Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Flu Vaccine Fail, BUT Don't Fret!

So, it turns out that this year's flu vaccine missed the mark (the CDC has to decide months in advance which strain they think will be hitting us the hardest, and develop a vaccine for that one. This year they were wrong). No need to fret OR to resign yourself to the fact that you'll be getting it for sure, though. Instead, try doing some things that actually FORTIFY your immune system NATURALLY (at this point, what have you got to lose?):

Get outside - even if it's cold - and allow yourself to have exposure to the sun every single day (it's the best way to get immune-boosing vitamin D). Weather too grey to make that feasible? Get a reliable supplement (and by "reliable" I'm not talking about the most expensive or the one that your friend, the supplement MLM ambassador is selling - regardless of what their literature says… Make sure that yours has been vetted by an independent third party testing group that has no financial interest in whether or not you purchase a particular product. I like Consumer Lab).

Reduce your sweet treats! This is tough during this time of year, but what's even tougher is being flat on your back in bed with the flu! Sugar weakens your immune system by sapping your body's supply of immune-protecting elements during the digestion of sugar. This weakened state can last up to several hours after consuming a sweet treat or beverage. Grazing on sweets, day in, day out for several weeks can set you up for some not-so-comfortable R & R come the holidays.

Eat more vitamin A-rich fresh fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach. These foods protect your immune system, but purpose to get them from FOOD sources primarily. Over-doing it on vitamin-A supplements can be detrimental to your health. For information about food sources, and facts about supplementation, visit this site (be sure to check out the citations at the end of the piece, too, for documentation of the findings).

Sleep! While it may sound boring and blahhh, getting adequate rest is a great way to boost your health anytime, but especially in cold and flu season. During sleep your body produces illness-fighters called cytokines. These play a critical role in protecting health after exposure to a virus or during times of stress. For details about the important role of sleep in immune function, check out this article from The Mayo Clinic (and read the citations at the end of the article for documentation of these interesting facts).

I never recommend completely avoiding treats and indulgences - that only makes you want them all the more! Instead, I encourage my clients to selectively indulge: If you want a treat, make sure that it's the best-quality treat you can get your hands on. Craving chocolate? Don't succumb to those waxy almost-chocolate sculpted Santas and miniature bars that create a lasting film in your mouth and leaving you wishing for something better, instead have some rich, dark, velvety chocolate truffles that feel like satin in your mouth and deliver a tongue-tingling burst of satisfying goodness when you eat even a small piece.

Sometimes, simpler is better. When it comes to preventing colds and flu, you might want to opt for this simple route outlined above whether you received the flu shot this year, or not. If you need an accountability partner (because, let's face it, there is always going to be an opportunity to splurge on those not-necessarily-good-for-you activities and foods), consider enlisting a friend or coworker so you can encourage each other to practice some preventable measures to make sure you are fully on your game, come time to really celebrate!

Elly Haddad is a certified Integrative Nutrition Coach and healthy life coordinator. She's the owner of Elemental Fit and founder of The NashWell Group, both based in Nashville, TN. She helps individuals and groups understand the important influence that diet & lifestyle have on health, happiness,& overall wellbeing. Elly is also a writer and public speaker, conducting workshops and seminars throughout the midwest and southeastern US. She can be contacted directly via email here

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