Six simple steps to avoiding the flu

In yesterday’s Daily Dispatch, I told you about the one and only successful outcome of the government’s annual flu vaccine campaign: Today, more people than ever get the vaccine. Of course, the CDC guessed poorly about which strains of the flu would actually be in circulation this year. So this year’s vaccine will be particularly ineffective. But even when the CDC correctly predicts the annual flu virus type, we have yet to see any real benefits in the population.

Fortunately, with a healthy immune system, your body can protect itself naturally from the flu. Indeed, your immune system works brilliantly against any type of cold or flu virus. Even when the CDC gets the virus type wrong, your immune system gets it right.

So, take these six simple steps to help your natural immune system do its job at this time of year.

  1. Keep hydrated

Research shows that the number of viruses in the air goes up as the humidity goes down. But we tend to dry out our living environments during winter. The colder air naturally holds less moisture. And the heated indoor air gets the moisture baked out of it. In addition, dry air dehydrates your body, which is a major problem for keeping healthy. So–use a humidifier to add moisture to the air inside your house. And keep your body hydrated by taking rooibos or adding it to your drinking water, all day every day. I recommend Red Joe water-soluble powdered rooibos extract.

  1. Cut the sugar

Your immune system stops working well for up to four hours after drinking a sugary beverage. So stay away from soft drinks all year round, but especially during the winter. In fact, ignore all the cola-swilling Santa Clauses and polar bears and stick to water (with rooibos) for good hydration and immune function.

  1. Take your smart supplements

When scientists first began studying the spread of infections in populations, they found microbes almost everywhere they looked. But they found only certain people got infections. In fact, people with poor diets had the strongest risk of developing an infection. Of course, the outdated RDAs (mostly) protect people from outright nutritional deficiencies. But most of the population is still poorly nourished.

You certainly can’t achieve good health by eating artificial, processed, packaged foods with zero or negative nutritional value. But even healthy foods don’t have the nutritional value they once had. So–make sure to get enough B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin D. You should also get your daily minerals of magnesium and zinc.

  1. Stay active & get outside

Physical activity is part of the equation for good health. But I’d stay away from gyms in January and February. You see, in the New Year everybody and their brother will flood the gym and bring along even more germs and microbes. Which means you’re more likely to catch a bug just by sharing the heavily used gym equipment. So you may end up losing a few pounds the hard way…in bed with a cold or flu.

Instead of hitting the gym after your holiday of seasonal overindulgences, try going outside to get some exercise in the fresh air. Although the sun isn’t high enough at this time of year to activate vitamin D in your skin, you have that covered with your daily vitamin D supplement. And sunshine has other benefits, including improving mood.

  1. Stay away from crowds

Colds and flus are more frequent in winter because people spend more time packed together indoors. In general, public spaces are microbial havens. But most viruses can’t travel more than three to six feet and often require direct contact to transmit an infectious dose.

I advise staying away from shopping at the indoor mall. And if you must shop at the mall, don’t use the restroom or eat at the food court. Also, avoid touching things handled by the public, such as pens at the doctor’s office and credit card machines. Instead, carry your own pen. And use cash.

Interestingly, studies over the years have shown that coins and paper money don’t transmit microbes effectively. In fact, the metal oxides in tarnish on the coins seem to work as an antibacterial. Of course, they actually make paper money from cloth. And the heavy ink printed on the cloth paper isn’t hospitable to microbes either. By contrast, plastic surfaces are notorious for harboring germs. In fact, studies have shown your plastic counter or plastic cutting board is far more contaminated than wooden surfaces.

If you must visit a public place or touch a heavily handled object, keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy. And be careful not to touch your face, eyes, nose, or mouth until you’ve washed or sanitized your hands. You can easily introduce a virus from your fingers (where it is harmless) into your body by rubbing your eyes.

One final note on hand washing…

As I always say, it’s preferable just to wash your hands (and face) using good old soap and water. Though, make sure to avoid any soap or sanitizer product that still contains the antibacterial agent triclosan. New evidence strongly links triclosan to health problems, including cancer. I’ll tell you more about that disturbing research later this month. In the meantime, you can do a simple internet search to find out whether your brand of soap or sanitizer still uses this dangerous agent.

  1. Sleep well

If you don’t get enough sleep each night, you can’t effectively fight off the flu or common cold. In fact, if you sleep fewer than seven hours per night, you’re almost three times more likely to come down with a cold. Better to catch up on sleep than to catch a cold.

This year the flu vaccine probably won’t protect anyone a lick. But if you follow these six simple, common sense precautions you will dramatically reduce your chances of getting the flu or any other virus this winter.