IBD: Cold and Flu Prevention
If you have IBD, cold and flu season can be a scary time of year. For many patients steroids are needed to control their inflammation. While these steroids work really well for controlling symptoms, they can often compromise the immune system. Add the risk of winter colds or flu and you can have a recipe for disaster.
Here are six simple steps patients can take to prevent getting sick and boost their immune system:
1. Be proactive with your medical care. This means visiting your physician to ensure that all medications are up to date and to discuss any current issues before they get out of hand. It can be a lot easier to head off a flare-up with regular communication with your physician. Flu shots may not be prudent in all cases, but they can work in the majority of patients, so be sure to discuss whether a flu shot is right for you. Before making your appointment, it is wise to ask if they have a specific time to see "well" patients or if they have a "well side" of the lobby. This will help to prevent picking up something while you are visiting the doctor's office.
2. Proper hand washing. Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene! This is probably the most important way to prevent illness. Wash your hands whenever you have used the restroom, come in from outside, been out in public, touched raw meat, eggs or anything that could pass you a painful bug. Wash your hands with soap and warm water. If you sing "Happy Birthday" twice then you will have lathered the right amount of time. Avoid soap with Triclosan. Triclosan has recently been shown to disrupt normal hormones and is best to avoid it.
3. Probiotics. Probiotics are the healthy bacteria in the body and they play a role in both gastrointestinal health and over all immune function. Biffidus, Lactobacillus and Acidophilus are the three most studied strains so look for them in supplements or probiotic rich foods. Bioagia has some wonderful supplements and Activa is my personal favorite probiotic-rich yogurt.
4. Exercise. Exercise may be last on your list on these cold, dreary days but a little bit can go a long way toward your immune health. Even as little as 30 minutes of walking per day can help your body become stronger and healthier. Find a form of exercise that you love and stick with it. I promise the reward will be worth the work!
5. Hydrate. Proper hydration is essential in maintaining health. When your body is hydrated, the cells can do their job more efficiently. For IBD patients it is important to note than proper hydration can also aid in gastrointestinal health, immune functioning and can help lessen swelling from medications. The Institute of Medicine estimates that about 13 glasses for men and 9 glasses for women will do the trick. It is best to aim for the majority of fluids to be water, but others also count toward the total.
6. Healthy Eating. There are numerous studies that show the benefit of eating a well-balanced diet. Lean protein, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables provide the nutrients your body needs to function well. Popping a supplement doesn't work like obtaining these things from good nutrition. While we don't know exactly why, it is likely that there are micronutrients or phytochemicals in foods that have yet to be discovered. These may be the key to longevity.
Follow these tips to keep healthy during cold and flu season! Be well!