Viruses come in all different shapes and sizes and they affect us all differently. Some can be more serious while some are just your common colds. The elderly, young children and those with compromised immune systems can be at a greater risk of contracting viruses. The good news is that by incorporating the following prevention tips and incorporating anti-viral foods in our diet we can decrease the likelihood of catching these viruses.
Washing our hands is one of the simplest things we can do to stop the spread of viruses. Viruses can live on surfaces for up to 7 days therefore anything we touch in public leaves us very exposed to the possibility of contracting these germs. Before you have a chance to wash your hands it is extremely important to make sure that you do not touch your face (eyes, nose and mouth). When you wash your hands, you should be using soap and warm water and count to 30 seconds while getting into every nook and cranny.
Staying home when we are not feeling well is a great way to stop the spread of viruses. Many companies give their employees the flexibility to work from home every so often. If you are not feeling well this is a perfect day to stay at home to ensure you are not spreading the virus to others. If you do not have this flexibility perhaps taking a day off might be necessary. Rest is always important when we are feeling a little low on energy.
Sleep and rest … are you getting enough? Many of us do not get enough sleep and this can lead to a very lazy and inactive immune system. Believe it or not, our white blood cells need rest as well and cannot work effectively if they are being called upon to work 24-7. Let’s all make an effort to set aside restful time every single day and we should be aiming to sleep at least 7-9 hours a night in order to help our immune system get the proper rest it needs, which will allow it to work more efficiently.
Hydration is also a key prevention in sickness. Staying hydrated has so many health benefits, but for one it actually helps transport the immune system throughout our body. That means it helps our mighty little white blood cells get to where it needs to go to fight off those grimy little germs. You should aim for 8 glasses a day, more in times of activity and hot weather. Herbal tea does count and please remember that caffeine actually has the reverse effect and dehydrates us which means you need more water after that morning cup of Joe.
Eating well is essentially important in order to prevent sickness. If you are constantly eating processed, greasy, high trans fat foods then I’m sorry to say that you don’t have a fighting chance. Our bodies are designed to take energy and nutrients from the foods we consume. If you are not eating a well-balanced diet then your body is lacking nutrients and is more susceptible at getting sick. Don’t make your diet complicated just simply remember to get back to basics and ask yourself the 3 following questions before you consume a food:
- 1. Did this come from a plant or was it made in a plant? Remove all processed and “junk” foods from your diet.
- 2. Am I eating the rainbow? Ensure your meals have a variety of colours which allows for a variety of nutrient dense foods.
- 3. Is this a well-balanced meal? Ensure you are eating proteins, fats and carbohydrates at every meal.
ANTI-VIRAL FOODS AND VITAMINS
Vitamin D, our sunshine vitamin is a great way to ward off sickness. Unfortunately, during the winter months, we are not outdoors as much as we need to be and our skin is covered up making it quite difficult to absorb the necessary vitamin D we need from the sun. It is a good idea to check your levels by requesting blood work through your doctor seeing as majority of us are actually deficient in Canada. The levels will vary per person so please speak to your health practitioner to assist with how to properly supplement.
Vitamin C has a protective effect on the body’s cells when there is an infection looming. This protection will reduce the likelihood of the infection spreading as well as the severity. Vitamin C is great for supporting the immune system. Having a strong immune system leads to being able to fight off viruses and infections a lot more efficiently. Vitamin C can be found in a lot of food sources and can also be easily found in supplement form.
Garlic contains a compound called allicin which has strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. This compound stays intact when eaten raw and can be damaged in the cooking process. Eating raw garlic can seem a little intimidating but it can be a lot easier than you think. What about making a batch of hummus or guacamole? You can also add raw garlic minced or diced into an already heated up soup at the very end as you are about to serve it. Adding raw garlic to a fresh smoothie can also be a great way to incorporate it into your daily intake.
Ginger has two anti-inflammatory compounds knows as gingerols and shaogals. These compounds help with congestion, colds/viruses, nausea and fevers. The fresh root can easily be grated and minced and added to tea, smoothies and soups. You can also add the powder form to any of your cooking. It adds excellent flavour and has many health benefits.
Turmeric has both anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. It actually increases the mucus production within our sinuses and respiratory tract which allows us to naturally flush out microorganisms in these areas allowing us to expectorate the mucus a lot easier. Turmeric is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties which can relieve symptoms immensely. You can easily juice turmeric root and add it to homemade juices or even add it to smoothies. Turmeric is also sold in a powder form which can easily be added to teas, water and food.
Elderberry clears sinuses and is known for being especially beneficial for respiratory-tract infections. This beautiful little berry is high in vitamin C and antioxidants which combat free radical damage in the body due to viruses. It is easily available in supplement form usually as a syrup and it can also be found in a tea. Children usually like the taste of the sweet berry making it very easy for them to take it. Elderberry works more effectively if it is given at the first signs of sickness.
Oregano can actually reverse viral infections. The essential oil taken from oregano leaves contains carvacrol. This compound has strong anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Oil of oregano is easy to get in supplement form either in capsule or oil form. This supplement works best when taken at first signs of sickness. Oil of oregano can also be added to a carrier oil like coconut oil and then mixed together and rubbed on the chest to alleviate congestion.
Before taking any of these herbs and vitamins, it is recommended to consult your health practitioner ensuring that it is safe for you. It is also a good idea to check in with your health practitioner to discuss the proper dosage that is required for you.
Chantal Mulhern, RHN, LBA