5 Natural Ways to Prevent the Flu
With the current flu season in full swing, parents have been asking me if there are any natural ways to help prevent the flu. Here are my top 5 natural ways to prevent the flu:
1) Good Hand Washing and Hygiene
This one is pretty obvious and straight forward, but it's also the most important. The influenza virus spreads by water droplets from coughing and sneezing, so keeping as clean as you can is vital this time of year.
2) Not Smoking and Avoiding Smokers
There is solid evidence that smoking drastically increases the chances of getting influenza and other illnesses related to the flu. Because of the way viruses spread, studies suggest that people who smoke also dramatically increase the chances of their family, friends, and coworkers catching influenza. If you still smoke, it's time to try to quit again.
3) Good Nutrition and Regular Exercise
Having a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoiding junk foods, and regular physical activity can dramatically decrease your chances of developing a flu-like illness.
4) Vitamin D
For many years, people have recognized a correlation between low levels of vitamin D and an increased chance of getting sick. A recent 2009 blinded-placebo-controlled trial study demonstrated that schoolchildren in Japan who took 600 units of vitamin D3 twice a day were significantly less likely to develop influenza A. If you live in an area that doesn't get much sun during the winter, I recommend using a vitamin D3 supplement.
Another 2009 study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, showed that daily dietary probiotic supplementation (with Lactobacilis acidophilus NCFM in combination with Bifidobacterium animalis) for 6 months was a safe and effective way to reduce fever, rhinorrhea, and cough incidence. It also helped reduce the duration of illness and antibiotic prescription incidence, as well as the number of missed school days attributable to illness for children 3 to 5 years of age. If you or your children aren't already taking a probiotic, taking a broad spectrum (with more than one probiotic ingredient) probiotic could be helpful, particularly in the winter months.
Now that you have some sound preventative measures at your disposal, you can put these interventions into action this season and start them earlier next year. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and, as always…
Dr. Jeff M.D.