One of the most common questions we get asked each year around this time is, “How do I keep from getting sick?”
Unfortunately, you can’t avoid breathing in and swallowing viruses every day. However, you don’t have to just hide out and hope for the best. Keeping those viruses from replicating is the key. And these three techniques will help you do just that. Being proactive is crucial in boosting your defense against the season’s cold and flu viruses.
#1: Eat well and exercise.
(You could probably bet we were going to say this!) Your nutrition really determines how strong your immune response is. For example, if you’re eating large amounts of sugar or drinking excessive alcohol, your immune response will be sluggish.
Like I mentioned above, if those viruses you’re swallowing don’t replicate, you won’t have problems. And reducing virus replication starts with a foundation of general wellness:
- Eat mostly vegetables, some fruits, and lean meats.
- Make sure your diet is low in sugar. (Sugar will just feed the viruses and decrease immune system response.)
- Exercise on a regular basis.
Those viruses that you’re breathing in tend to stick to your mucus membranes. Specific foods that we call “mucolytics” can help with that. Mucolytics are foods that thin out your mucus, so they’re not so sticky (which reduces the virus’ adherence). Plus, these foods have anti-viral effects. Foods that do this include garlic, onion, shallots, scallions, hot peppers, and cayenne pepper (just to name a few).
#2: Drink lots of liquids, including those that are warm.
It’s so important to drink as many liquids as possible during this season—room temperature water, soup, hot tea… even just hot water. When warm enough, these liquids can kill viruses. Plus, again, they don’t allow those viruses that you’re inevitably swallowing to stick to your mucus membranes—they push them into the digestive tract where stomach acid will kill them. (The warm liquids also act the same as those mucolytics that we talked about—they thin out the mucus, so it’s not as sticky.)
#3: Do a nasal flush once or twice a day.
Doing a nasal flush once or twice a day helps cleanse your nasal area of viruses. You can do this by using a neti pot, or a saline spray. Just use boiled or spring water, and add a half teaspoon of sea salt and a pinch of baking soda. Let it cool until mildly warm. Then, you can use this formula for either the neti pot or the spray. Using over the counter pure saline spray is also useful. Those with xylitol have an antiviral effect as well.
Bonus: A Couple Cold & Flu Season Recipes
Here are a couple of recipes to help you out this season. The first is Lemon Zinger “Tea”—it will not only help thin your mucus membranes, but will also give you an energy boost! And the second is one I like to call “Immune Soup”—it’s perfect for the cold and flu season.
Lemon Zinger “Tea”
juice of ½ of a lemon
1 tsp chopped crystallized ginger or fresh peeled ginger
1 tsp raw honey
Add to 1 cup boiling water.
Sip and enjoy! Add more honey for a soothing throat and cough remedy.
Serves 1 ½ cups to about 8
1 shallot, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
½ tsp coarse salt
In a large soup pot, sauté in 2 tablespoons olive oil on low heat until fragrant. (About 5 minutes.)
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp yellow curry
½ tsp freshly grated ginger
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
Sauté another few minutes until garlic is fragrant.
8 oz package shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
(Mushrooms are a great immune boosting food.)
zest of one lemon
juice of 2 lemons
Sauté for 5 minutes until mushrooms wilt.
Chop in long strips (chiffonade):
1 cup packed kale, arugula or spinach
Add to sauté.
Pour in 64 oz of vegetable or chicken broth.
Let cook for 30 minutes on low. Never boil or greens will lose their dark color. Garnish with chopped chives, parsley or scallions.
For a heartier meal, add 2 cups of lentils or navy beans and serve over rice or farro.