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Staying Healthier in Winter

Winter is fully upon us, which means we’re immersed in cold and flu season.  In fact, many people likely know someone who is sick.  While it’s nearly impossible to guarantee a nasty cold can be completely avoided, there are measures we can take to decrease the odds.

Here are a few suggestions.

Wash hands frequently

Hands are germ transmitters because they come in contact with so many types of surfaces.  Then, without realizing we’re doing so half the time, we touch our mouths, our eyes, and our noses (a.k.a., entryways to illness).  Because of this, regular hand washing throughout the year is very important, but it is especially vital during colder months.  A preferred way to clean?  Wet hands thoroughly with lukewarm water, apply soap, and lather/scrub for at least 20 seconds.  Be sure to wash palms, between fingers, under fingernails, and even wrists.  Afterwards, rinse thoroughly and dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Consider probiotics

This thought may seem counterintuitive because probiotics are bacteria, but they’re actually good bugs that help to keep the digestive system in balance.  Beneficial bacteria can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and tempeh, but they’re also available in supplement form.  Why bother with supplements?  Well, when our bodies are in better balance, our immune systems more effectively ward off illness.  Some probiotic strains are preferred over others, so be sure to do research if you decide to go this route.  Incidentally, Lactobacillus Acidophilus is one species that is well studied and regularly recommended.  NOTE: Do not take probiotic supplements without first consulting with your doctor.

Eat colorfully

Colorful fruits and vegetables are often high in antioxidants.  Antioxidants are molecules that help inhibit oxidation.  Oxidation can lead to free radicals, and free radicals have been linked to hastened aging and cell damage.  Fortunately, foods like carrots, tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, broccoli, watermelon, oranges, and peppers help support the immune system, so try to get plenty of these kinds of offerings in your diet.  As a side note, garlic, onions, and mushrooms (especially shitake) may not be particularly colorful, but they are great options, as well.

There are other ways to help ward off the flu and colds besides the aforementioned.  Regular exercise, meditating or praying, drinking an ample amount of water, and getting enough sleep is also significant.

But you’re already sick?  Then hydrate, rest, and try your best not to pass the infection along.  For instance, when you sneeze or cough, turn your head away from other individuals and sneeze into your elbow instead of your hand.

Why?

When you turn your head, infectious droplets are less likely to be discharged in other people’s space.  When you use your elbow instead of your hand, you minimize the likelihood of passing along contagious germs.

Cold and flu season?  With common sense precautions, it can be beaten!

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