Pratt: Cold and flu prevention
With the holiday season over and school back in session, the flu season is in full swing.
Over the past few weeks, many people in the area have developed a variation of the flu virus, but if you have not, it is the best time to incorporate some flu prevention into your daily routine.
What are common ways to prevent the flu?
The flu shot is one step in prevention, but there are many ways you can keep yourself healthy in addition to the flu shot.
For example, sleep is one of the most important things we can do to keep ourselves healthy. While we sleep our body under takes growth and repair of necessary structures.
When we deprive ourselves of sleep, we deprive ourselves of our natural defenses trying to maintain our health.
In the winter months, try to get at least seven hours per night of uninterrupted sleep.
Other easy, but effective ways to prevent the flu include washing your hands regularly, drinking more water, reducing your intake of sugar, exercising regularly and managing your stress.
Stress not only affects our sleep, but also can also negatively impacts our immune function. Reducing stress can be easier said than done, but taking time to laugh and relax can go a long way in preventing illness.
With regards to supplements, Vitamin D3 is one of the most critical nutrients for our immune system. There are many studies that show a strong correlation to low levels of vitamin D and increased incidence of the flu.
Vitamin D has even been shown to reduce the severity and frequency of upper respiratory infections in children.
For prevention take 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day, or more with the guidance of a physician. Probiotics are also important in prevention.
Our natural flora is the front line between the outside world and our immune system. By having as much of the good bacteria in our system it helps to out compete the foreign bacteria and viruses.
So what to do if you have the flu?
Most important is to stay home and rest. The flu in an average adult is self-limited, so stay at home and catch up on your favourite movies or books.
Be sure to keep well hydrated with water and teas, not sugary juices. Sugar actually works against your immune system and can feed unwanted pathogens so if you’re sick, do avoid refined foods and sugar drinks.
Instead try having some nutrient dense fruit protein shakes, hearty soups and warming oatmeal.
Taking vitamins A, C and zinc can also be beneficial in supporting your immune system since they are depleted during the flu.
Vitamin C should be taken at a dose of 3,000 to 6,000 mg per day during an acute flu and zinc between 35 to 75mg.
Both can be found in a lozenge or given at higher doses through intravenous infusion. Your body, given the right tools, will take care of itself. However, if your flu last longer than a few days or you have concomitant health problems, consult your physician as soon as possible.