This year my youngest son entered pre-K and my oldest first grade, which means a whole new world of exposure to illness this winter. I’m hoping it won’t be a long, hard season, but just in case, I’m making sure my family is in fighting shape for the battle against germs. Training starts now!
If you want to get ahead of flu season this year too, check out the four suggestions below. While some options are practical and rooted in common sense, they bear repeating because we tend to forget their effectiveness.
This might seem like a no-brainer—once we’re reminded of it, that is. Germs1 can get into the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth and make us sick. While most of us wash our hands at the normally expected moments (i.e., in the bathroom), we tend to forget to do it at times when it doesn’t come as naturally. To support optimal health, we should wash our hands after:
- touching objects (e.g., cell phones, door handles)
- shaking hands
- caring for someone ill
- touching an animal
- sneezing or coughing
*If you have little ones, remember this list applies to them too!
Sleep is underrated. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to brag about functioning without sleep. However, lack of sleep is more detrimental than we’d like to believe. According to the experts at Mayo Clinic2, “Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.” The recommended amount of sleep varies for different age ranges. For adults ages 18–64, it’s 7-9 hours. For children ages 1-17, the average is 10 hours, plus naps for little ones.
Getting a good night’s sleep depends on a few factors, including diet, stress and physical surroundings. In a previous blog post, we outlined how a few diet changes could impact your sleep cycle.
We all know that having a balanced diet is “good for you,” but following through on that maxim is another story. It’s easy to end up with a lack of balance in our food intake, usually heavier on the side of nutrient-poor carbohydrates. By adding more fruits and vegetables into our diet, we get the benefit of micronutrients that support immune function, for instance, vitamin A, vitamin D, B vitamins, and zinc. Incorporate these foods into your diet this fall to get a head start on immunity:
- sweet potato, pumpkin (vitamin A)
- salmon, trout (vitamin D)
- beans, eggs, dark leafy greens (B vitamins)
- wheat germ, wild rice, tempeh, lentils (zinc)
Sambucol, an extract of black elderberry, has been shown to reduce the duration of the flu. When the flu hit my household last winter, my 5-year-old son and I were spared. As soon as symptoms showed up, I hightailed it to the local natural-foods grocery and bought an elderberry syrup both he and I could take. It tastes good and the cost is reasonable—a far better option than missing work and school as well as feeling terrible for a week or two! Pro tip: Juice Plus+ Berry Blend capsules and chewables are a convenient way to slip a little elderberry into your daily diet.
“Show Me the Science—Why Your Hands?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html
“Lack of Sleep—Can It Make You Sick?” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757
“The Effect of Sambucol.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11399518