Living the WELL Life

Some Things to Consider About Swine Flu before You Panic and Barricade Yourself in Your Home for the Duration.

Monday, November 23, 2009

We live in fear that our insurance won’t cover our heart attack from life’s stress; that is if our immune system doesn’t fail first and leave us exposed to the next animal sourced epidemic. Mad-cow and bird flu, now we’re now plagued with swine flu (makes you wonder what other animals have a virus up their sleeve just waiting to pounce). And with the media coverage, it’s no small wonder that people aren’t screaming in the streets the way it’s being reported. Even Katie Couric was critical of our President kissing and shaking hands at his recent address of Congress in this time of flu panic.

Watching the news recently, a local reporter was covering swine flu risks at local universities because the students live in such close quarters. After a terrifying account of the Petri-dish like conditions festering on campuses all over the country, said reporter interviewed a victim of the dread flu. Clearly this kid was not prepped or vetted. She shrugged and said it was a like a bad case of any flu, but after a few days, lots of water and bed rest, she was back at class and it was ‘no big deal, really.’ The stunned reporter turned to the camera and continued on her doom and gloom report of life on campus for our beleaguered and vulnerable students. Oh, to be a fly on the wall after that segment!

All kidding aside, Swine Flu or H1N1, depending on who you don’t want to offend is a serious problem in this country and around the world. But it didn’t have to be, especially in America. The statistics are scary and real. But you don’t have to become one of them.

I often ask people to tell me ten things they know they could do to improve their health. They can always do it. They give great answers on improving their physical and mental/emotional wellbeing. I often follow up by asking why they don’t do it. Most often, my question is followed by a very long list of obligations, commitments and burdens that occupy their days. It’s real to them; it hurts their health and it’s easy to fix.

If we didn’t live our lives in ways that were so compromising to our immune function, this mean little flu wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. But no; we insist on drinking soda, living on processed foods filled to the brim with sugar and high fructose corn syrup; chowing down on saturated fats; not exercising to stay strong; and treating our bodies like cheap imitations of the real thing.

So here it is…how to prevent swine flu from disrupting your peace of mind…and your immune function. Oh, and it doesn’t involve hand washing. You should be doing that anyway, flu or no flu.

 1). Drop that donut!

Skip food that’s white, except tofu and eat whole grains. Simple carbohydrates are empty calories that turn to sugar almost immediately upon ingestion. The result? Less bang for your buck, nutritionally speaking. With each ingestion of simple carbs your body produces fewer white blood cells, which drives your immune function. So every candy bar, cookie, piece of pie or French fry compromises you more. You are left tired and the perfect host for disease.

 White bread, white rice, white sugar, white pasta, potatoes should make a disappearing act from your diet and be replaced by brown rice (and other grains like quinoa, barley and millet), whole grain breads, whole grain pasta and sweet potatoes. Complex carbohydrates that are rich in antioxidants will keep your immune system at its peak and the flu at bay.

 2). Skip the Steak

Animal flesh is compromising to the immune system in a completely different way than sugar. The animals that are commercially produced for food are fed antibiotics to prevent illness because of the conditions under which they live (if you can call it living). As we consume more and more commercially produced meat, our bodies can foster the development of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. That, coupled with the over-prescription of these powerful medications in our own health care spells immunity disaster for us.

3). Go for the Green

Leafy green vegetables, like kale, collards, watercress, dandelion, and arugula (just like our President eats); bok choy, escarole, broccoli rabe, Swiss chard, spinach and even Romaine lettuce will make you big and strong. The dark green color of these leaves shows us that they are loaded with the antioxidant, beta carotene and other immune boosting phytochemicals. Loaded with vitamin C, dark leafies are also known to lower blood pressure and prevent the build-up of plaque in veins and arteries, preventing heart disease.

 4). Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit

Before you laugh consider that beans provide us with nutrients invaluable to our immune function: vitamins A, C and zinc. From green beans to kidney beans, these excellent sources of protein help to build muscle, provide energy and improve immune function.

5). Go Lift Something

The strength of our immune system is tied to our muscle mass. Immune strength relies on the availability of the amino acid glutamine and your muscles have to supply the glutamine to your immune system for it to work. The more muscle mass you have, the more glutamine; the better your immune function. So if you want to avoid the flu, get off the couch and go lift something a few times a week.

And last, get enough sleep; drink plenty of water; get outside and breathe fresh air every day.

Okay, let’s say you wash your hands to make Howard Hughes proud; you eat well and you exercise. You have boosted your immune function to beat the band and wham! You get the flu. What do you do now?

The symptoms of swine flu aren’t much different than seasonal flu, just more intense.

The sore throat, fever, congestion, chills, vomiting and diarrhea are no fun, swine flu or not. But there are some things you can do to speed recovery and provide some measure of relief.

1). Drink Copious Amounts of Alcohol.

I’m kidding, but it got your attention, didn’t it? Seriously, excessive drinking will help the flu to knock you right on your butt.

2). But…Drink Copious Amounts of Water

Now I’m serious. Staying hydrated will help the body to recover much quicker than if you allow yourself to dehydrate, especially if you have a fever. Stay away from fruit juice, like orange juice, though. While refreshing, it’s loaded with simple sugars and now you know what they do to your immune function.

3). Herbal Relief

Many people are turning to herbal medicines for relief of flu symptoms. They are effective in most cases and have no side effects.

Elder has been used to treat cold and flu for centuries, due to antiviral compounds in the flower bud. Echinacea has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of flu and speeding recovery. Goldenseal contains the natural antibiotic, berberine and clears mucus from the throat and nose and can help prevent any bacterial infections that can follow the flu.

4). Eat a little.

The old wives tales are true about soup and how well it relieves flu symptoms. Just be sure that your soup contains plenty of onion, garlic, horseradish or hot chilies, vinegar and ginger. No flu can survive these ingredients.

Oh, and go to bed. Don’t infect everybody else by being a martyr and showing up at work.

At the end of the day, you can wash your hands all you want. You can wear a surgical mask. You can stay off planes and out of public places. You can avoid humanity altogether. But if you’re strong and vital, you can live your life, enjoy every minute; maybe get the sniffles or flu and move on.


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