Fighting the Flu
Flu season is upon us. We had an amazing summer (the best I can remember) and now it’s starting to change. The mornings are dark, evenings are slowly creeping in and the temperature is starting to drop. The flu sucks, and it can really bum you out. You’re either bed ridden, or house bound and can’t get any work done. You might have to stop training which is frustrating and all you can do is look forward to being back on track. Sometimes the flu lingers and you just can’t seem to shift it.
I’ve just finished a bout of the flu, and it wasn't fun. Headache, achy joints, blocked nose… the works! I followed some of the tips I’m about to share and managed to shift it. Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to the flu, once the immune system gets compromised it’s all about treating symptoms to get better as fast as possible. It makes sense to look after yourself and prevent any flu taking hold in the first place. Follow these preventable strategies and you should be just fine.
Protect Your Immune System
The majority of the immune system is located in the gut. Common cold, flu and almost every other diseases or illness have been linked to a disrupted gut mircoboime. You can think of this as the front line of defence against illness (if you want to go a bit deeper on the subject then have a listen to this podcast on gut health). To keep your front line of defence strong it’s important to eat a wide variety of whole foods, drink plenty of water, introduce fermented foods, keep stress low and sleep soundly.
There’s no coincidence that flu kicks in when days are short, dark and without sun. Vitamin D is critical to the health of the immune system. Studies show that vitamin D lowers the risk of getting the flu by 58%. It’s important to get Vitamin D3 as this is more easily absorbed by the body, or Vit D3 with K2 as these two act in synergy to maintain bone and cardiovascular health. Click here for the one I use.
This is common knowledge and the first recommendation to fight the flu, however it’s practically useless once the flu virus has hit. Vitamin C is amazing at preventing flu, which is why increasing your intake over the winter months will fight it off. There are good supplements out there, but some can have some weird side effects which is why botanical substances are best. Camu Camu Berry has a higher concentration of Vitamin C than anything on the planet but this Rose Hip Powder or these Garden of Life Vitamin Capsules are definitely worth giving a go too.
Seven to nine hours of quality sleep protects the immune system. Have you noticed it’s easier to catch a cold when you’re run down and tired? Studies show sleep deprivation drastically increases vulnerability to infectious diseases. Have a read of Shawn Stevenson’s book Sleep Smarter - it will literally change your view on sleep. Get to bed by ten pm, avoid screens before you sleep and make your room as dark as possible to get a peaceful nights sleep.
Once the flu is in your system then it’s time to bust out the remedies and start the recovery process as quickly as possible.
Adequate hydration is key to flushing out bacteria and viruses from your system. Increase your water intake and aim for over three litres a day for women and over four litres for men.
Drink herbal teas like ginger tea and raw honey or hot water, lemon, honey and cinnamon which prevent mucus build up and contain antioxidants that boost the immune system.
Bone broth contains an animo acid called cysteine which is effective at breaking down and clearing mucus so it’s easier to breathe. Eating a lot of food isn’t great when you have the flu. This bogs the digestive system down and can be stressful on the body. Make a bone broth with onion and garlic which are known for supporting the immune system and providing it with minerals. A nice bone broth will boost your immune function and your body will also use less energy digesting food and more fighting the virus.
This is the impossible to spell herb that helps the body fight off infections and acts as anti inflammatory which help reduce bronchial symptoms. This has become really popular so you can buy this just about everywhere now. It’s best taken with the first signs of flu.
These remedies are sure to help, but the main question I still get asked is if you should continue to train through sickness. This a good question… Exercise is usually OK if your symptoms are above the neck (i.e. a common cold, blocked sinuses, sneezing or sore throat). It’s a good idea not to go too crazy, but some light exercise might actually make you feel better. It’s given that being fit and active is a great prevention from flu in the first place. It’s always a good idea to spend some time outdoors (for your the benefit of your mental health as well as physical). Be wary that central heating in winter time can be a source of concentrated germs and toxins and the dry air can make you more sensitive to viruses. Fresh air contains fresh ions which has healing properties and help you feeling more refreshed and energised.