3 Very Important Ways to Protect Yourself from the Flu

Build Your Defense: Your Immune System

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According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), people with diabetes are three times more likely to be hospitalized from the flu and its complications than other people. In addition to dealing with coughing, fatigue, muscle aches, and other flu-like symptoms, those with diabetes have to cope with abnormal blood sugar levels. Fighting off any illness can disrupt your blood sugar levels, which can make it harder to recoup.

 Blood sugars can drop due to decreased appetite and limited food intake or they can go too high as a result of stress hormones working to fight off infection. The best thing you can do for your diabetes and your health is to prevent the flu. Protect yourself from the flu by maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular sleep and practicing good hygiene.

Practice Good Hand Washing

It's hard to tell when someone is coming down with the flu, which is why it's so important to always wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth after being in public. The CDC reports that people infected with the flu can pass it on to others a day or two before any symptoms appear. Be sure to always carry around hand sanitizer or wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you sneeze or cough. If you know someone is sick, aim to avoid close contact with them or opt to wear a mask around them.

Eat a Balanced Diet

While there is no single super healing food, eating a well-balanced diet rich in lean protein, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and limited processed foods can help to keep you healthy this flu season by boosting your immune system.

  • Protein: Adequate protein intake helps your immune system to function properly so that it may fight off foreign invaders. Protein is a carbohydrate free food and won't raise your blood sugars. Aim to get in lean protein, such as white meat chicken, turkey, fish, egg whites, lean beef, beans, or tofu at each meal. This does not mean that you can go out and a eat whole chicken but aim to make 1/4 of your plate lean protein at each meal. 

    For more on how to get in enough protein:

    5 Simply Delicious and Nutritious Protein Packed Breakfast Choices 

    A Large, High Protein-High Fat Breakfast Can Help Reduce A1c 

    • Fruits and Vegetables: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can boost your immune system by increasing your vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant intake. For example, high levels of vitamin C have been associated with decreased diabetes risk and lower A1c levels in persons with diabetes. Vitamin C has also been associated with reducing the length of and symptoms of the common cold (which are very similar to flu-like symptoms). Foods rich in vitamin C include tomatoes, strawberries, spinach and red bell peppers, to name a few. Aim to eat a variety of vitamin C rich foods daily. Zinc is an essential mineral that is important in maintaining the integrity of the immune system. Studies have shown that people deficient in zinc are at increased risk of developing infections. People with diabetes may be at increased risk of having low zinc levels, therefore it's important to eat a diet rich in zinc. Shellfish, beef, and other red meats are rich sources of zinc; nuts and legumes are relatively good plant sources of zinc.
    • Healthy Fats: Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), walnuts and flax seeds may help to reduce inflammation. While we are not 100% sure of their function against infections such as the common cold and flu, eating these foods certainly won't hurt you. Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids can help to improve your lipids, boost memory and keep you full. 

    For more ideas on which foods may help to boost your immune system: 5 Types of Foods To Boost Your Immune System

    Get in Your Zzzz's

    Inadequate sleep has been linked with obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Insufficient sleep can also lower your immune system - making you more susceptible to catching an infection, such as the flu. It's important to schedule sleep as you would anything else. Try to get yourself on a schedule as best as you can. And make your sleeping conditions comfortable - set your room to a cool temperature, wear loose fitting clothing, make the light dark, etc. For more sleep tips: Top 10 Ways to Sleep Better & National Sleep Foundation


    Center for Disease Control. Flu and People with DiabetesAccessed on-line: January 10, 2015: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/diabetes/index.htm

    Linus Pauling Institute. Vitamin CAccessed on-line: January 12, 2015: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminC/

    Linus Pauling Institute. ZincAccessed on-line: January 12, 2015: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/zinc/

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