How to Keep Your Office Cold & Flu-free This Season
Cold and flu season has officially begun, and for many, bugs are passed around at the workplace. Interestingly, thinking of colds and flus as having their own “season” that is out of our control is a bit of a myth, as there are many steps we can take to keep ourselves from getting sick in the fall and winter. A healthy diet, proper supplementation and a few simple, preventative measures can go a long way in staying healthy and avoiding those workplace viruses.
Optimal immune function and preventing colds and flus starts with a healthy diet centered around whole foods and a ton of fruits and veggies. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is responsible for various bodily functions, such as producing collagen in the skin. Because vitamin C is so highly concentrated in immune cells, we quickly use up our supply when fighting an infection. One study showed that taking 200 mg. of vitamin C per day did not seem to reduce the frequency of colds, but it did reduce duration and severity. And there’s a lot to be said for that.
Many people turn to orange juice when they’re sick, which (contrary to popular belief) can actually do more harm than good.
Many people turn to orange juice when they’re sick, which (contrary to popular belief) can actually do more harm than good. Juice has been extracted from its whole food form, and therefore separated from important fiber and micronutrients that are naturally occurring in the fruit. Juice is high in sugar, and colds can be worsened by consuming sugar.
Instead, try consuming the following whole foods that are either higher in vitamin C or on par with orange juice, with far less sugar:
- Bell Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
A few key supplements can make a world of difference in keeping you healthy this year. There are 13 vitamins and more than 16 minerals essential to human health. A good multi-vitamin supplement will offer each and every one of these nutrients, and some also contain certain herbs, amino, and fatty acids. In an ideal world, all of our nutrients would be obtained by a daily diet rich in nutrient dense foods, but we all know that this is often not possible for the average office worker. Therefore, a multivitamin is key.
Including a vitamin C supplement that comes with other immune-boosting compounds, such as bioflavanoids and rose-hips, can be an excellent addition to your supplement regimen.
Supplementing with probiotics is almost always beneficial. Probiotics are good gut bacteria that line of our digestive tract. You might not know that upward of 80% of our immune system lives in our gut, and without proper gut flora, we can face serious immune dysfunction. Great food sources of probiotics include fermented foods such as raw sauerkraut or kombucha tea, but taking a probiotic supplement is also a good idea.
Basic Office Cleanliness
Not only will office cleanliness support physical health, but it can also greatly increase productivity. One sick person in an office can infect up to half of all employees, and a clean and healthy work environment can go a long way in preventing the spread of illness. Aside from the obvious (encouraging hand washing, covering coughs, etc), offices can also have fresh fruit and vegetables available instead of junk food for snacks.
Make sure that communal and personal office supplies and equipment are kept clean (everything from computers and copy machines to microwaves), and celebrate birthdays or other events without weekly sugar binges.
Be Smart and Stay Home
While a manager or company can’t force an employee to stay home if they are sick, there are steps that can be taken to encourage it. Creating an atmosphere where calling in sick is acceptable and employees aren’t penalized is important, as well as regularly reminding and educating employees on when they should not come to work. If possible, giving the option of working from home can an excellent incentive, as well.
Considering how many hours per week many of us spend at the office, focusing on office health and wellness is key in avoiding colds and flus. By eating healthy, taking certain supplements and staying home when you’re sick, you might just sail through this year virus-free.
Rachel Fiske is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Rachel focuses on issues of weight management, GI problems, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and more via a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes.