Friday, October 23, 2009

How to Decrease Your Probability of Getting Sick this Winter

Since this is the beginning of flu season I was thinking this morning about measures we can take to help to boost immunity so that hopefully we can avoid the flu this year. When we were at the internist last week we got into a discussion about flu and the flu vaccine. According to our internist the reason the swine flu (H1N1) is a bigger problem in the younger population is that we old farts were likely to have been exposed to a variant of the swine flu in the 70’s thus building up some level of immunity for this round of the swine flu.

Hand Washing

When flu season starts I find myself becoming an almost obsessive hand washer. One thing I learned from working in hospitals is that the most effective thing all of us can do to avoid germs is to wash our hands often and well. Washing your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap will remove most germs. At least that is what we were taught each year in the infectious control in-service. Why were financial and administrative people in infectious control classes? All I know is JCAHO required it and we were all there once a year. The most important thing I learned in these in-services ... good hand washing skills. This is a skill that has served me well.

Vitamin C

Having adequate vitamin C is associated with a reduction in the duration of colds and flu and the intensity of the disease. One red bell pepper contains more vitamin C than an orange. Other peppers also contain vitamin C. Kiwi, strawberries and brussels sprouts are also good sources of vitamin C. I also add powdered vitamin C, in the form of ascorbic acid, to our green tea a few times each day.

Vitamin D

Current wisdom seems to link an increase in flu in the winter to a reduction in exposure to sunlight and therefore resulting in a reduction in vitamin D. I for one take 2,400IU’s of vitamin D a day from three sources. Our multivitamin contains 400IU’s, we also take a D3 supplement with another 1,00IU’s and our green drink contains another 1,000IU’s. According to our internist 2,400IU’s is a safe level. He went on to say he had never read of anyone with vitamin D toxicity so we thought that was good to know.

Green Tea

Green tea has also been shown to boost immunity in addition to its cancer fighting abilities. In this abstract at pub med green tea and ascorbic acid is shown to boost immunity. I wonder if this is why the same combination is thought to fight cancer. Looks like I have something else to research more thoroughly.


Studies suggest that probiotics help to reduce the duration and severity of colds and flu. There are probiotics supplements you can buy, or you can eat probiotics rich foods. For vegans there are a few options including: soy yogurt with active cultures, kim chi, kombucha, miso, and fresh sauerkraut. Our green drink “Green Vibrance” also contains 12 million probiotics per dose.


Quercetin rich food has been shown to increase immunity in lab studies. Foods that are rich in quercitin include: apples, broccoli, onions and tomatoes. We eat most of these foods everyday.


At our house we cover all of these bases every day. The things that boost immunity are also associated with good nutrition for cancer patients and survivors. This is another example of how following sound nutrition results in positive results all around.

I hope you all have a happy and health day. I will be back later with another recipe or two.


Something I forgot to mention earlier that I wanted to add is getting plenty of rest. The body repairs itself while at rest. I feel as though a body that is able to rest and rejuvenate is better able to fight off disease be it acute (a cold or flu) or chronic (cancer).


  1. Great info thanks. With five kids, avoiding getting sick is a full time job for me!

  2. Hayley,

    I imagine you have someone getting sick every few weeks with 5 kids. I hope the tips come in handy.

    thanks for commenting,

  3. This post is truely amazing, thank you for such a wonderful info. I've an 11-yr old son who is always very careful with washing his hands and everything but he still gets sick every year. I'll share this post with him so he can see whatelse he should be aware of, thanks again:)

    p.s. You are so quick at posting, I didn't stop by only a day, you have a couple posts that I missed reading already!!! Very impressive!

  4. Oraphan,

    Hey there, welcome back. Glad you enjoyed the post. If your little guy is very mature you might consider the bottles of alcohol sanitizer so he can clean his hands when he doesn't have access to water and soap. I think part of the reason he is getting sick is because he has not been exposed to variations of the germs yet. Hopefully with a few preventative measure the duration of any future illness will be shorter.

    I do post quickly. It helps that I type fast.


  5. Thanks Alicia! Especially for the info about quercetin...I didn't know anything about it. Very helpful.


  6. Madeleine,

    You are welcome. I hope you are feeling better today.



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