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10 Tips for natural health through the cold and flu season

Remember to sneeze into your elbow
Always cough or sneeze into your elbow

We hear the requisite warnings throughout every cold and flu season: wash your hands, cough and sneeze into your elbow, stay home when you’re sick. This is all great advice for sick people! But how can you prevent colds and flus when you're healthy, besides washing your hands?

While H1N1 makes the headlines daily, you can defy the statistics by making a few changes to your daily habits.

Here are some prevention tips for fending off colds and the flu this season:

  1. Eat a rainbow. Aim for 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily to ensure a good intake of antioxidants, which help your body fight disease. Phytochemicals found in red, green and yellow vegetables and fruits provide excellent protection. Blue, purple and red fruits and vegetables provide high amounts of antioxidants. Try a smoothie for a quick and easy option!
  2. Drink plenty of fluids – 64 ounces daily is recommended for adults. Water flushes toxins from your system. If you have cold or flu symptoms, avoid sugary beverages. Refill your own water bottle to save money, and reduce plastic bottle waste.
  3. Exercise daily. If you can’t make time for daily exercise, aim for 3-4 days each week. Exercise will energize all your body’s systems, but especially, will help your lymphatic system flush out toxins and ward off disease.
  4. Spend time outdoors. As the seasons get colder, people tend to stay indoors, breathing recycled air, and recirculating germs. The more time you spend outside, walking or playing sports, the better. If you can't get outdoors, open a window to allow fresh air to circulate.
  5. Get a massage! Stress breaks down the body’s ability to fight disease. If you can manage to keep stress at bay, your body will have more resources to defend against viruses. Massages can also stimulate the lymphatic system, helping the body flush out toxins.
  6. After your massage, try yoga or meditation, both of which reduce stress. Yoga massages organs inside the body, and the gentle stretching increases blood flow, cleansing the body of toxins. Meditation helps clear the mind of troubling thoughts, reducing stress reactions in the body.
  7. Eat probiotic foods, such as yogurt and miso. These will keep healthy bacteria in your body to help with proper digestion and better elimination of toxins.
  8. Drink green tea, another great way to increase intake of liquids. As a bonus, the catechins in green tea have been shown to inhibit influenza virus replication. (1-2)
  9. Get plenty of sleep! The body uses this down time to regenerate itself - don't deprive yourself of this valuable tool!
  10. Limit sugar intake. Sugar reduces the ability of white blood cells to fend off disease, depressing the immune system.

With just a few changes, you can keep yourself healthy and active throughout the cold and flu season!

1   Song JM, Park KD, Lee KH, Byun YH, Park JH, Kim SH, Kim JH, Seong BL. Biological evaluation of anti-influenza viral activity of semi-synthetic catechin derivatives. Antiviral Res. 2007 Nov;76(2):178-85. Epub 2007 Aug 1. PubMed
2    Song JM, Lee KH, Seong BL. Antiviral effect of catechins in green tea on influenza virus. Antiviral Res. 2005 Nov;68(2):66-74. Epub 2005 Aug 9. PubMed