“Should I get the flu shot?”
I get asked this question a lot. Let’s face it, the flu can be scary. And it seems that everywhere you turn there are advertisements that subtly (or not-so subtly) imply that you are putting yourself and your family in danger should you choose not to get this vaccine.
The truth is, just like anything, the flu shot comes with risks and benefits, and each person needs to choose for themselves what makes the most sense. It is not always an easy decision. Whatever you decide, it is important to protect your health as we move into the winter. Even if you choose to get the flu vaccine, it is not 100% effective, and it will not protect you from your run of the mill colds. Here are 6 tips for staying healthy during the cold and flu season:
- Hand washing
This remains one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of disease. Before you put anything in your mouth, wash your hands. I recommend using only non-antimicrobial washes (i.e. regular soap and water), or natural essential oil based hand sanitizers (these do not breed antimicrobial resistance).
2. Vitamin D Vitamin D is crucial for your immune system, and many of us in the Northern Hemisphere have low levels. I urge you to get your levels tested (it is a simple blood test that your doctor can order), and to take vitamin D supplementation if you are low.
3. Probiotics Probiotics help improve immunity and prevent infection. I recommend products that contain multiple strains of probiotics, and at least 10 CFU’s per cap (CFU stands for colony forming unit, and it is how the strength of probiotics are measured).
4. Hydration Staying well hydrated is important because parched mucous membranes are more susceptible to inflammation and irritation, and then they don’t do their job of acting as a primary barrier against infection. Water and herbal teas are your best bet.
5. Herbs One of my favorite herbal remedies to prevent colds and flus is elderberry syrup. Effective and delicious! The amount that you need to take varies with the brand. In general, 1 tsp per day is good for prevention. You can also read more about winter immune tonics here.
6. Rest Your immune system is intimately connected with your nervous and endocrine systems. Taking time to rest and de-stress will go a long way towards keeping you healthy this winter. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and turn your electronics off 30 min before going to bed.
Following these simple tips can go a long way towards helping you stay healthy this winter (and recover quickly should you get sick). If you or a family member does become very ill with a flu, please see a doctor as soon as possible. Stay tuned for my next article, where I’ll talk about natural remedies that you can use if you do get sick!