Is your body well enough to resist the flu this season?
This is not a matter to be taken lightly or ignored, as theH1N1 flu, sometimes referred to as swine flu, has been declared a national emergency. In the United States, the flu has spread into 46 states.
To find out what’s best for your body at this time of year, we talked with several health care professionals in San Antonio to find out what they suggest as the best ways to remain healthy.
Dr. Richard Reyna, an internist, suggested two nutrients that can help fight flu and colds: vitamin C and zinc. Each of these can be obtained in supplement form or even lozenges. But, food might be the healthiest way to get your vitamins and minerals.
Zinc is in a host of foods, particularly high-protein foods such as meats. It’s also found in dairy, peanuts and wholegrain cereals. One of the highest non-meat sources of zinc, according to www.nutritional-supplements-health-guide.com, is a food we use a lot in San Antonio and one that is in season right now, pepitas, or pumpkin seeds. (For a recipe on toasting your own pumpkin seeds, click here.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest rest. Also, drinking clear fluids, such as water, broth and sports drinks help to keep the body hydrated.
Wash your hands frequently, especially if you’ve been in public areas, or are exhibiting symptoms of the flu, such as sneezing and coughing. Try to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for 15-20 seconds, at least. If you need to sneeze or cough, instead of covering your mouth with your hand, use a tissue, then discard it and wash your hands. If no tissue is available, sneeze into your sleeve or hands, then wash hands immediately. If no water is available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be used.
The CDC also suggests that sick people stay away from others as much as possible, as person-to-person contact is largely how the flu is spread. If you are a family caregiver, be sure and disinfect surfaces in the house and avoid sharing glasses or utensils.
There’s no one sure-fire way of fighting the flu, says Lori Karhu, a registered nurse and licensed massage therapist in San Antonio.
She suggests a multi-pronged approach, so that body, mind and soul are working together. Ignoring any of these could leave your body vulnerable to attack, she says.
For the mind, the best bet is to avoid stress or defuse whenever possible. Meditation is one way of doing this.
Karhu also recommends people devote a little time to learn the science of better breathing. Proper breathing will rid the body of toxins and carbon dioxide while filling both the brain and muscles with oxygen. This also helps remove stress, she says. (There are numerous websites that address the issue, such as SparkPeople.com.)
Improving circulation with exercise helps. “You just need to get up and move,” she says.
Work on the body is a little more involved. Karhu likes to take an approach that starts with the outer and works inward. By that, she means working on the outside, with a warm bristle brush on the skin before showering. It removes more dead skin cells.
A tongue scraper and a neti pot also keep the respiratory tract and the cilia in the nose clean, so they can filter more effectively.
When it comes to diet, Karhu prefers the raw food lifestyle because of the way it cleanses the system. Fasting will also remove toxins from the body. (If you are unfamiliar with the raw food movement, she recommends www.oneluckyduck.com. Don’t fast without consulting your physician first.)
Stay hydrated, she advises. “I don’t think a lot of us understand what that means,” she says. It’s not just drinking anything, such as sodas.
“Coconut water is an excellent hydrator,” Karhu says. Studies have shown that coconut water energizes you while giving your body potassium and cleansing the digestive tract. Runners have taken to drinking it to stay refreshed.
Superfoods, such as mangosteen juice or açai juice, are loaded with vitamin C among other nutrients. They are also becoming more common; you can find açai pulp in the freezer section of most H-E-B stores. It’s a great addition to smoothies, Karhu says.
Get your flu shot, Karhu says. But if you do get sick, “stay at home, rest, drink lots of water— and chicken soup, if you’re not a vegetarian,” she says.
Don’t see your doctor. Call instead. “The CDC recommends you call your doctor and have him or her call you in a prescription,” Karhu says. That way, you are not sharing your flu germs with everyone else in the waiting room.
“Hibernate about seven days,” so you won’t share it with the rest of the people at work, either, and so your body has a chance to recover more fully, she says. The CDC, in fact, recommends that you stay home for 24 hours after your fever has gone.