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Healthy Tips

The Natural Defense Against Colds and Flu

We’ve all been there: confined to bed with a box of tissues and the hope that our sickness soon passes. Some simple tips can protect you this cold & flu season!

Maybe you live for summer days. Perhaps the coming of spring makes your heart jump, or you spend all year looking forward to the bright display of autumn leaves. Every season has something special to offer – except the dreaded cold and flu season.  

Colds and flu are highly contagious respiratory illnesses, with symptoms that can range from mildly irritating to serious. While these viruses can happen at any time of year, cases spike between October and May.

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to keeping these viruses at bay, but some simple preventative measures can support the body’s immune system and strengthen its defenses against colds and flu. Healthy diet, frequent exercise and proactive supplementation are effective ways to help fight off the latest bug being passed around – or at least reduce the duration and severity.

Defend with Your Diet

Nourishment is one of our greatest allies in preventing colds and flu. Our immune system’s network of organs and cells requires balance in all our bodily systems to function at its best. A wide variety of whole, fresh foods provides a spectrum of nutrients that equips us to fight off viruses and pathogens. Some potent health-protecting foods that can enhance a healthy diet include: 

Fermented Foods

The ancient tradition of fermentation has become increasingly popular in Canada – and for good reason.

Fermented foods, beverages and condiments are rich in vitamins C, E and A, carotenoids and antioxidants. They’re also an excellent source of probiotics, beneficial gut bacteria that influence immune health. Some popular fermented foods include miso, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut.

Garlic

This antimicrobial member of the allium family has a long history as a traditional medicinal herb and is known to relieve symptoms associated with colds and improve immune cell activity. Garlic is an easy addition to homemade salad dressings, dips or stir-fries, but if you’re worried about bad breath, try an odourless supplement instead.

It’s also about what you don’t eat. Aim to minimize processed foods, those high in sugar, and consume caffeine and alcohol in moderation. Check out some of our delicious healthy eating ideas and recipes, like these cozy winter hot drinks.

Exercise for Immunity

An often-overlooked part of maintaining a healthy immune system, exercise helps flush out bacteria from your lungs and airways, improves circulation, and releases stress-reducing endorphins. Even a little bit of exercise can go a long way: just 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise daily can even improve your body’s immune response, with studies indicating elevated immune cell level post-exercise.

Defend Naturally

Consider strategic supplementation to defend against colds and flu with natural health products (NHPs) that offer effective nutritional and herbal support to the body.

Vitamin D

Our northern climate means less sun exposure and skin-synthesized vitamin D in the winter months.  Research has found the vitamin D receptor on immune cells, and deficiency has been linked to both increased autoimmunity and increased susceptibility to infection. Vitamin D supplements can help to maintain/support immune function and are available in a wide range of formats and doses to accommodate all ages.

Echinacea

Many people keep this herbal supplement on hand for colds and flu season as It can help to relieve cold symptoms. In 2012, scientists at the Cardiff University School of Biosciences completed a large clinical study on an Echinacea purpurea product, which was deemed safe to take for up to four months and reduced the chance of catching a cold or flu by over 50%.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is found in immune cells and is rapidly depleted during an infection. When sickness does strike and take hold, this supplement can help with a faster recovery. Supplementation of vitamin C when sick has been shown to help with lessening the severity of symptoms and duration of a cold.

A few other safety measures include frequent hand washing, getting ample sleep, staying hydrated, minimizing stress and ensuring that air in the home is kept free of respiratory irritants.

Prevention is truly the best approach in minimizing the chances of sickness, and these simple, natural strategies can help protect you and your family. Visit your local CHFA Member health food store for a wide selection of nourishing foods and supplements to keep you healthy and thriving in every season!   

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