Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Too close for comfort--the swine flu near you?

I hate how the media is spinning the swine flu situation--it seems the first thing out of commentators' mouths is the antisocial advice to avoid public places, accompanied by frightening video of people in Mexico wearing face masks. Ugh.

However, now that the flu--and fear of flu--is spreading quickly, it's best to remember that basic measures are the best prevention. What are some of these simple things?

Hibernation. Get your eight hours every night as often as possible--your life may depend on it. As researcher Stanley Coren notes in the "Sleep and Health" chapter of his book Sleep Thieves, "Researchers are now gathering a lot of evidence that confirms the idea that sleep is a vital factor in staving off disease and fighting disease organisms that have already started their attack."

Hydration. Drink mostly water, sipped often throughout the day. Occasionally drink 100% Concord grape or cranberry juice, hot (but not boiling hot) tea, or a tisane (lemon balm, honeysuckle petals, ginger, all of which have antiviral properties, mentions James Duke in The Green Pharmacy).

Sanitation. Wash your hands! Take a good twenty seconds under warm running water to lather, rinse, and repeat. (Use regular soap, not that antibacterial stuff which has antibiotics such as triclosan added.)

Nutrition. You know the drill--aim for five fruits and veggies daily, at a minimum. For extra protection, take vitamin D. Foods to consider eating regularly to prevent upper respiratory illnesses like the flu include apples and yogurt, according to Jean Carper (The Food Pharmacy). In Food--Your Miracle Medicine, Carper notes that food with antiviral activity include: barley, black currants, blueberries, chives, coffee, collards, cranberries, ginger, garlic, gooseberries, grapes, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, mushroom (notably shiitake), orange juice, peaches, pineapple juice, plums, plum juice, raspberries, sage, seaweed, spearmint, strawberries, tea, wine (red).

All of the abovementioned actions consist of taking care of ourselves as individuals. However, there is not-so-idle speculation that this flu virus came via a town which has a factory pig farm. Such industrial farm operations implicate us as a society, for our lust for meat at the lowest cost is causing pigs to be raised in sickening conditions which are a breeding ground for pathogens like swine flu. The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production report, "PCIFAP Staff Summary of Occupational and Community Public Health Imports," which focuses on public health consequences of factory farming, makes for frankly frightening reading, particularly pages 13 and 14.

As Republican speechwriter Matthew Scully stated in Dominion, "And no one who has seen how they are treated will ever again dare to use "pig" as a synonym for filth and greed and ugliness."

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In times like this, it's good at times to savor the simple things, such as this song of the same name from the late, great Minnie Riperton.

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