Natural Flu Prevention

While the media frenzy about the flu season we’re facing this year has ebbed, we are still in the midst of cold and flu time. There are various things you can do every day to boost your body’s immunity and preventive health naturally. Here are just a few things to keep in mind.

Plants are the healers: choose a plant-based diet filled with a rainbow of phyto(plant)nutrition. Some phytonutrients are antibacterial/antiviral, like the allicin found in garlic.

WebMD has a nice slideshow of plants that provide particular immune-boosting benefit:

Keep it clean outside. Lathering up and washing your hands, as well as resisting the temptation to touch your face can help minimize cold and flu germs that make their way into your body.

Keep it clean inside. Minimize smoking, drinking alcohol and foods with a higher chemical load, like processed foods and refined sugars. This is the season to drink plenty of clean water, and choose higher quality organic, grass-fed meats and dairy, as well as organic produce when you can. We use the Environmental Working Group: to guide us on the “dirty dozen” – the high chemical load produce that behooves you to choose organic, and the “clean 15” – the produce that you can simply find the cheapest American-grown versions of, and be reasonably assured that they have a low chemical load.

Cultivate balanced bugs. Probiotics (literally pro-life) are found in fermented foods like high quality cow, goat, sheep and even soy or coconut yogurt, and sauerkraut, or tempeh (fermented soybeans) to name a few. Our gastrointestinal tract is populated with more bugs (bacterial cells) than other cells in the body combined, and these bacterial cells are central to immunity. So, balance your gut bugs this season by enjoying a serving of fermented foods most days.  If fermented foods don’t top your list of favorites, a high quality probiotic supplement is a good stand-in. If you have never used one and wonder if you are a good candidate, check with a licensed nutritionist.

Move. Physical activity – even moderate activity like walking 30-60 minutes each day, has been shown to enhance immune health. Your yoga practice is an immune-enhancing multitasker, as it provides that moderate movement, and eases tension and stress.

Rest and sleep. Stress over time undermines immunity, and whittles away at our ability to prevent colds, flu and other conditions. Getting adequate sleep, as well as having an outlet to relieve stress, particularly if it’s deep relaxation, have been shown to support immune health.

Each of us has our unique genetic inheritance, a particular lifestyle we choose, and a way of eating that reflects what we like to eat, and who we are on the deepest of physical and emotional levels. In my nearly 30 years of practice, I have seen many individuals transform their lives through modest changes in lifestyle practiced regularly over time. Anyone can make these changes, particularly if they have the support of a health professional – be that a licensed nutritionist, health coach or other qualified practitioner. From preventing the flu to minimizing the risk of cancer or other chronic disease – food and lifestyle are the most powerful tools we have.



About Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, RYT

Annie is Lead Nutritionist at Kripalu. Author of the award-winning Every Bite Is Divine, she is also an integrative dietitian and a Kripalu Yoga teacher. Annie is the former director of the Osteoporosis Awareness Program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. For nearly 20 years, she has been an advocate for science-based mind-body health in the national media, at conferences and workshops, and through her writing. She knits, cooks, gardens, and writes.

3 Responses to “Natural Flu Prevention”

  1. sarah February 23, 2013 11:22 am #

    the environmental working group link “is not found”

    • KripaluEditor February 23, 2013 11:25 am #

      Fixed! Thanks, Sarah!

  2. Martha Davis February 25, 2013 11:44 am #

    It’s interesting how sometimes when you tell someone they need to rest in order to be healthier, they never believe you. =) But without rest, your body cannot function at its best and be strong! Thanks for posting- these are fantastic tips.

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