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Swine Flu: Staying Safe, Healthy, and Active
Index of Topics Relating to Swine Flu
If you’ve been watching the news at all, the swine flu is threatening to be a possible pandemic. Cases have not only been confirmed in Mexico and the Southern US, but have now been reported as far North in the US as New York, and overseas in New Zealand. But we still have to live our lives, right? Here’s some info and links about this virus, tips for staying safe wherever you go (especially the gym), and keeping your immune system healthy.
First off, the flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria, so antibiotics don’t work. This is why prevention is key, whether it’s through immunization (flu shot) or taking precautions to avoid infection. What’s a little scary about the swine flu is that it’s caught us by surprise- the US is now working on a vaccine, but no one’s been vaccinated for this particular strain yet. In addition, the few people that had died from it in Mexico where not young or elderly, they were between 20 and 45 years old. This is unusual, because the most vulnerable populations to the flu are children and the elderly.
STAYING HEALTHY WHEN YOU’RE OUT AND ABOUT:
Handwashing: This cannot be emphasized enough. Studies have proven that this is one of the best ways to prevent the spread infection. But did you know, that there is an essential element for proper hand-washing: It’s vigorous friction for 15-20 seconds with soap and water, then rinse. This is what effectively kills germs.
Hand Sanitizer and Wipes: Don’t just limit use to your hands! Use this to disinfect your cart handles when shopping, or before using equipment at the gym. The flu virus may survive up to 48 hours outside the body.
Make Use of Paper Towels: When using a public restroom or facility, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet, AND to open the door. Doorknobs are notorious for spreading germs because so many people touch them, and viruses and bacteria survive easier on non-porous surfaces.
Limit Person to Person Contact: The flu is spread primarily via person to person contact, from shaking hands to standing next to someone who is coughing or sneezing. So protect yourself and your family, by keeping your exposure to a minimum if you suspect someone is suffering an infection.
For Those At High Risk for Infection:
The combination of proper hand washing, and personal protective equipment-masks, gowns, gloves-is effective for preventing transmission of the flu virus. In fact, a recent survey of various studies has shown that it may be even more effective than antiviral drugs in fighting a pandemic.
IMMUNE SYSTEM BOOSTERS:
Exercise: Moderate physical activity (20min/day, 3 times/week) is associated with healthy immune functioning, including increased levels of leukocytes (cells which fight infection). Studies have also shown that immune cells circulate through the body faster and appear better able to destroy bacteria and viruses. Individuals who exercise regularly have also been shown to use less sick time, and report fewer respitory infections (the flu is considered a respitory infection). It also stimulates the release of endorphins that improve your overall sense of well-being, decreases stress, and enhances sleep quality, all of which promote a healthy immune system.
Nourish Your Immune System with Antioxidants, Vitamins, Minerals and Lean Protein: Eating plenty of raw fruits and vegetables is essential. Choose deeply colored produce, which is rich in micronutrients such as polyphenols and bioflavanoids (types of antioxidants), vitamins, especially C, E, and A, and minerals like zinc . For example: blueberries, kale, blood oranges, pomegranate, carrots, or broccoli. Seaweed is a good choice because it is packed with minerals, and consider green tea for cell-protecting catechins. Aim to include a serving of fruit and vegetable with every meal, making sure both are of different colors. Serve with lean protein to ensure you have all the building blocks for healthy immune cells.
Limit Your Intake of Refined Sugars: Refined sugar can send your blood sugar skyrocketing which can impair your immune response to potential invaders. The exact connection between high blood sugar and immune response is still being investigated by scientists. One recent study, from Canada’s University of Alberta, found that hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) can cause a short-term suppression of the attack mode of the immune system.
Limit Intake of Dietary Fat: There is evidence to suggest that fats, both saturated and unsaturated, like refined sugar, interfere with the immune system’s response to potential infection. They basically slow the response time of immune cells when something foreign (like a virus or bacteria) is found in the body.
Laugh More and Stress Less: Chronic stress has been linked to increased susceptibility to illnesses ranging from the common cold to cancer. One connection that has been found is that continuous exposure to adrenal hormones released under stress, such as cortisol, can severely impact your immune system’s response to attack by changing the distribution of various immune cells . Stress can also interfere with sleep quality, and healthy eating, which also contribute to the body’s ability to keep itself healthy Laughter has been shown to increase the number and activity of immune cells, thus enhancing the body’s response to potential infection. Also learn to manage stress by staying socially active, picking up relaxation techniques like meditation, exercise, or just take some time out for yourself.
Sleep Well: There is a definite link between inadequate sleep and depressed immune function. One of the more compelling study from the University of Chicago, tested immune response to a flu vaccine in individuals allowed to a full night’s rest and those who were limited to only four hours. The 4-hour group had only half the number of antibodies as the other group.
Consider Yogurt: Beneficial bacteria in yogurt have not only been shown to help the digestive system, but now have been linked to increased T-lymphocyte production which is essential for responding to infection. A study from the University of Vienna, Austria, found that participants who ate regular yogurt, daily for two weeks, had an increase in these cells by almost thirty percent