The holidays will be approaching soon, which means we’re approaching flu season as well! Behind all the chocolates, turkey, and presents, winter is also a celebratory season for influenza (flu). The flu thrives in cold weather and large indoor gatherings are a perfect environment for it to spread. But like most illnesses, you can mitigate risks with a few preventive measures.
There’s long been evidence that your oral health and your immune system are inextricably linked. Researchers from North Carolina State University noted how gum disease-causing bacteria could suppress your immune system’s response. This then makes you more vulnerable to flu viruses. Gum disease usually happens when there’s an excess accumulation of plaque. And this only really occurs when you neglect your oral hygiene.
In a sense, taking care of your oral care can help assuage the effects of bad flu. Prevent it, even. But how does oral care prevent the flu naturally? And what steps can you take?
How does brushing your teeth help with the flu?
Before we get into the tips, we should first ask how oral hygiene fends away the dreaded flu. According to a blog by The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University, influenza seems to transmit better in the following conditions:
- Low humidity and low temperatures, particularly in places that experience winter, and
- High moisture and lots of rain, particularly in tropical climates.
Just because it’s easy to contract the flu during these conditions doesn’t mean you’ll get it, however. Other states make it more likely for you to get the disease, such as:
- Proximity to someone who already has the flu, and
- Low levels of immune-healthy vitamins, such as vitamin D.
In short, you become more vulnerable to the flu if your immune system is compromised or if you are around people who are.
How does oral hygiene play into this, then? MD Mag notes how the body uses similar signals for immune system strength and bone health. So if your jawbone and teeth are healthy and robust, your immune system is, too. It also explains why people with gum disease are more likely to get sick with other illnesses than those who don’t have it.
Preventing Contamination is Key
How, then, can you make sure that your oral health is in check? Here are some key things you could do:
- Keep your hands clean. Your hands go through all sorts of bacteria-filled surfaces, even if it isn’t apparent. Before you eat or brush your teeth, make sure that you wash your hands.
- Don’t share your toothbrush. Bacterial transmission isn’t just limited to parents and their children. Anyone who shares oral implements is subject to the same thing. If your loved ones are down with the flu, you might want to have your own toothbrush. Or maybe store it in a separate space.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 months. Used toothbrushes are a nasty hideout for bacteria and other unmentionables. Make sure you replace them every three months to stave off potential infection.
Foods To Strengthen You This Flu Season
Garlic: Garlic is one of the best foods when it comes to a robust immune system. The best part is that it can be added to various dishes from pasta to chicken.
Garlic helps fight off viruses thanks to its ability to boost t-cells. It can also fight against stress, which is one of the causes of low immunity, and it contains components that contribute to warding off germs.
Ginger: Spicy ginger contributes to reduced nausea and vomiting symptoms brought on by the seasonal flu due to low immunity. Ginger also contains antioxidants and antibiotics to keep the body strong and healthy during this vulnerable time.
Containing manganese, ginger allows for disease resistance and healthy blood flow.
Yogurt: Yogurt, being a dairy product, contains plenty of good bacteria known as probiotics, which help fight off harmful bacteria in the body.
Your entire body, from your mouth to your digestive system, requires probiotics to properly function and fight off germs and viruses brought on by the cooler seasons. Just be sure that when selecting a yogurt to consume that you opt for a sugarless option. There are plenty of delicious yogurt options out there, such as Greek yogurt with fruit puree to give the yogurt a naturally sweeter flavor.
Almonds: Almonds are another virus-fighting food. Containing vitamin E, almonds have what it takes to support the immune system even in times of flu season. Almond skins in particular are beneficial in providing antibacterial properties. However, some scientists aren’t sure exactly why.
Citrus fruits: They say to drink orange juice when you have a cold. Citrus fruits, luckily ready to harvest in the chilly weather, offer immune-boosting components important for fighting off bacteria and viruses.
Vitamin C found in citrus helps fuel t-cells and phagocytes that are important in keeping the immunity healthy and reducing vulnerability to illness.
Remember, when consuming citrus, wait for at least a half-hour until brushing your teeth because citrus is acidic. This period will allow the mouth to neutralize on its own gradually.
Otherwise, brushing before this period may contribute to enamel deterioration as the acidic properties get touched directly into the tooth’s protective enamel layer.