin C, such as including support of T cells and B cells, the article states that deficiency in vitamin C does weaken the immune system and makes one vulnerable to infections. In short, optimize your immune health by including vitamin C rich foods and supplements if necessary.
The article mentioned adds that supplementation with 100-200 mg of vitamin C appears to prevent respiratory and systemic infections, while treatment of already in effect infections requires more due to the effects of inflammation and heightened metabolic demands.So despite the controversy, I would say its best to have enough vitamin C onboard daily.
However, note that too much vitamin C is just flushed out in the urine if more than needed is consumed.
Also of note is that low levels of vitamin C are found in those who already suffer from chronic illnesses including diabetes, arthritis, and other diseases that end up causing more inflammation and leading to use of more vitamin C.And per article in Life Extension, it may be that the inadequate vitamin C levels led to the development of these diseases in the first place.
So getting vitamin C is still essential. The study found that vitamin C not only reduced the incidence of respiratory infections but also reduced the severity.
Other studies, found that supplementation with vitamin C reduced the pneumonia incidence by a whopping 85 %.
Try and get your vitamin c from foods so you can also get other important micronutrients that are likely to support your immune health.
- Vitamin D You can avoid getting the cold and flu this winter by making sure you have enough vitamin D on board.
This is one of the vitamins that many people are deficient in, in our modern world due to deficient diets and lifestyles. Many people in the world are deficient.
About 50% of the world’s population is deficient in vitamin D. You can get Vitamin D by making sure you spend some time outdoors daily. However that is hard in the wintertime, and most people work indoors so they don’t get much sunlight exposure.
According to ae 2011 article published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine, vitamin D is necessary for a healthy immune system, and in fact, researchers found that vitamin D receptors are expressed on immune cells, T cells and B cells and antigen presenting cells and these immune cells are all able to synthesize the active and vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune systems.
Per research, vitamin D deficiency is associated with autoimmune diseases and susceptibility to infections. In fact, studies have reported more upper respiratory infections in people with vitamin D deficiencies
It is also harder for people with dark pigmentation to get enough vitamin D naturally through sun exposure.
So diet may help as well as supplementation with vitamin D supplements. There some foods rich in vitamin D such as mushrooms that can synthesize vitamin D.
Other sources include oysters, salmon, preferably wild, and fortified milk as well as fortified nut milk, and cereals or oatmeal.
- Magnesium; Magnesium is one of the most important minerals one needs for overall health. Lots of research is showing just how much it contributes to health and prevention of diseases, participating in over 300 biochemical processes in the bod
An article published in 2003 in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that magnesium is necessary for the proper functioning of both the innate and adaptive immune systems.
These immune systems need to be strong to cope with the onslaught of the cold and flu season. So you have a better chance to avoid these winter sicknesses if you have the optimal levels of magnesium.
The good news is that it is easy to supplement and to incorporate foods that are rich in magnesium.
Related: Many people are deficient in magnesium, are you?
5. Drink tea
There are many reasons I love tea. First of all, tea is so soothing when the weather turns frigid, and nothing is as comforting as a warm cup of tea on a wintry day.
Also, many teas including black and green and oolong teas contain a compound called quercetin which is a strong antioxidant. Antioxidants boost the immune system so they can fight viruses and bacteria to keep you healthy through winter and beyond.
So include a cup of tea this winter and you will keep a more strengthened immune health.
6. Foods rich in probiotics, or supplements
Probiotics in foods such as yogurt and kefir and fermented foods, such as suarkraut not only keep your gut healthy, they keep a lot of you healthy including your brain health, and turns out, they can also protect you from respiratory infections, this 2011 research study found.
7. Sleep enough
Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash
It is during sleep that the body does its clean up, replenishing and restoring. Lack of sleep or lack of enough sleep alters these processes it halts them leading to repercussions such as reduced immunity.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is important for overall health. As such it plays a big role in keeping you healthy enough to fight infections including the seasonal cold and flu.
Lack of sleep or lack of sleep is a major problem for many people in the modern world. No wonder, in the age of technology and rapid economic development many people are suffering from a lot of chronic diseases and other illnesses such as cancer, pneumonia, and inflammatory diseases, and a down-regulated immunity.
One cause of this is lifestyle choices such as increased screen time and exposure to electronics blue light before going to sleep. a part of it. There are many repercussions to this including sleep disturbances. for example lack of sleep leads to excessive stress, and we know that stress leads to lots of cortisol production, which leads to the suppression of immune health. And susceptibility to the flu and colds.
Also, everyone knows how one feels when they are sleep deprived. One is is just dragging all day long. Personally, I get muscle aches especially along the shoulders making me feel like I need to book a week-long massage session.
A person who is sleep deprived is simply more susceptible to illness as the background work to strengthen all body systems and do necessary renal is not accomplished when sleep is disturbed.
Exercise is great for weight loss, but it is also so essential as a way to keep the body vibrant and mental health in zen, and very important for immune health. When you exercise you get you to feel good hormones going and keep cortisol the stress hormones at bay.
This keeps your immunity high also because it increases your circulation allowing more disease-fighting white blood cells to circulate. so go on bundle up and step outside for a nice brisk walk, and you will stay much stronger and healthier this winter and for months to follow.
Research also has found that some white blood cells, the macrophages are more active in obesity and even some fat cells produce inflammatory substances that in turn elevate inflammation leading to lowered immunity.
9. Drink enough water
We all know that our body is composed of lots of water. We know that water is cleansing. It is required as a transit system for nutrients, and to flush out toxins and impurities.
You should drink at least a gallon of water daily. This way your body is able to receive the nutrients necessary to fight germs and clean your body of impurities that can make you sick.
10. Avoid stress
Do everything you can to avoid stress. How you ask? I know modern life is always having us pulled in a million different directions. Cut back on what you can. Don’t sweat the little things.
Don’t overcommit your time. Don’t stress because your house is not perfect. There are many ways of keeping stress at bay. These may include budgeting your money properly so you are not always worried about finances.
It also includes planning your time well. Get a planner such as this one, so you can streamline your commitments. Use one day a week such as Sunday to plan for the next week.
Wake up early so you are not running like a headless chicken in the morning, and start your day calm.
Avoiding chronic stress to ensure that your body is not busy pumping out cortisol all the time in a perpetual fight or flight mode. As already mentioned, too much cortisol suppresses your immune system leaving you vulnerable to diseases including the cold and flu.
Other ways to reduce stress is making sure to set a little time for self-care. Prioritize your self-care helps you avoid being sick and makes you feel more balanced.
And when you are really feeling in tune with yourself, you are likely to feel relaxed and this helps build a strong immunity. So self-care is important.
Remember that when you practice self-care you are doing it for your family too. A happy mommy is a more loving mom. So all win when momma is happy and importantly, healthy.
You can also de-stress by practicing mindfulness meditation and yoga. These practices are becoming more and more mainstream as research is now showing their health benefit. Mediation will destress you and this, in turn, improves your immune health.
You can also ground yourself by practicing daily gratitude. Being grateful for the blessings you already have puts everything in perspective.
Avoiding stress will boost your health and wellbeing. And one great benefit is avoiding the seasons cold and flu, and likely even other illnesses.
11. Avoid excess alcohol
Drinking alcohol in excess is bad for immune health for different reasons. Excesses alcohol can lead to dysfunction in the protective barriers in the respiratory tract, cause liver dysfunction, nutritional deficiencies and it impairs many other body’s defense mechanisms. This then makes one vulnerable to infections including the cold and flu.
Keep in mind that when one drinks alcohol, especially in excess, the liver suspends all other work to deal with alcohol.
That means the work of immune health is suspended for a time as your liver, the bodies detoxifier, goes to work to deal with the alcohol first, and then the viruses and bacteria are free to invade unstopped. That means the body is left defenseless against a slew of diseases including those that cause the cold and the flu.
12. Don’t smoke
You know smoking is not good for your health. Everyone knows this. It is quite bad because, for instance, smoking can cause respiratory problems.
One thing that happens is that smoking kills the protective barriers in the respiratory system such as the cilia, that are these little traps that trap foreign objects including bacteria from invading the body. Smoking disrupts the physical and biosynthetic systems the body uses to defend itself.
This makes one an easy target for illnesses such as colds as it suppresses your immune health.
Also, cigarettes are loaded with many toxins that disrupt your immune health. Smoking also constricts your blood vessels restricting blood flow. This affects your circulation which slows the distribution of nutrients needed to boost your immune health and the bodies ability to flush out toxins leading to dysfunction in the body.
This leads to inefficiency in the body’s ability to defend itself against pathogens, such as those that cause the cold and flu.
Smoking increases the toxic load, slows and impairs the immune system, and makes it hard for the body to fight the seasonal onslaught of the flu or the common cold.
13. Be social
Human beings are supposed to be social animals. It is good for survival, and it is essential for your immune health. You do have to avoid people who are sick with the flu or the cold. And do please stay home if you yourself are sick or your kids are sick, do keep them home.
It’s best for all.
However, when you are healthy, keeping healthy relationships and being in touch with your friends boosts your immune health.
You know that when you hang out with your girls, you laugh and you joke and carry on. Have you noticed you go home feeling light and smiley? Your stress is gone and you feel happy.
So now you know that stress affects immunity, and by having all this fun, you avoid stress keeping your cortisol levels down and you build a strong immune system.
Be social is a win-win situation as it helps you build strong relationships, happiness, less stress, and turns out even a strong immune system!
Self-care is important in keeping you healthy and preventing illness including seasonal sicknesses such as flu and cold. If you are taking good care of yourself, it means you do take time to eat well, to rest, to socialize. This keeps your immune health strong.
When you practice good self-care, it means you remember to drink enough water and avoid sodas and other sweetened drinks. If you take good care of your physical needs as well as you’re emotional ones you lessen chances of getting sick.
For one, you will have less stress and that means less stress hormone down-regulating your immune health. Can I say this enough? Well, we live in a much more stressful world.
And it also means you take much better care of your needs which will also help you stay healthy and may easily reduce the chances of getting the winter ills of flu and colds.
As this winter unfolds, I hope that you stay healthy. And to do so, it is important to take measures to shield your self and your family from the cold and flu, the twin menace of the winter season.
So my friend, eat, drink ( healthy drinks), sleep, be merry and be healthy.
You can avoid getting the flu or cold during the cold months.
Check this post for more ideas to practice great self-care here.
Related: Simple Habits to Fine Tune Your Life For a happier and Improved Life
You can face the cold season boldly knowing that you have taken good measures to optimize your health and minimize chances of contracting any of winters onslaught of sickness.
Okay. Did I leave anything out? Tell me below, how do you protect yourself from getting sick with the seasonal colds and flu?
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