Self-Defense for the Flu
By JENNIFER CASSETTA
As a self-defense instructor, I’ve always relied on myself to be strong, safe and sexy, versus leaving my safety in someone else’s hands. I am the same way when it comes to my health. I learn the facts, do my research, and then I take action.
Flu shots are good for the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and those who come in contact with sick people often. For the rest of us, we have another option. We can practice self-defense against the flu virus as well as the common cold by building up our immunity. If you do get a flu shot, it’s still important to strengthen your immune system because the flu shot is only 62% effective. Also, if you do get sick, a stronger immune system will get you back to work sooner rather than later.
Whatever you decide, please don't go to the doctor and ask for an antibiotic against the flu or a cold. Antibiotics do not kill viruses, only bacterial infections. The overuse of antibiotics is detrimental to your gut health and can lead to serious long-term health issues.
6 Ways to Arm Yourself Against the Flu That Don’t Involve a Needle
1. Gobble Garlic
Garlic can kick the flu's butt! It contains allicin and allion, anti-viral compounds that can help kill the flu virus before it gets to be full-blown flu inside the body.
As someone who grew up in an Italian family, I’m no stranger to garlic. I don't have much of a problem getting my garlic intake in tomato sauces, roasted vegetable dishes, garlic spreads, soups and sauces (think chimichurri).
Sneak in Onions
Onions contain the same antimicrobials as garlic. Eating raw onions would be great for your immune system, not necessarily your breath. You can also cook them and add them to soups, stews, omelets, stir fries, and meat dishes as well. Onions and garlic also contain prebiotics, the precursors to probiotics (coming up below).
Gorge on Ginger
Ginger is great to combat infections because it makes you sweat. Sweating not only promotes detoxification but also releases a germ fighting compound that can kill off infection.
Add fresh ginger to soups such as this carrot-ginger soup recipe or in stir fries. Sip on ginger tea (Yogi brand is my fave) at the office or brew a pot after dinner and enjoy it with a drop of honey. Sushi fans, you're in luck! Eat that pickled ginger served with your fish and order an extra serving.
Pack a Probiotic Punch
The brain of our immune system is our gut, and it’s our body’s first line of defense. An unhealthy gut equals an unhealthy person. We need to introduce healthy bacteria into our digestive tract by eating foods that contain probiotics.
Simultaneously, we should be limiting our intake of foods that increase our unhealthy gut flora like foods that are high in sugar and flour: candy, soda, pasteurized fruit juices, breads, pastas, cookies, pretzels, and crackers.
Eat fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso soup, kefir and sip on some kombucha if you’re feeling daring. Eat yogurt, but choose your brand and variety wisely. Most yogurt manufacturers defeat the benefits of being a gut-healthy food by adding tons of sugar to the yogurt. Replace your sugary yogurts with plain Greek yogurt and add a touch of honey, if you like it sweet. If none of these foods sounds pleasing to your palate, there’s always probiotics in a supplement form.
Don’t Forget Fitness
Regular, moderate exercise, up to one hour per day, can help kick the flu to the curb. Studies have shown people who exercise consistently take less sick days than those who don't. On the flip side, the immune system can crash after a major bout of extreme exercising, like running a marathon.
Hit the Sack
Without proper sleep, you can forget about being strong, safe and sexy. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to increased stress hormones, weight gain, mood swings, depression, and a weakened immune system. The amount of T-cells (white blood cells that help fight viruses) decrease with lack of sleep. Getting at least seven hours of zzz's every night will help you defend yourself and also recover faster if you do wind up sick. Either way, you’re going to wind up in bed, so you might as well do it in the form of sleeping at night.
Readers — Do you get sick often or not at all? Do you get flu shots every year? What steps do you take to stay healthy during flu season? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Jennifer Cassetta is a third degree black belt, clinical nutritionist and personal trainer. She loves kale, chocolate and wine. She loves to punch, kick, lift weights, meditate, and dress up in stilettos. She empowers people to be strong, safe and sexy through nutrition, fitness and self-defense, and you can read more at www.jennifercassetta.com.