How do you prepare your body for the flu season?

Community Health Nov 8, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Kalayaan_GdeVera_GREYMost people simply make an appointment with their doctor to receive their annual flu shot and that is as far as their preventive measures go. Others will wait for signs of a cold or flu before taking high doses of vitamin C hoping to fight it off. Everyone has his or her own protocol when it comes to boosting one’s immune system and treating the common cold and flu. But we all agree that no one needs or wants to get sick as it interferes with our daily lives and activities.

So what is the best way to avoid getting sick? The usual conventional approach is: take as much supplements of vitamins as possible, eat lots of oranges and vitamin C rich foods, or get regular flu shots and the latest over the counter drugs out there that claim to keep you from getting sick.

I’d like to take a different approach when preparing my body to fight off sickness.

First of all, to be able to avoid getting the flu, we must first understand how our bodies work and why we are susceptible to the common cold and flu during this season. The common cold, as we all know too well, usually starts with a runny nose or a cough, sometimes even both, maybe even a head cold, and body aches, followed by a fever. What body system is affected here? The respiratory system which consists of our airways ( nose, mouth, trachea ) and lungs and diaphragm. The main role of the respiratory system is to supply the blood with oxygen in order for the blood to deliver oxygen to all the parts of the body and to remove the carbon dioxide from the lungs.

During the colder season, we not only breathe in oxygen through our nose and mouth but also the airborne viruses that surround us in cramped and closed-in spaces like offices, schools, elevators, and while commuting daily on buses and trains. We may not be able to do much about avoiding the environment we live in but we can do something about the inner environment of the body we live in to avoid congestion.

What most people may not be aware of is that the common cold is due to the excess of mucus in our intestines. Just think about it for a minute. This condition provides a perfect environment for bacteria and viruses to grow, and if the body can’t eliminate toxins through the normal elimination process, then it would have no choice but to come out through the sinuses. The body’s natural tendency is to heal itself and by pouring out the mucus, it is the body’s way of cleaning out the system to help heal and get better.

The large intestines is approximately 5 feet in length and it does more than form, store and eliminate feces; it absorbs water, minerals and nutrients and it is also is home to friendly bacteria we know as probiotics (which play a large role in our immune system). It is important that the intestines are not congested as it interferes with our body’s ability to fight off illness. “Our ability to eliminate wastes will indicate our ability to stay healthy.” (Elson M. Haas, MD)

I make it a practice of mine to ask all my clients how often they have bowel movements, and every time I hear “I am regular, I go every morning like clockwork,” I always probe and ask if it is usually after a cup of coffee or tea as they are diuretics, thus giving me no indication of whether the body naturally eliminates or is prompted by these substances. Then I inform them that having regular bowel movements means eliminating as often as they have meals which is always followed by a shocked look. Then I explain that the normal transit time for food to travel from the mouth, into the digestive system and out of the body is 24-36 hours.

Keep in mind that some foods like fruits and vegetables travel faster than meats that take longer to digest. I always use babies and young kids as examples. They eliminate regularly and naturally after their meals, but as we get older we put our bodies through stress. Being on the run while eating and opting for convenience over nutrition when it comes to food will interfere with our body’s ability to have regular bowel movements.

I was shocked to learn of people who often go days between bowel movements. Just thinking how toxic and congested their bodies must be. It would explain the acute and chronic illness many people experience: anything and everything from stomach pains, low or mid-backaches, headaches, sinuses, stiff neck, sore throat, moodiness, fatigue and even lack of vitality can be a result of a congested intestine.

My approach to prevention therefore is to cleanse my system and make sure that my body is not congested of toxins and mucus. I do this by doing a juice cleanse for a whole week during fall, then I juice once or twice daily for the whole fall and winter season. This helps to detoxify my body at the same time giving my digestive system a break and my immune system a boost.

If you do end up catching the cold or flu, it is often best to just let our bodies do what it needs to, as uncomfortable as it may be. And as easy as it is to use over the counter drugs to suppress the symptoms, it won’t help the body get rid of the toxins. Illness is the body’s way of telling us to slow down, rest and recharge. Viruses can’t attack a healthy body.

“The prevention and cure for the common cold is to stay in tune with your life and develop common-sense attention to your diet, your physical activity, your emotional state and to rest and relaxation.” (Elson M. Haas, MD)

10 Tips to stay regular and steer clear of the common colds and flu this season

1. Eat foods that are closer to it’s natural state: fresh fruits, raw/lightly steamed veggies, whole grains, green leafy vegetables

2. Eat high fibre foods to keep food moving through your intestines.Soluble fibre absorbs water to help bulk up stool and insoluble fibre cleans the intestines

3. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated

4. Sit down and enjoy your meal, rushing when eating only slows down the digestion and elimination process

5. Avoid over indulging in poorly digestible substances: alcohol, fatty foods, fried foods, chemicals and preservatives

6. Avoid overly processed food like substances : fast food, pre-packaged and pre-cooked microwavable meals

7. Avoid highly refined carbohydrates, white bread, white rice, white sugar, white flour

8. Get moving and exercise 3 times a week; walking and running help to promote peristalsis (the contraction of the intestinal muscles)

9. Deep breathing exercises to help calm the nervous system prior to eating a meal will help with digestion and elimination

10. Juicing to cleanse the body of toxins and boost the immune system with easily assimilated vitamins and minerals, whether it be for a week, once a day, or even once a week.

Visit my blog at www.yourholisticnutritionist.com and follow my juice cleanse with recipes to try and tips to follow.

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(Kalayaan Garcia de Vera is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who graduated at the top of her class with honours at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.. As a member of the Canadian Holistic Association of Nutritionist Professionals, she has conducted weight loss studies and detoxification workshops. Her website is www.yourholisticnutritionist.com)