Stopping a Cold Before it Starts
An optimal diet is excellent for treating and preventing many conditions like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, arthritis, diverticulitis, and obesity. But will diet alone keep us from getting sick during cold and flu season? Probably not. While our eating habits do play an important role in strengthening our immune system, there are other lifestyle factors involved in preventing and recovering from seasonal sickness.
Getting sufficient sleep - Sleeping is probably one of the best things we can do for our overall health. Our bodies heal and our immune system ramps up while we catch our ZZZ's. Dr. Michael Klaper says that even a 10 minute nap will boost our immune response. A 2009 study found that those with less than seven hours of sleep each night were three times more likely to get a cold as those with eight or more hours.
Drinking lots of pure water - especially in the winter months when the air is drier. A good rule is to try to drink 64 ounces of water before 5:00 p.m. When we become dehydrated, the mucus secretions in our lungs, throat, and intestinal track become thicker. The antibodies normally present in mucus cannot work as well, and so the thickened mucus becomes a breeding ground for the microbes that make us sick. Sufficient water thins the secretions and allows us to expel the excess mucus, ridding our bodies of the infectious agents.
Walking - preferably in the fresh air and sunshine. Even when we are feeling a little sick, a gentle walk pushes our blood to deliver fresh oxygen and remove waste products from our cells. Walking in the sunshine is even better because our skin manufactures Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. A study published in 2014 showed that low Vitamin D levels are associated with many types of infection including respiratory and intestinal infections.
Gargling - Long recommended in Japan, gargling has now been studied and shown to be effective. A 2005 study found that plain water gargling prevents respiratory infections and a more recent study on 20,000 preschoolers found daily water gargling to reduce incidence of colds by one third.
Washing your hands - Dr. John McDougall reminds us that "viral infections are spread by passing the virus between people." He writes, "The commonest close contact people have is by their hands which touch other people and objects with viruses. From the hands the virus is transferred to the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose, where it infects these tissues. The viruses can survie on surfaces for several hours. Hand washing is an effective means of preventing the spread of the virus. In one study of 3 to 5 year-old children, handwashing reduced the risk of colds and flu was significantly during cold and flu season."
Avoiding milk and all dairy products - As far back as 1966, it was documented that reoccurring colds, congestion, and bronchitis could be eliminated with by removing milk, cheese, yogurt, and all dairy from the diet.
Relaxing - Stress takes its toll on our health. Our immune system suffers and our susceptibility to colds and flu goes up when we don't take the time to relax. Exercise, religious practice, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones are all ways to de-stress and stay positive.
If we add these practices to a low-fat diet based on a wide variety of whole, natural, plant foods (especially dark green leafy vegetables), we will put ourselves in the best possible position to avoid sniffling through the cold Winter months.
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