staying healthy

How To Stay Healthy During Flu and Cold Season

sneezing cat

With flu season upon us, we’re all looking for ways to stay healthy.  This year, many of us are particularly worried because of the H1N1 swine flu.  It’s hard to know which information is simply media hype, and which information is based on fact and can be trusted.  I offer the following tips to help you navigate the flu season with your health, and your sanity, intact.

Vaccinate or Not?

First of all, don’t panic, no matter what the media tells you.  Humanity has dealt with the flu for thousands of years.  Flu viruses change from season to season, and while a flu vaccine may be necessary and even effective for some people, keep in mind that this season’s flu vaccine is based on last year’s virus and may not offer complete protection.  Additionally, the new H1N1 vaccine was brought to market much faster than vaccines of the past, and there is, as of yet, no information on potential long term side effects.  The decision on whether to get vaccinated should be an individual decision and take your health history as well as your risk of exposure into consideration.  While your physician should always be your ultimate source for health information, keep in mind that not all physicians take a holistic view when it comes to preventive health care.  Do your homework, and get educated.

Common Sense

Common sense precautions against the flu have not changed over the years. Frequent hand washing is still the best precautionary measure against the flu as well as colds.  But don’t waste your money on antimicrobial and antibacterial soaps – they don’t work against viruses and provide no added value over soap and water.  In fact, they may contribute to the spread of resistant bacteria.  Don’t touch your face unless you’ve just washed your hands – that’s a direct route for viruses to get into your respiratory tract.  So far, the common wisdom is that the H1N1 virus is airborne, so listen to what you mother taught you:  cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing, and throw the used tissues away – don’t leave them for someone else to deal with.

Boost your Immune System

  • Take a good multi-vitamin.  Do your research and make sure the brand you take has good bio-availability.  Most grocery store brands do not meet this requirement.
  • Take extra vitamin C.  I regularly take 1000mg a day, and I double or triple this when I’ve been exposed to someone who is sick.
  • Sip warm fluids.  Sipping hot tea can make your mouth unfriendly to microbes and reduces your risk of getting sick even after you’ve been exposed.  Gargling with warm salt water can have the same effect.
    Use a Neti Pot (nasal saline rinse) regularly to flush your sinuses before microbes have a chance to get a hold in your system.
  • Avoid inflammation promoters such as sugar, alcohol and tobacco.
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels.  Generally, the more optimal your vitamin D levels, the less your chances of getting the flu or a cold.  Ideally, you should have your vitamin D levels tested, but if you live in the Northern hemisphere and don’t want to pursue testing, experts feel that it’s safe to take at least 1000-2000 IU’s of vitamin D during the winter months.
  • Support your intestinal flora with probiotics.  It may seem odd that your intestinal tract’s health has anything to do with flu and cold prevention, but most inflammation begins in the gut, which in turn, affects your immune system.
  • Get enough sleep.  This is one of the best ways to keep your immune system rested and healthy.
  • Exercise regularly.  Better yet, exercise outside.  
  • Listen to your body.  We all get early warning signs when we’re about to catch a cold or come down with the flu.  For some, it may be a tickle in the throat, for others, a mild stomach ache, nausea, or simple that “just ain’t right” feeling.  Gargle with warm salt water, use your Neti pot, increase your vitamin C and D supplementation, and get some rest.  Sometimes something as simple as slowing down can boost our immune system enough to ward off a cold or the flu in the early stages.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.  If you constantly worry about getting sick, chances are, you will get sick.  Picture yourself healthy with a strong immune system, and don’t stay glued to the news reports of flu outbreaks and pandemics.

H1N1 and Your Pets

Most pet owners are worried about whether their pets can contract the H1N1 swine flu.  Since this is an evolving story, it’s not possible at this stage to have a yes or no answer to this question.  So far, there have been reports of ferrets and birds as well as several cats who contracted the virus.  It’s important to know that in all the cases of the cats, the virus was transmitted from humans in the households who were sick with the virus to the cats, and not the other way around.  There has been one report of a dog being infected with H1N1 in China.  It appears as though in this case, too, the virus was passed from human to dog and not the other way around. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) maintains an information page on their website with the most recent information on H1N1 and how it affects pets.

Until we know more about how H1N1 affects pet, take the same common sense precautions you would with a human family member if you do get sick:  follow proper hygiene and sanitation measures to prevent the spread of the disease.  Try to isolate the sick family member from others as much as possible, wash your hands frequently and wipe down common surfaces with a good cleaner or sanitizer.

I hope these common sense precautions put your mind at ease and help protect you and your family members, both human and furry, from flu and cold viruses.

Tips to Control the Holiday Food Madness

Thanksgiving_Cats

While these kitties are dreaming of their turkey dinner, I thought this would be a good time for some helpful advice for us humans as we enter the holiday food season.  Today’s guest post gives lots of helpful  hints on how to get through the season without letting go of all of the good eating and exercise habits we’ve cultivated throughout the year.

And coming Monday on The Conscious Cat:  how to keep your pets safe from holiday foods that may not be good for them!

Guest Post by Woody McMahon

No Need to Struggle

If you are struggling with food or your weight, the next few weeks can be a bit overwhelming. This is the season for food overload with all the football games, Thanksgiving, holiday parties, Christmas and New Years all lined up in a row. Just makes your mouth water doesn’t it? This is a challenging time for even for the most health conscious individuals. So what does a reasonable minded person to do when faced with such a seemingly daunting challenge? An old saying comes to mind, “When the going gets rough, the tough get going.”  Here are some suggestions on how to be “tough.”

Stay Active

This is a social time of year. Sometimes you are forced to be more social than you might like. Instead of stopping what has helped you feel so good all year, integrate. If for example you have company coming to town, invite them when you go to the health club, Pilates or Yoga class. They may never have been bold enough to try it on their own or have been admiring you thinking “I wish I could develop a healthy habit like that.” What a great opportunity to do something good for yourself and set a good example while sharing some healthy time with a loved one.

Avoid Overeating

Why do you want to ruin a year’s worth of good work just to overeat right now? Overeating is a unhealthy habit; a habit that is learned and can be unlearned.  The typical party is full of distracted eating (eating while talking) and over grazing leaving you with no idea of how much you really ate. Instead of grazing all night, take a plate and put a reasonable amount of food on it. Go and sit down and enjoy your food. This is a much better way to enjoy the party and not hate yourself in the morning for being a glutton.

Adopt a Positive Attitude

Take the time to be thankful for what you have and your accomplishments. Determine what’s really important in your life and how you plan on making next year better than this one. What does this have to do with food? Well, if you are struggling with food, now is the time to tell yourself next year is going to be the year you end the struggle. Take the time to look behind your overeating. Figure out why food is all consuming and has such a hold on you. How are you going to break the bonds that are keeping you from enjoying life more? Understanding the “why” can help solve the problem and allow you to get on with enjoying life more.

Keep Stress Low

Work diligently to keep your stress low during this time of year. Reducing stress keeps overeating to a minimum. Also you don’t have to accept every single invitation to a party. You know people always invite more guests than they expect. So don’t feel bad if you can’t say “yes” to all the invitations you get. If you can’t accept an invitation from someone you really enjoy, then suggest a lunch or tea after the New Year. You’ll spend much better quality time with your friend and it will help you manage your holiday stress. Try these simple holiday strategies and start your New Year off right.

Exercise is one of three important lifestyle habits essential for good health. If you have special needs then a health and fitness expert with special training is essential as well. Contact Woody McMahon to discuss how Fresh Start can help make the most of your exercise time by building a stronger body the right way.  With his unique program, you’ll improve balance, strength, flexibility, energy and stamina while feeling and looking your best. Contact Woody McMahon at 703-464-5171 to schedule your no cost Fresh Start consultation, or email Woody@SequoiaHealth.com.