Influenza is a serious illness that claims 250,000 to 500,000 lives around the globe each year, particularly during the cold weather seasons. (1) Symptoms such as fever, body aches, fatigue, and dry cough are common and can last up to a week in most people. But chilly weather doesn’t mean getting the flu is inevitable. There are natural ways to prepare for flu season such as reducing stress, implementing healthy habits, and taking natural supplements to help balance the immune system and keep the body going strong all season long.
Drinking enough hydrating fluids is one of the best ways to prepare for flu season. Water, herbal teas, coconut water, and broths keep the sinuses moist, which aids the body in ridding itself of mucus and phlegm. (2) Sugary drinks may contribute to dehydration, and too much sugar leads to imbalances in the immune system. (3)
Boost Hygiene Habits
Washing hands frequently with soap and warm water prevents viruses from being spread through bodily contact. Coughing and sneezing into the elbow, rather than a bare hand which then touches other items, can keep germs from spreading to others who touch those objects. (4) When it comes to defending against the flu, cleanliness and hygiene are crucial.
Get plenty of rest
Sleep is vital for warding off viruses. In a 2015 study on how sleep affects the immune system, 164 participants were infected with a cold virus. Those who got less than six hours of sleep were four times as likely to show symptoms than those who got the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep. (5) Settling in for long winter snoozes supports a healthy body throughout the season.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
A balanced diet promotes a balanced immune system, and aids in fighting off viruses. To prepare for flu season, eat plenty of whole, unprocessed foods. Some of the best choices are cruciferous vegetables, seasonal fruits, and sustainably sourced proteins. These healthy foods support supplementation of proven flu-fighting vitamins such as zinc and vitamin C. (2) A healthy, nutritious diet is a great line of defense. Obesity and malnutrition can suppress immune functions. Eat for a strong body, strong mind, and strong defenses.(6)
Scientific evidence and history of traditional use suggests that herbal remedies and therapies may help ward off respiratory viruses, and increase recovery time if you do get sick.(7) Chinese herbal formulas Yin Qiao San, Gui Zi Tang, and Ge Gen Tang, as well as a Tibetan herbal formula containing 19 unique botanical ingredients, can help reduce inflammation, boost circulation, improve immune function and increase antioxidant defenses. Also, tonifying and adaptogenic herbs such as Astragalus, Ginseng and Siberian ginseng can be effective on a preventative level or can help combat symptoms once they’ve set in, depending on the specific characteristics of the flu or cold.
Modified Citrus Pectin is a natural product made from citrus fruit peels, modified for enhanced absorption and bioactivity. Over 65 published studies on MCP demonstrate its powerful ability to support healthy body functions. Studies show MCP can help balance long-term immunity, and remove toxins from the body, while actively fighting more serious disease processes in the body driven by a protein called Galectin-3. MCP can also promote the function of virus-fighting cells. (8) This natural supplement is a powerhouse in optimizing immunity, while supporting key areas of health, all the way to the cellular level.
Medicinal mushrooms are rich sources of healing and protective compounds, such as beta-glucans which help to optimize immune function. (8) The species that demonstrate the most benefits for immune health include Reishi, Maitake, Shiitake, and Oyster mushrooms. A handful of studies demonstrate the ability of medicinal mushrooms to inhibit the spread of influenza.(9) Protect against future threats of infection with nourishing support found in these time-honored natural therapies.
Vitamins and Minerals
Along with herbal therapies and supplementation, certain vitamins and minerals have evidence supporting their role as effective immune-supportive nutrients. (7) Top researched nutrients for immunity are zinc and vitamin C. Zinc aids the body in making germ-fighting white blood cells. Vitamin C is shown to support the body in fighting off infections. Natural sources of zinc include healthy proteins such as legumes, nuts, and free-range eggs. Vitamin C sources include cruciferous vegetables, bell peppers fresh herbs, and a number of fruits including oranges and strawberries. (2)
Use a humidifier or inhale steam
The flu virus thrives in cooler, dry air. Colder weather lowers the humidity, which can strengthen the virus and allow it to spread more quickly. If a humidifier isn’t practical, a good practice is inhaling steam. Warm water soothes the nose, sinuses, and sore throat. It can also loosen mucus, making cough more productive and less irritating. Inhaling steam aids in relieving any swelling in the nose and lungs. For a truly added benefit, add essential oils to the warm water. (2)
Obesity is a high indicator of being more susceptible to infections. Effective exercise doesn’t necessarily mean going hard at the maximum heart rate for an extended period of time. Regular exercise can be simply a walk in the park or taking short breaks to stretch and strengthen after sitting at a computer. Looking for opportunities to move improves energy and relieves stress, which are important factors in fighting off viruses.
Prepare for Flu Season Every Day
Supporting a healthy and strong immune system protects the body in the here and now, as well as in the future. Flu strains vary from year to year. (1) The best way to beat a strong opponent is to develop a strong defense. Reducing stress with a healthy diet, plenty of rest, and regular exercise creates a solid foundation. Supplementation with herbal therapies, Modified Citrus Pectin, medicinal mushrooms, and vitamins bolster immune function and wards off future attacks. Daily practices with good hygiene and wellness habits to prepare for the flu season create a harmonious balance with the environment and the body.
Winter doesn’t need to be a season of worry and anxiety. Make it a time to stay warm, and stay healthy, in a natural and nourishing way.
1. Pritish K. Tosh, M., Thomas G. Boyce, MD., Gregory A. Poland, MD. Flu Myths: Dispelling the Myths Associated with Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2008 January 01; Volume 83 (1): 1-8 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5676035_Flu_Myths_Dispelling_the_Myths_Associated_With_Live_Attenuated_Influenza_Vaccine
2. Iftikhar N. Natural flu remedies: For symptom relief and to shorten duration. Healthline.com. Published April 10, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/natural-flu-remedies
3. Vavrek, Kacie, MS, RD, CSSD. Foods to Avoid When You Have the Flu. Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center; 2019, July 6.
4. CDC. Healthy habits to help prevent flu. Cdc.gov. Published September 23, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/actions-prevent-flu.htm
5. Besedovsky, Luciana, Ph.D. and Born, Jan, Ph.D. Sleep, Don’t Sneeze: Longer Sleep Reduces the Risk of Catching a Cold. Sleep, 2015, September. Volume 38 (9) 1341–1342
6. Salge, Blake, J. “Your Diet and Longevity: Food for Thought,” Boston Globe sponsored Boomers and Seniors Seminar, World Trade Center, Boston, MA; 2011, October 30.
7. Abdul-Lateef Mousa, Haider, MBChB, MSc. Prevention and Treatment of Influenza-Like Illness, and Common Cold by Herbal, Complementary, and Natural Therapies. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2017, January 22; (1) 166-174.
8. Eliaz, Isaac. Stay Healthy on the Job This Cold & Flu Season. Occupational Health and Safety. 2011, November 1. Volume 8 (11).
9. Adams, Case, M.D. Medicinal Mushrooms Prove to Fight Influenza. Journal of Plant Medicines. 2018, April 11.