This post about how to not get sick contains affiliate links. Please discuss cold and flu prevention with a trained healthcare professional. Read my disclosures and disclaimers. This post last updated January 14, 2020.
With winter upon us, so is the start of cold and flu season.
As I look out the window this morning, I see a light accumulation of snow from the beautiful white flakes falling from the sky. The first day of winter in Denver, Colorado is marked by one of the first snowstorms of the season.
But the beauty of the snow has been marred by something I learned recently.
The flu vaccine in 2017 was only 10 percent effect, and in 2018, it was only 25 percent effective. Now, in 2019, it’s only 29 percent effective. These figures do not fare well for those of us who think the flu shot can prevent us from getting sick.
On top of that, we’ve all heard stories of people getting the flu shot and still getting the flu. It happened to my husband a few years ago. Indeed, the flu shot is only partially effective in protecting us against one strain of the flu.
I believe that true immunity doesn’t come from the flu vaccine; rather, it comes from building your immune system defenses. Building your immune system is the key to how to not get sick and lesson the length and severity of the symptoms when you do.
Related Reading: 12 Highly Effective Habits of Healthy Gluten-Free Dieters
I personally believe the flu vaccination gives a false sense of feeling like we’re invincible to disease when it is only offering a small, variable amount of protection from the flu, and zero protection from catching the common cold, which is a more commonplace occurrence anyway.
The truth is, we all will get sick from time to time, and our bodies will be tested each and every time a virus runs rampant in our city, community and household. Getting sick is a part of life.
I know this to be true because I used to be sick all the time. Seriously, all the time!
I’d catch every cold that went around. These colds would turn into sinus infections, and then the sinus infections had me running to my doctor begging for an antibiotic.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that the antibiotic would wipe out all the bacteria in my body, even the good bacteria, leaving me with little immunity defenses, making me prone to getting sick again and again, and worse off, giving me recurring yeast infections that took me six months to turn around – it was awful!
This was me, several years ago, before I wised up about the role of food in preventing and lessening the symptoms of disease. I get sick far less now, and when I do catch a cold, the symptoms are much more tame, and I’m able to bounce back more quickly.
Just as any country continually invests resources in its defense strategy, so should every human being invest in his or her defense strategy, too. We cannot depend on magical flu vaccines, especially this year, to help keep us healthy.
If you’re one of those people who seems to catch everything that goes around, and your family falls victim to the same fate, your defense army is weak and poorly equipped to fight off disease.
This is because you might be eating whatever is fast, convenient and or cheap, relegating vegetables to the corner of your dinner plate. And, while you never forget to take your medications, you seem to always forget to take your vitamins. I hear this same story all the time when I do my nutrition and health sessions with clients.
However, I know if you put in the hard work to build an army adequately equipped to fight, you have a fighting chance when it comes to detering whatever virus comes your way… or at least lesson the assault and blow.
5 Strategies for How to Not Get Sick this Cold and Flu Season
In this article, I talk about how to not get sick this cold and flu season by helping you tap into your body’s immune system in a productive and proactive way. I want to help you defend yourself from the microbes that will inevitably come your way rather than scare you from coming in contact with them in the first place.
Remember, the more time and effort you put into building your defenses, the better equipped you’ll be at fending off viruses in the future.
(1) Employ Excellent Nutrition
If you eat sick foods, you’ll be sick, and if you eat healthy foods, you’ll be healthy. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to that conclusion.
In fact, excellent nutrition may not only prevent you from catching colds, but also it may lesson the severity of the ones you do catch. This is why you want to be eating plenty of micronutrients, superfoods, antimicrobial foods and immune-boosting foods.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman shares in his book, Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body’s Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger and Disease-Free, several foods that have been well researched and proven to boost your body’s immune system. These include:
Mushrooms: We are learning that mushrooms play an important immune-boosting role and contain “unusual disease fighting compounds” that modern researchers are just starting to understand.
Dr. Fuhrman says that compounds found in mushrooms have been shown, in animal experiments, to enhance the activity of our body’s natural killer T cells (killer T cells attack abnormal cells in our body). Not only are mushrooms great for boosting the immune system, but a pile of research indicates that mushrooms may be one of the most potent anti-cancer vegetables on the planet, but that discussion is for another post (or you can just read Super Immunity yourself).
Related Reading: 19 So-Called Health Foods that Aren’t Even Healthy
Cruciferous Vegetables: Green vegetables, such as kale, cabbage, collards and broccoli, along with other non-green vegetables like cauliflower and turnips, are known as cruciferous vegetables, which Dr. Fuhrman says are “king” of all disease fighting foods.
All vegetables contain protective micronutrients and phytochemicals, says Dr. Fuhrman, but cruciferous vegetables also have unique sulfur-containing compounds that offer an array of proven and powerful immune-boosting effects. Studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables stimulate our body to readily attack microbes, such as cold and flu viruses. (Source: Super Immunity)
Onions and Garlic: These treasured and delicious foods – along with the entire allium family of vegetables – add more than just flavor to your diet, but also contain important anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds according to Dr. Fuhrman.
Pomegranates and Berries: According to Dr. Furhman, these superfoods contain powerful antioxidants that gobble up free radicals in your body, helping keep chronic inflammation, which can lead to a host of diseases, at bay. Pomegranate juice contains soluble polyphenols, tannins and anthocyanins that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Seeds: Seeds, along with nuts, are loaded with healthy fats (omega 3 fatty acids are essential for controlling inflammation) and are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals.
Did you know that sesame seeds have the highest level of calcium of ANY food in the world? Dr. Fuhrman says sesame seeds also have the most readily absorbable levels of vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant and free-radical scavenger as well as essential in regulating the body’s immune system activity.
(2) Take the Right Supplements
If you want to know how to not get sick this cold and flu season, considering adding supplements to your “healthcare” (vs. “sickcare”) regime (be sure to consult with your health care professional).
While you can get a lot of these nutrients from the food you eat, the truth is that most Americans are not regularly eating the right foods in the right amounts, so supplementation is a must in many cases.
Supplements that help boost your immune system include:
Fish Oil: Numerous studies indicate that fish oil has potent anti-inflammatory properties. You can get these fatty acids (omega-3s) by eating fatty fish, but most humans can’t eat enough fish on a daily basis (nor should you due to mercury contamination), so daily supplementation is vital. Take a high quality fish oil to ensure low mercury exposure. I take this one by Country Life every single day, whether I’m sick or not.
Vitamin D: An estimated 85 percent of Americans do not get enough vitamin D, which is a powerful microbial agent that produces 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in your body used to kill bacteria, viruses and fungi. The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight, which is not readily available in the winter. This is why supplementation, again, is vital.
Dr. Mercola suggests that, in order to prevent the flu, children and adults need 35 IU of vitamin D per pound of body weight. For example, a 57-pound child would need 2,000 IU a day of vitamin D and the average adult would need 5,000 IU. You can find a high quality Vitamin D supplement at your local natural grocery store or online.
Multi-Vitamin: If you want to know how to not get sick, ensure you’re always getting the right amount of vitamins daily. You can do this by taking a good quality multivitamin each and every day. I recommend this one.
(3) Take a Daily Probiotic
Researchers are just beginning to understand the deep connection between our whole body health and our gut health. Most Americans have poor gut health because we don’t eat the right foods and we unnecessarily consume antibiotics without understanding that antibiotics kills both the good and bad bacteria in our guts every time we take them (antibiotics are essential in treating true bacteria infections, but should not be used to treat viruses).
Probiotics will repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria, which keep the bad bacteria in check and prevent the bad guys from overtaking the gut microbiome and wreaking havoc throughout the body.
Related Reading: The Benefits of Probiotics
I take this type of high-quality probiotic with 50 billion CFUs (colony forming units) every single day to maintain good health. I switch brands often to introduce new bacteria strains into my gut. This means I simply buy what’s on sale and switch brands often.
Be sure to avoid foods marketed as probiotic-rich, such as Yoplait yogurt, GoodBelly Probiotic Drinks and Tropicana Probiotic Juice. These foods only contain a small amount of beneficial bacteria and they are loaded with sugar.
Sugar feeds the bad bacteria in your gut and helps the bad guys grow. Don’t believe health-washed, probiotic-boasting marketing messages that make you think the products are healthy when they are indeed not.
Related Reading: 10 Tips to Breaking Your Sugar Addiction
I also like to drink kombucha, which is a probiotic-rich fermented tea beverage. Read about the benefits of kombucha and the art of making your own kombucha at home.
(4) Prioritize Sleep and Stress Less
Poor sleep, along with chronic stress, can weaken your body’s defenses. Remember, sleep is restorative. Don’t sacrifice shut eye when you’re healthy if you want to stay healthy or you’ll be setting yourself up for a viral takeover.
Also, any sort of chronic stress can wreak havoc on your sleep and whole body health. In fact, chronic stress has been shown to be damaging to your mental and physical health and responsible for temporarily shutting down your immune system. (Source: Dr. Mercola) If your immune system isn’t up to snuff, you’ll be prone to contracting the common cold, or worse, the flu virus!
(5) Sip on Bone Broths
When you’re suffering from a cold or flu, people often turn to sipping on bone broths. Why wait to get sick if you can start sipping now?!? Bone broth contains all sorts of essential nutrients for maintaining good health, and it can aid in helping beneficial bacteria survive and proliferate in the gut. (Source: Dr. Axe)
I make a delicious bone broth from chicken bones I get at Whole Foods (yes, you can buy organic chicken bones for just a few bucks!). It serves as a potent immunity cocktail and something I enjoy sipping on year-round (and so does my family). Get my bone broth recipe here.
A Few More Things About How to Not Get Sick
Remember, antibiotics should never be used to treat cold or flu symptoms. They will only make your immune system weaker. Antibiotics should only be used to treat true bacteria infections.
Also, over-the-counter cold medications can be used only to help temporarily relieve symptoms, but they do not treat viruses. They simply relieve symptoms.
If you want to know how to not get sick, and lessen the severity of cold and flu when you do, you must work hard to restore and build your immune system. Continually infuse your body with powerful superfoods, repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria every single day, and get plenty of shut eye each night.
As you build immunity, every year you’ll be stronger, more resilient and excellently equipped and prepared to fight whatever future bugs come your way.