I thought I’d be topical this week, since I live in New York and we’ve already seen 28 cases of human swine flu infection caused by the H1N1 flu virus strain. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about this strange new epidemic. What is it, and can we prevent it without questionable antivirals, by just finding a way to boost our immune systems?
The Spread of Swine Flu
Swine flu is a respiratory ailment that affects pigs seasonally, and although cases of transmission to humans have occurred in the past, it usually didn’t spread past just a few people. However, now the infection has begun to affect larger numbers of apparently healthy people, and the fact that it has successfully “jumped species” is causing moderate alarm all over the world. We’re months away from even having a vaccine — so what are some ways to make sure the swine flu never crosses your path (even if you live in New York)? How can we brace ourselves naturally against it?
Don’t Let ANY Flu Gain Entry to Your Body
Well, the flu, be it swine, avian, or any other weird future hybrid, always takes a certain passage; by making sure it doesn’t gain entry to your body, you stay protected against any kind. So first, make sure you’re drinking enough water. It’s kind of a no-brainer, but water helps flush our bodies of toxins, and that’s what keeps our immune systems healthy. Enough water is sixty-four ounces a day; that’s eight glasses, as we’ve been told all through our lives. Make sure you’re drinking enough water to keep your body in top form against these flu season invaders.
Cut Down Your Sugar Intake
Second, cut down your sugar intake for flu season (and ideally for good). Sugar is absorbed fast, and if it’s not burned off equally as quick, it stays in your blood and inhibits your white blood cells’ ability to fight invading organisms. Avoiding sugar will also mean that you’re not subjecting yourself to the arbitrary, exhausting highs and lows that glucose spikes and crashes bring. It’s important to take this step and eliminate sugar from the diet when you’re ill or around sick people; flu season might be the perfect time to kick that habit.
Boost Your Immune System
Third, you can boost your immune system by taking supplements, including Vitamin C (the super booster). If you take a C supplement, make sure it’s food-based for best absorption. You can also take herbs like echinacea and elderberry. The latter contains flavonoids that make it a great immunobooster and very helpful during flu season. You can also take one of several immune system formulas specifically designed for seasonal boost. Most of these tend to contain a combination of C, echinacea, and elderberry, along with other immunoboosting ingredients.
Wash Your Hands
Last, make sure you always wash your hands after touching public areas like doorknobs, railings, and elevator buttons. Wash your hands after touching money. Make sure you’re doing this effectively — washing for twenty seconds with friction is best. These hints should help you get through flu season.
Update (August, 2010): According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “The world is no longer in phase 6 of influenza pandemic alert. We are now moving into the post-pandemic period. The new H1N1 virus has largely run its course.” More details here: H1N1 in post-pandemic period
Update (January, 2014): According to Public Health Agency of Canada, “The H1N1 flu virus strain was first identified in 2009, caused the H1N1 influenza pandemic and is still circulating in Canada and other countries including the United States.” More details here: Seasonal Influenza
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.