Sunday, October 3, 2010

Naturopathic Flu Prevention Tips

It's flu season and the big question these days is:
Q. How can I avoid coming down with the flu this year?
Answer: A healthy immune system is your best defense against the flu. Influenza and viruses that cause flu-like illness are most active from fall through spring. During these months, exposure to potentially infective viruses is inevitable, so it is especially important to ensure your immune system is healthy and equipped with the necessary resources to prevent infections from developing. Here are some basic preventive measures to practice throughout the “flu season”.

Top 10 Tips for Preventing Flu and Flu-Like Illness:

1. Wash your hands – frequently with regular soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds. Be sure to scrub the webs between fingers and under the fingernails. Dry your hands thoroughly with a clean towel. Key handwashing times are before leaving work or school and first thing when you arrive home; before eating; before touching your mouth, eyes, nose or face; after using the washroom; after sneezing, touching your face, coughing, shaking hands, handling doorknobs or computer keyboards, etc.
2. Nourishment is fundamental – during months when viruses abound in the environment, a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, adequate proteins, essential fatty acids and fibre is the absolute foundation for health. Cooking warm soups and stews makes the nutrients most digestible. Remember that your entire body, including the cells, antibodies and biochemical messengers of your immune system, are literally made of the molecules you provide your body through the food you eat! Avoid processed foods, refined sugars, and any foods that your body may be sensitive to. Ask your N.D. about how to implement specific foods and herbs for their antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties throughout the flu season.
3. Avoid exposure – as much as possible avoid contact with people who are ill or symptomatic, e.g. coughing, sneezing, congested, feverish, etc., especially crowded public places with dry, stale air. Also, get out of the habit of touching your face, mouth, eyes and nose, as this gives potentially infective microorganisms the chance to move from your hands to those warm, moist mucus membranes where they love to take up residence. If you must touch anywhere on your face, wash your hands first (see #1).
4. Nasal and sinus lavage – using a neti pot containing a pinch of sea salt and baking soda, a saline spray or a steam inhalation, gently rinse bacteria, viruses and fungi from the mucous membranes to prevent them from setting up infective colonies. Sinus lavage also removes irritants and allergens from the mucous membranes.
5. Keep hydrated – to function correctly, our cells (including our immune cells) need to be plump like grapes, not wrinkled like raisins. Sip, sip, sip throughout the day on water (warm or room temperature) and try dilute herbal teas like ginger or licorice, homemade chicken broth, or Change-of-Season Soup. A good gauge of being well-hydrated: by mid-day your urine is pale to colorless and there’s no dry or thirsty sensation in your mouth or throat. Sipping on fluids flushes potentially infective microorganisms into a pool of anti-microbial hydrochloric acid found in the stomach.
6. Keep warm and moist! - the infection-resisting work of our mucus membranes depends on their being moist. Increase the humidity of indoor heated-air environments with a warm or cool humidifier at work and home, especially throughout sleep. Avoid getting chilled, which increases vulnerability to infection, by dressing for the weather with breathable layers; keep your feet warm and dry; and avoid exposure to cold drafts.
7. Take your probiotics – beneficial bacteria that promote the protective capacity of the mucus membranes and immune system are killed off when exposed to antibiotics (including some natural antimicrobials like oil of oregano), daily stress and dietary influences. If you’re not sure which probiotics to take, contact your ND.
8. Sleep and rest well – the immune system depends on adequate sleep and rest to function properly and to promote healing. If you feel you are fighting an infection, set activities aside for now, and try to get to bed early.
9. Move the lymph – regular, moderate exercise has been proven to improve immunity. Muscle contraction and good circulation move the lymph fluid through the lymphatic vessels, allowing the immune system to function. Also try daily dry skin brushing from the extremities toward the core; daily abdominal massage with castor oil; and alternating hot and cold showers, (always finishing with cold) to improve lymphatic drainage over time.
10. Reduce stress – the physiological effects of stress decrease the body’s capacity to resist infections. Take the time for recreation, for getting into nature, for laughter, hugs and other pleasurable activities.
Emphasize Individualed Care
In addition to these important daily basics, Naturopathic Medicine offers an outstanding range of effective prevention and treatment strategies for decreasing the risk, severity and duration of flu and flu-like illnesses – including botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, acupuncture and clinical nutrition - all individualized to your unique needs and state of health. For your individualized flu prevention and care program, or in the event that you do become ill, contact your Naturopathic Doctor (N.D.) or other primary health care provider.
Helpful links:
Elizabeth J. Cherevaty BScH, ND
Meridian Wellness Centre

329 Woolwich Street, Guelph ON N1H 3W4

Tel: (519)822-7075
Dr. Cherevaty ND provides primary, integrative health care for children and families at the Meridian Wellness Centre, downtown Guelph.

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