It's that time of year again, when the kids go back to school, bringing home homework, half eaten lunches, runny noses, and a whole lot of germs. Let's beat the bug this year by learning how to naturally build up antibodies instead of relying on sick days and problematic antibiotics.
Wash your hands: Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap. You may want to avoid anti-bacterial soaps, which tend to dry the hands and create harmful chemicals in the environment (1).
Catch some z's: When you reach the deeper stages of sleep your body restores itself by releasing chemicals into our system that enhance our immune system. This strengthens our ability to fight germs and bacteria during the day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, we should get between 7 and 9 hours of solid sleep a night (2). So put your pj's on — it's time to fight off illness.
Take the sunny side of the street: It's important that you expose yourself to enough sunlight during the winter months. Get that immune boosting vitamin D into your system! Experts suggest 10 minutes in the midday sun (3).
Juice it up: Try juicing your fruits and veggies this winter. Drinking your fruits and vegetables is a quick easy way to absorb nutrients and it also helps flush out toxins that could get you sick. Make sure you do your own juicing though. Most store bought juices are heat-treated to kill germs, which causes the juice to lose most nutrients (4).
Keep it clean: Make sure you are disinfecting the items you touch most in your home. Light switches, refrigerator doors, toys, TV remotes, phone and computers. Colds and flus are most frequently caught by touching something another sick person has touched. Germs can last up to 3 hours on a surface (5). If you wash your hands and disinfect your house with alcohol, you decrease your risk of ingesting the germs.
Move that body: Exercise is a great way to stay fit and healthy. When we live a sedentary life our body ages and decays. So head outside for a walk. Yoga is a great way to flush toxins from your lymphatic system (6), so you can twist, stretch and turn yourself away from sickness.
Watch what you drink: When we drink alcohol, our liver has to work a bit harder. So when you feel like you may be getting sick, cut yourself off. You also want to get a solid night's sleep, so avoid too much caffeine during the day.
Earn some garlic breath: Garlic breath beats flu breath, as far as I'm concerned. You can integrate this ingredient into your food each and every day. Garlic contains antioxidants (7), antifungal, antiparasitic and antiviral properties (8). It is used in Russia so frequently that they have coined it "Russian Penicillin."(9)
Reduce stress: When you stress out, your body secrets hormones that slow down activity in the thymus gland and white blood cells, which we need working in order to keep us healthy. Keeping anxiety and stress at bay is a must. So get a massage, meditate a little or try having fun with friends and family. This will help keep you happy and healthy (10).
Realize the power of NO: We tend to get sick when we over-commit. It's our bodies' way of telling us it needs rest between activities and stressors. When you feel run down, a sure way to get yourself sick is to not listen to your body and keep going. Make sure you use the awesome power of NO when you are asked to keep pushing past exhaustion.
If you want to stay flu bug-free this year, then be sure to take a very active approach before it's too late. Our bodies' have amazing resiliency to them–even more so when we actively integrate a health conscious attitude into our everyday life. Here's to a happy healthy winter, my friends… it's going to be a good one.
Sarah Stevenson, a.k.a., The Tini Yogini, is a Certified Yoga Instructor in Southern California. She has a degree in Behavioral Psychology and teaches not only yoga classes but also life affirming workshops. She also writes for www.beachbody.com , which provides effective home fitness programs for all fitness levels including the Les Mill Pump exercise videos .
1. Larson, E. 2001. Hygiene of the Skin: When is Clean Too Clean? Emerging Infectious Diseases. 7(2) Mar-Apr 2001.
3. University Of Manchester (2005, May 26). Midday Sun Holds The Key To Good Health.
4. Fortin ND. Food Regulation: Law, Science, Policy and Practice. John Wiley and Sons, 2009, ISBN O-470-12709-0, p. 288
5. Gwaltney JM Jr, Halstead SB (July 1997). "Contagiousness of the common cold". Journal of the American Medical Association 278 (3): 256.
6. McCall, T. (2007). Yoga as medicine: The yogic prescription for health and healing. Bantam.
7. Borek, C. (2001). Antioxidant health effects of aged garlic extract. The Journal of nutrition, 131(3), 1010S-1015S.
8. Bongiorno, P. B., Fratellone, P. M., & LoGiudice, P. (2008). Potential health benefits of garlic (Allium sativum): a narrative review. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 5(1).
9. Shamseer, L., Charrois, T. L., & Vohra, S. (2006). Complementary, Holistic, and Integrative Medicine Garlic. Pediatrics in Review, 27(12), e77-e80.
10. Glaser, R., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (2005). Stress-induced immune dysfunction: implications for health. Nature Reviews Immunology, 5(3), 243-251.