There remains much debate over whether or not to get your yearly “flu shot.” That’s a decision that should be made after researching current findings, talking with your health care provider, and trusting your gut. Whether or not you opt for the flu shot, however, there are other measures you can take to help avoid the flu – all by boosting your immune system. Let’s talk about some of these.
Diet – Foods and conditions which may negatively impact the immune system include:
• Rancid oils (keep all oils, nuts, and seeds in refrigerator)
• Excessive Alcohol
• Excessive Caffeine
• Processed foods
• Over cooked foods (over cooked foods lack the necessary vitamins and minerals necessary for building immune components)
• Excessive food quantities (can lead to obesity which can contribute to a depressed immune system)
• Food Allergies
Exercise – Moderate, consistent exercise benefits the immune response and when exercise is performed daily, the effect becomes cumulative. Those who exercise regularly, therefore, will be better able to recover from health challenges and will be sick less frequently. (Extreme exercise negates this benefit.)
Sleep – Lack of sleep is related to obesity as well as a depressed immune system. Melatonin, an antioxidant hormone which stimulates the immune system is normally increased at night, allowing restful sleep. Electrical pollution, however can interfere with Melatonin production and thus affect our immune system as well as our quality of sleep. It is advised by Ann Louise Gittleman in her book Zapped, to have minimal or no electronic devices in the bedroom, including cell phones. Wireless routers should be unplugged, electric blankets removed, and any appliances such as alarm clocks at least six feet away from the bed. Limiting alcohol can also help by allowing the deep restful sleep needed.
Stress management – By now most of us know that stress impacts the immune system. One way to reduce stress and boost the immune system is through catharsis – laughing, crying, talking to a trusted friend or adviser, and journaling. One famous study measured college students’ number of visits to the health clinic. Half of the students were instructed to journal daily, the other half were given no special instructions. It was found that the students who journaled had significantly less visits to the health clinic than those who did not! And we know that ~80% of all physician visits are for stress-related illness.
Spiritual practice – This can include anything from meditation, gratitude, and strong connections with others to laughing, dancing, singing and being in nature. It seems our immune system benefits from liberal doses of joy and connection, including pets.
In addition to these measures, frequent hand washing and avoidance of those who are obviously sick with a respiratory illness are recommended. Since you can’t avoid “germs” such as influenza virus altogether, it’s always prudent to keep your immune system in good running order. So take a walk, eat your veggies, get plenty of sleep, take time for fun and listen to the voice within.