Natural Flu Prevention Using Mother Nature & Lifestyle Hacks
It starts with some sniffles, maybe a tickle in the back of the throat.
The next day, it’s full-on coughs and fever—maybe even headaches, fatigue, aches, and confusion all added to the mix.
Though it seems like just a really bad cold at first, it might manage to knock out work, plans, and commitments for an entire week, and sometimes even longer.
When this happens, we realize we’re not dealing with a cold. We’re dealing with the full-on flu.
WHEN IT COMES TO FIGHTING THE FLU: ARE WE ON OUR OWN?
It’s known all too well that there aren’t any medicines that fully “cure” or eradicate the flu.
In the realm of mainstream medicine, we are truly on our own— save for the doctor’s routine recommendations and encouragement to get the flu shot.
Yet we’re not as completely unarmed and vulnerable to the flu as we think.
Apparently, some natural tips and home remedies could really come in handy when the flu rolls on through—and maybe some of the most surprisingly effective front-line flu-fighters we have if we would just think about the flu a little differently.
A few of these remedies are even shown to be scientifically effective, studies suggest.
What’s more, many of us might not realize that the natural world holds secrets to helping us combat flu by boosting our immune systems.
Are we really alone when fighting the flu, with our best choice being the flu shot?
Not so, if we look to nature for answers.
DEALING WITH SEASONAL CHANGE: IT’S COLD AND FLU SEASON
When winter and shortened daylight come around, we know it’s time to look out for colds and respiratory illnesses. It’s also an especially good time to look out for the flu—which is a short nickname for the illness’s full name, influenza.
But why do we get the flu in winter? What makes winter the official cold and flu season?
Colds and flus are quite similar because they are both viruses. This has a lot to do with why they’re easier to catch in winter.
When air is dry, cold, and lacking moisture—which is common in winter— viruses are much more free and mobile to travel from person to person. Thus, we get sick way more in winter.
Researchers think we don’t get as sick as often in fall, spring, or summer because the air gets too humid. This makes moisture cling to viruses and impede their movement.
WHAT MAKES COLDS DIFFERENT FROM THE FLU?
But despite their similarities, however, these two viruses are also very different.
Getting a cold usually lasts up to a week, at most. On the other hand, getting the flu could last for a full week on average, and sometimes even longer.
What’s worse, in people like the young, elderly, and immune-compromised, getting influenza can even be deadly compared to the less-harmful cold.
Since both colds and flu are viruses though, battling them in winter can be difficult. For this reason, mainstream medicine has come up with the flu vaccine as a highly recommended way to combat the flu.
Still, owing to the viral nature of influenza, there might be issues with the flu shot—and in some ways, it might not be enough.
FLU SHOTS AND VACCINES: THE MEASURE WE TRUST THE MOST
Why is it that we depend on a flu shot or vaccine so much during flu season?
The answer: it’s because there are no over-the-counter medications available to people that actually kill viruses.
Though some doctors prescribe antibiotics for colds and flu, even these are misused and misinformed methods for flu-fighting. Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria, not viruses—“anti-” means “against,” while “bio” means “life.”
Viruses, unfortunately, are not living creatures. For the most part, antibiotics just don’t work against them—and though “anti-virals” have been developed, thus far the go-to mainstream method for battling the flu has been flu vaccines.
Flu vaccines, or flu shots, work by injecting a small part of the flu virus into the body. This allows the immune system to build specific antibodies to the flu so when the body does experience it, it automatically has a way to fight it.
Sounds like a surefire way to beat the flu—except there’s one problem.
TIME TO LINE UP FOR THE FLU SHOT! (OR…NOT?)
Every year, the flu virus mutates. New strains of flu emerge rapidly, meaning that every time it does mutate, mainstream medicine needs to quickly catch up with a flu vaccine to match up with these new flu viruses.
What this means: even though the vaccine is widely accepted as the “best” method, flu shots aren’t always effective. They also might not be enough to fully protect the body against the virus in some cases.
This is especially the case when new strains of flu develop too quickly, making what consumers take for granted as the most “reliable cure” a method that, ultimately, fails them—and which can sometimes even be lethal.
Does this mean that people shouldn’t get the flu shot? Absolutely not.
Consumers worried about the flu any year should just keep in mind that it might not completely protect them, especially during a particularly bad flu year where new and dangerous flu strains quickly emerge.
WAYS TO PROTECT AGAINST FLU…NATURALLY
For those who don’t trust flu vaccines, or want a little more protection—what can we do? Are there natural options to protect ourselves?
Luckily, it may just be those natural tips and home remedies that can help get us through. On top of that, classic methods for reducing the risk of flu follow not too far behind: such as cleanliness, hygiene, and generally avoiding very easy ways that it can be contracted.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to 100% protect oneself against the flu. All the same, boning up on the following natural approaches can make one’s chances of getting it much, much narrower.
TOP WAYS PEOPLE GET THE FLU (AND HOW TO AVOID THEM)
- Contact with people who have the flu.
This can be either by touching people or even just being near them. To reduce chances of getting the flu, skip out on spending time with or touching people who have it. Adults can still get people sick up to a week following their bout with flu, and children for even longer.
If planning to visit or meet somewhere with a person who has or has had the flu, cancel plans—people with the flu should consider staying home and doing the same for others.
If one must meet up with someone who had the flu, make sure to wash up hands and arms thoroughly afterward. Sanitizing with an alcohol-based rub is recommended, too.
- Contact with surfaces or objects that have flu virus.
If spending time in an environment where people with the flu are/were present, be careful not to touch objects or surfaces. If the infected person coughed or sneezed, the virus could be caught simply by touching these things.
Make sure to wash hands and arms thoroughly after being in such an area or touching surfaces. If there is no access to water and soap, use an alcohol-based rub.
- Contact with dishes and utensils used by those who have/had the flu.
If someone with the flu has used certain dishes or utensils to eat, make sure to avoid them completely. If they need to be washed, make sure to wash or sanitize hands quickly afterward.
- Eating and drinking foods, beverages, and substances that lower immunity.
Paying attention to one’s diet is important to do during the flu season. Many may not know that eating too many of certain foods can be hard on the body and lower immunity, which in turn lowers one’s ability to defend against flu viruses naturally on their own.
Drinking a lot of alcohol, taking medications, indulging in recreational drugs, and smoking are all things that can deplete the immune system. Even eating sugar and processed foods, and a generally unvaried diet full of junk food can increase one’s risk of getting flu.
NATURAL WAYS TO HELP COMBAT AND REDUCE THE RISK OF FLU
- Eat a varied diet rich in nutrient dense foods.
The more nutrients in the diet, especially vitamins and minerals, the better. Vitamins like A, C, and E are each antioxidants, and so are minerals like zinc, copper, and iron. These are essential for a healthy immune system in humans, which can help the body fight the virus or reduce its severity.
Make sure to vary the diet with nutritious fruits, vegetables, and even animal-based foods reputed for their premier nutritional content, such as liver and oysters, in order to get this immune-boosting nutrition.
When it comes to plant-based foods especially, these foods are much more nutritious when grown and eaten in season and when locally- and sustainably raised.
- Always keep good hygiene and stay clean.
Wash hands whenever in the presence of, or leaving the presence of, adults or children who have the flu—this includes when being in public areas.
Make sure to also wash surfaces, objects, and especially eating utensils in the area, too.
Studies, like this one in 2012, show that getting enough sleep—and ensuring that it’s restorative, deep, and quality sleep—is vital to a healthy immune system.
If dealing with a bout of flu or a flu epidemic, getting plenty of rest is very important. It could lessen the intensity of a flu infection and also help the immune system handle it better if it takes hold.
Unbelievably, the amount of stress we experience can impact how well we handle illnesses. But then again, it might not be so hard to believe for those of us who have experienced a lot more illness when we feel down and out.
This is because stress can actually suppress the immune system, studies show—like this study in 2014. The more stressed and depressed we are, the more likely our immune systems will struggle, and the more vulnerable to flu we will be. The same goes for problems with anxiety.
- Stepping up the diet with the help of immune-supporting herbs and mushrooms.
Beyond a healthy nutrient-dense diet, rest, hygiene, and managing stress, the addition of certain herbs and mushrooms can help boost immunity, too.
Though they can’t cure the flu, studies suggest they can help rev up the body’s immune defenses, making the body healthier and better equipped to deal with the virus—even if they can’t kill the virus outright.
Throughout history as well, many of these have also been used as home remedies for both colds and flu.
Some of the most popular ones are:
- Astragalus root – A traditional colds and flu remedy from China
- Burdock root – Used in folk medicine for fighting flu
- Chaga mushroom – A northern tonic that boosts immunity
- Echinacea root – A flu remedy used in First Nation herbal medicine
- Licorice root – Was utilized around the world for both treating and reducing the risk of flu
- Reishi mushroom – Popular in both the Americas and Asia at one time as a top-rate immune-booster to fight colds and flus
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Luciana Besedovsky, Tanja Lange, Jan Born (2012). Sleep and immune function. Pflügers Archive – European Journal of Physiology 463(1) 121-137. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0
Georgia E. Hodes, Madeline L. Pfau, Marylene Leboeuf, Sam A. Golden, Daniel J Christoffel, Dana Bregman, Nicole Rebusi, Mitra Heshmati, Hossein Aleyasin, Brandon L. Warren, Benoit Labonté, Sarah Horn, Kyle A. Lapidus, Viktoria Stelzhammer, Erik H. F. Wong, Sabine Bahn, Vaishnav Krishnan, Carlos A. Bolaños-Guzman, James W. Murrough, Miriam Merad, Scott J. Russo (2014). Individual differences in the peripheral immune system promote resilience versus susceptibility to social stress. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) 111(45) 16136-16141. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/111/45/16136.short
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