How to Avoid Catching Swine Flu
Ganja S. Rai July 2009 Maejo University Thailand
After the SARS virus and the Avian Flu, the latest alien visiting the earth is H1N1 Flu. Now that the alien has reached a global epidemic level and continues to claim hundreds of lives daily, many people around the world are becoming anxious that they might catch the H1N1 flu (aka Swine Flu). It is impossible to go anywhere without hearing about the swine flu. It is all over the newspapers, TV and a popular conversation piece. Because of the daunting scares associated with the H1N1 virus and swine flu epidemic, you may be wondering if there is anything that you can do to prevent the swine flu from affecting you and your family. Basically, there are three things one can do to prevent or minimize the chances of getting both the swine flu and the seasonal flu. 1. The first one is to practice good personal hygiene and follow strict sanitation procedures. 2. The second regime to keep the virus at bay is to stay healthy by boosting our natural immune system to fight back the alien. We can develop our body immunity by eating the right foods in sufficient quantity. 3. The last but not the least regime is to relax. The stress weakens immunity.
Who is at Risk for Swine Flu? It is important to realize that many people who have Swine Flu are better in a couple of days. People with good healthy immune systems should be able to fight off a swine flu infection. Swine flu may become more of a problem for those who have compromised immune systems, the elderly, children and women who are pregnant; these groups of people are not able to fight off the infection as easily. In addition like the seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions, often seen in the elderly. Parents and caregivers need to watch those with compromised immune systems, chronic medical conditions, the elderly, children and women who are pregnant.
I. Good Personal Hygiene and Sanitation Procedures. The swine flu virus is spread in a similar way to any seasonal flu virus. It can be spread from person to person via airborne germs expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes and even by touching the objects that have virus on them. The following measures recommended by CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) can help to prevent catching flu virus: 1. Wash your hands often with warm water and antibacterial soap. 2. If you are unable to wash your hands regularly, carry an alcohol-based hand wash or hand sanitizer (that kills germs) with you and use it regularly. 3. Avoid touching foreign surfaces and public items like such as door knobs and public phones, escalator rails, switches/buttons of lift or books and news papers in library. The Swine flu virus is also transferred as you shake someone‟s hand. If you cannot avoid them wash your hands with water and soap or use hand sanitizers. 4. Avoid touching your face, especially the areas around your eyes, nose and mouth. 5. Always cover your mouth with tissue papers when you cough or sneeze and properly dispose them and wash your hands immediately after doing so. 6. Avoid areas or people that may be contaminated. 7. Stay away from people who are sick with flu (at least 6 feet away!). 8. If you need to visit a contaminated area or feel you are at high risk for contracting the disease, consider wearing a face mask, surgical mask or respirator.
Did you know you could get the flu after handling money? A 2008 article published in the American Society for Microbiology on the "Survival of Influenza Virus on Banknotes" is viewed in a new light with the H1N1 virus. The authors concluded that "unusual environmental contamination should be considered in the setting of pandemic preparedness." They found remnants of influenza virus surviving on paper money for 10 or more days! According to the study, three things need to happen for any flu virus to be transmitted from one person to the next by handling money.
A person who has the virus needs to sneeze or cough onto the bill or blow their nose so mucus stays on the currency. A second person needs to touch the money while the virus is still viable (alive). The second person then needs to put his or her contaminated hand in their mouth or pick their nose thereby getting the virus into their mucous membranes.
The bottom line in making sure that you don't pick up the flu virus from money is to make sure you wash your hands frequently. You might consider keeping hand sanitizer with you to use after handling money.
II. Foods that Strengthen the Body Immune System and Help Protect Against Swine Flu It is likely that a weakened immune system could make you more susceptible to a virus, and that eating well can give your body the best chance of fighting back. There are ways to protect your health in general that can make you less likely to contract the swine flu virus such as eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of fluids and getting enough vitamins in your daily diet. In such a difficult time it is important to rely on both science and natural healing systems to prevent the swine flu virus. Science recognizes that 80% of your immune system is actually living in the digestive tract. Much of what our bodies need to fight off infection is in glorious foods. What we eat may help to optimize the strength of the membranes in your ears, nose and throat to form an internal physical barrier against invading organisms. Proper nutrition is important for an energetic immune system.
As Dr Nick Phin, the head of Pandemic Flu Planning at the Health Protection Agency, explains: “A person who is malnourished is likely to be more susceptible to infections and for most people, a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet will be an important factor in helping to maintain a healthy immune system.”
1. Protein and the Epithelial Cells Protein-rich foods like meat, chicken, eggs and fish, milk, dairy foods, pulse, vegetables, nuts, seeds and soya-based foods all supply vital nourishment for the epithelial cells in these membranes. Three average-sized servings a day of any of these are important to maintain the integrity of these “barrier” tissues. . If you are a vegetarian, try canned and dry beans, lentils or soy products such as meatless burgers and tofu or fortified soy milk.
2. Vitamin A and the Respiratory Membranes Eating plenty of bright orange and dark green fruits and vegetables such as carrots and pumpkins, apricots, mangoes, spinach and cabbage will keep levels of vitamin A topped up. Vitamin A is needed for making respiratory membranes strong.
3. Vitamin C and the Macrophage Cells If the virus does penetrate these physical barriers, it is the job of white blood cells to engulf and eat viral invaders. Vitamin C appears to be especially important in playing a role in mobilizing bug-eating macrophage cells, as well as having its own specific antiviral properties. Given that we cannot store this nutrient in our bodies, ensuring that some vitamin C-rich foods are on the menu each day is important. This can be anything from
peppers and spinach to citrus fruits, berries or frozen peas. Even canned fruit provides some, as do orange and grapefruit juices. Exciting studies have found that Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and Maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms found in most groceries stimulate your blood cells to act strongly against alien bacteria. Since ancient times, mushrooms have stimulated the holy temple to produce protective white blood cells. 4. Zinc and the “T-cells” Other internal immune system bug-beaters include “T-cells”. The mineral zinc is crucial for the formation of these antibodies, with even a mild deficiency being linked to more frequent colds and flu. The good thing is that impaired immune responses can be restored to normal by having sufficient zinc in your diet. You can find zinc in beef, eggs and seafood, especially crab, oysters and sardines. Wholegrain foods and pumpkin seeds are pretty good too, although zinc from these is less easily absorbed than the zinc in animal protein.
5. Iron and the Immune System Iron deficiency, with or without anaemia, leads to a wide range of defects in immunesystem function, some of which could lay you more open to the swine flu virus. Iron can be found in similar foods to those mentioned above as being good for zinc.
6. Selenium and the Anti-Virus Agents Research from the University of North Carolina suggests that a general protection against influenza viruses is offered by the mineral selenium. Three Brazil nuts a day will meet your daily needs. The super nutrient “allicin”, formed when raw garlic is crushed or chewed, appears to help to block the ability of viruses to invade and damage tissues. If you can bear it, chewing a raw clove a day may help your immunity.
7. Vitamin D and the Sun Exposure We can get it from sunlight and traditionally healthy foods like liver and other organ meats, seafood and the fats from grass-fed animals. You can also get vitamin D in high quality Cod Liver Oil. Every day, take a break from your work and get outside in the sun unprotected, no spf crap on your skin as sun exposure is critical for healthy immune function. But make sure that you don‟t get sunburned on the weekends!
8. Probiotics and the Fermented Foods Probiotics are the friendly bacteria that normally live in your gut have a number of very important functions, including the provision of the vital support to your immune system. Bacteria play a crucial role in the development and operation of your mucosal immune system in your digestive tract. They are also involved in the production of antibodies to pathogens. Probiotics convert certain carbohydrates into energy and nutrients. They produce vitamins, absorb minerals and eliminate toxins. Probiotics help in the production of both vitamin K and B vitamins, and promote mineral absorption. They also aid in metabolism and the breakdown of toxins. They keep bad bacteria in check. Friendly bacteria compete with the bad guys for foods, and since beneficial bacteria are „locals‟, they win most of the battles for nutrition and attachment sites within your colon. The good bacteria are highly intelligent & tell your body how much nutrition is necessary - so that any excess bad bacteria are starved out. The helpful bacteria also help kill harmful microbes. Probiotics prevent allergies. Friendly bacteria train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately. Probiotics perform a wide variety of functions, including the prevention or control of food & skin allergies in children, chronic diarrhea, vaginal yeast infections & inflammation, premature labor in pregnant women and inflammatory bowel diseases. Historically, people used cultured or fermented foods to support their overall health, way before probiotics. Cultured foods like yogurt, curd, sauerkraut & kim chi are good sources of natural, healthy bacteria if you get real stuff from the farmers market or health food store. Fermented food such as natto or kefir can give your body the similar benefits of consuming a whole bottle of good bacteria, at a fraction of the cost. One of the best and least expensive ways to get healthy bacteria through your diet is from raw milk and convert it to kefir or curd, which is really easy to make at home.
Supplements!!! However, if you know that you are not getting these regularly, then a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement containing 100 per cent of the recommended amount (14.8mg) is a sound immune-system booster. South side Integrative Family Medicine Dr Anca Lamse
of Lamse Wellness Clinic suggests taking a high-potency multiple-vitamin and mineral formula - nutritional superheroes during cold and flu season or any time of year.
But remember that the real problem with the supplement is this - people use supplements to compensate for a healthy diet. When you are sick, it is not the supplement you are missing, but it is your diet & lifestyle that made you sick. So don‟t ever try to substitute healthy diet with supplements.
Foods to be Avoided! It is also equally important to abstain from those foods which weaken immunity. Sugar lurks at every corner. It suppresses the immune system and impairs your ramparts against infectious disease. A single can of soda contains 12 teaspoons of added sugars. That's 120 percent of the USDA's recommended daily intake of sugar. Researchers have found just two cans of soda suppress immune function for up to, five hours. Avoid drinking or eating anything cold during your meals to aid in digestion and protect the immune system. III. Exercise, Relax and Stay Stress Free Stress weakens immunity. Kick it to the curb with daily exercise. If you can manage it, a half an hour aerobic every day is the level you need. It does need to be exhausting. When we are happy and optimistic, the immune system functions better. Laughter boosts the immune system. Visit friends, read comedy stories, watch old movies you like, or old comedy shows. Cut the mean people and things from your life. You‟ll be less guilty, stressed and depressed. Depression depresses the immune system. A person under stress or who is depressed needs to make a conscious, educated effort to boost the immune system - that includes taking a supplement. Taking care of yourself by getting plenty of sleep and exercise is the best way to prevent yourself from getting the swine flu and any other virus that you may be exposed to. It is important to get to bed on time and be careful with spending time in front of a TV or computer late at night. Your sleep is your battery charger for your immune system and hormonal levels. So, get to bed by 10:30 pm. Wind down and read, journal, practice something relaxing like art work, prayer, music or spend quality time with friends & loved ones. Remember that punk rock does not fall into this relaxing category. “Early to bed, early rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise”. Exercise – don‟t overdo it as the majority of trainers do with their clients. Remember, the more stressed you are, the softer your exercise needs to be. Don‟t exercise for more than
an hour at a time, ideally 30 - 45 minutes. You only need 3-5 days week. Your exercise should energize you, not exhaust you.
“Be Calm, but Cautious” - President Obama Barack (Weekly Address May 2, 2009) Please Don't Panic. These health guidelines are the sure ways to keep yourself and your family healthy and protect from Swine Flu.
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