Natural Flu Prevention

To ward off colds and flus, here are a few ways to boost your body’s immunity naturally.

Plants are 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 benefits.

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

Keep your diet clean. Minimize smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating foods with a higher chemical load, like processed foods and refined sugars. Drink plenty of clean water, and choose higher-quality organic, grass-fed meats and dairy products, as well as organic produce when you can. The Environmental Working Group offers the Dirty Dozen list of produce that you should only buy organic, and the Clean 15, a list of produce that has a lower chemical load even when grown conventionally.

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 in sauerkraut and tempeh (fermented soybeans). Our gastrointestinal tract is populated with more bugs (bacterial cells) than all the other cells in the body combined, and these bacterial cells are central to immunity. 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 to 60 minutes each day, has been shown to enhance immune health. Your yoga practice is an immune-enhancing multitasker, as it provides moderate movement while also easing stress and increasing flexibility.

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 a 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—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.

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Annie B. Kay, MS, RDN, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, is an author, nutritionist, Kripalu faculty member, and important voice in whole-foods nutrition and yoga.

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