With the start of school comes the dreaded flu season.  This season brings with it new concerns unlike previous seasons. What can we do to help make sure we don’t catch the flu beside what we already know?  Wash your hands; cover your mouth when you cough, don’t share your pop, and so on…but how much do you know about your body’s natural ability to fight viruses like the flu?

Being healthy is one of the best ways to keep your immune system working to fight diseases, and protect us from harmful bacteria’s found in the flu and other viruses. Besides rest and exercise, being healthy includes eating a diet that limits the consumption of processed foods, and eating nutritious whole foods instead. The next time you give your child processed chicken nuggets because “that is all they will eat”, you are not doing them or yourselves any favors.  Eating unhealthy only suppresses their immune system and increases their chances of becoming ill.  One of my immediate concerns is for the children who don’t eat healthy and don’t get enough nutrients. In addition to adding vegetables, limiting processed foods, a multiple vitamins should be added to their day.

In addition to not getting enough nutrients, let’s take a look at how your diet and other habits can affect your immune system. Sugar will not only contribute to adding weight to your middle, it directly suppresses your immune system. Just 100g of sugar will decrease the ability of white blood cells to destroy invading pathogens for up to 5 hours. 100g of sugar is the equivalent of just 2 cans of fizzy drink or 3 small glasses of a fruit juice drink, sweet drinks really don’t help if you are feeling a bit run down. Replace sugar with natural sweeteners such as stevia and xylitol not with artificial sweeteners, which are difficult for the body to process. Water is the best source for staying hydrated, if you find yourself dehydrated, try drinking an electrolyte replacement then return to drinking water.

Increase your intake of fresh vegetables. Vegetables are typically low in most diets yet are rich in important vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients which are necessary for optimal functioning of the immune system.  A simple principle to follow when eating vegetables is to “Eat the Rainbow”.  The colors of vegetables correspond to their phytonutrients content, and by eating all types you will gain the most benefits.

Include plenty of immune-boosting herbs in your diet such as; garlic, ginger, onions, hot peppers and cayenne. Yogurt has been shown to stimulate production of an immune system substance that fights disease. So, eat up!   Stay away from some of the “great for you yogurts”, make sure you check the sugar content. Minimize allergenic foods such as pasteurized dairy and wheat flour, which may suppress the immune system. Take vitamin c and zinc, vitamin C, which supports immune cell function and Zinc, which is necessary to make immune cells.

There is no doubt that reducing stress in your life will help your immunity, I know this is easier said than done, but besides some of the more common affects stress has on us, it also reduces the production of immunoglobulin in us, which we need to neutralizes viruses, and other pathogens in the mucosal of our gastrointestinal track. Make time for sleep. It’s a must to let your body rest and recover. If you miss out on sleep, your natural defenses will suffer, get plenty of sleep and drink plenty of water so that your body will be able to fight off illness.

Let fresh air into your home at least once a week even if it is extremely cold outside. Studies have shown that the air inside your home is 2 to 5 times worse than the air outside. Allowing fresh air in will help get stale and unhealthy air out.

If you don’t fight the flu bug off, STAY HOME IF YOU ARE SICK!   No need to spread your germs to others!  We can all appreciate that!