The H1N1 virus was first officially identified at the beginning of April, though there was an increased amount of flu cases in Mexico throughout March.

Well it is now almost the middle of May and although some people believe that the worst is over, major health organizations like the CDC warn that the virus is just starting to spread around the United States.

The current WHO pandemic alert is at 5 out of 6, which means one step away from this new flu being declared a full blown world pandemic. At this point the alert phase may stay where it is and then decrease or may increase if more human to human transmission continues in large numbers.

So where do we stand with this whole issue? More importantly where does our health stand?

For starters we have to understand that since the beginning of this, there has been a lot of mis-information being passed around whether it be through the media, on the Internet or in person. Some people are in a panic mode, others just love to feed off of drama and negativity, and yet others completely couldn’t care less.

If you are concerned about this outbreak, my first advice to you is not to panic or stress, as that only lowers your immune system. I will talk a little more about this later. When you research and look at all the details, this new outbreak is not that different from a typical flu. So if you are a healthy teen or adult, then you have as much chance in my opinion of catching this as you would catching a “normal” flu. And if you are not concerned about that, then you shouldn’t be concerned about the swine flu either.

Having said this, I want to share with you a list of 10 quick guidelines of how to improve your health and your immune system so that no matter what happens you can be in the best shape to protect yourself from getting this disease altogether, or at least have nothing more than a mild case of it – should it even come to that. We must most importantly not forget that a strong immune system is our number one protection against any virus or bacteria, not a pill or even vaccine.

1. Get a Proper Amount of Sleep

One of the best ways to strengthen our immune system is with proper rest, as it is then that your body does the majority of the “fixing” and “cleaning” that it needs to take care of. Your immune system gets a boost after each good night of sleep and you get to start each day a little stronger, than you ended the previous day. However, if you are not getting proper sleep, and one night turns into another and before you know it you are sleep deprived, you are very likely to have a weakened immune system.

As adults we should be getting at least 8 quality hours of undisturbed sleep each night. Obviously exceptions apply if you are caring for a young infant, etc., but overall it applies to us all. Some people can get by on 6 or 7 hours, but when you need a bigger health boost, a minimum of 8 should be adhered to. Teens should get about 9-10 hours and younger children even more. So don’t make excuses and make proper sleep a priority for the sake of your health at this time, and any other really.

2. Wash Your Hands Thoroughly and Regularly with Regular Soap

We all know that proper hygiene is critical to preventing the transmission and acquirement of any infectious disease, but in times of outbreaks it is even more important to be consciously aware of how many times we wash our hands, what we touch, how we eat, etc.

And yes I did say regular soap. In times like these, as the past SARS outbreak proved people panic and run for the antibacterial soaps. First of all, all flus are caused by viruses, which are non-living protein and nucleic acid particles. These are non-responsive to both antibiotics and bacteria killing chemicals. The active chemical in all anti-bacterial soaps is triclosan. Aside from the fact that it is a known thyroid disruptor and a potential carcinogen, when overused this chemical not only has the potential to dry the cells your hands, but it kills the beneficial bacteria that live on your skin and protect you from various invaders. This aspect together makes it actually more likely for you to get some disease causing micro-organism, when you are not using this product, as you are breaking the first barrier of protection you have – your skin and its natural flora. These types of soaps also are a huge contribution to the antibacterial resistance that is on the rise, another serious issue that we cannot afford to get out of hand. For more details about the safety of triclosan, check out it’s MSDS.

Alcohol based cleansers, which are supposed to be effective against viruses are also heavily drying and may also weaken your body’s first line of defense. Regular washing with soap and water is still the number one way to safely and beneficially, for all involved, protect yourself against any pathogenic microbes.

3. Avoid Touching Your Face In Public Areas

We have all heard about the “right” way to cough or sneeze, but how about all those times we unconsciously touch our eyes, nose, ears and mouth while out in public.

Most people will rub an eye without much thought, or pick at something on their teeth or lips for example. These are the easiest and most sure ways for pathogenic microbes to enter our bodies and should be avoided at all costs, not just because of the swine flu, but at all times while in public.

How do you do it you ask? Consciousness is the only answer. Bring more awareness to your day, your routine and your actions. When you are standing on that bus and your nose is itchy, let it go. When you are eating lunch at the office and have something stuck in your teeth, wash your hands thoroughly and carry floss, or again learn to just let it go.

Many of us think often, oh it’s just one time and I will only touch there for a second. Well that is all it takes for disease causing bacteria or viruses to enter your body.

4. Avoid Refined Sugar

So you may be wondering, what does refined sugar have to do with not getting the flu virus? Well, a lot!

Refined sugar is acidic to our body, where that aspect alone weakens it terribly. Acidity has to be neutralized, as our body operates at an alkaline level and this takes a lot of resources. The more resources your body is using on things like this, the less it is using on optimizing all your bodily functions and defenses.

So how do you avoid it? First, you cut down on the obvious sweets, like chocolate bars, soda, cookies, etc. Then you become a little more conscious of the hidden sugars, like the type of cereals you eat and beverages you drink.

This is also super important for children, as they are more prone to infectious diseases and need good nutrients to build their growing systems, not junk food which is only causing their bodies stress, by giving it unnecessary jobs.

5. Increase Your Intake of Fresh Fruits

While it is prudent to be conscious of eating more citrus fruits, which are high in vitamin C, it is actually just as beneficial to enjoy an increased variety of all fruits.

On top of the rich amount of vitamins and minerals, fruits are packed with various compounds called phytochemicals that are very beneficial to our health in many abundant ways. Together all these components provide a pure source of nutrition and highly nutrient dense foods, with which your body can build a strong support system.

Vitamin C specifically, which is abundant in many fruits does enhance the immune system, as well as promote optimal health in many more ways.

6. Increase Your Intake of Fresh Vegetables

Vegetables are highly alkaline. This means that when we eat poorly, such as salty, sugary, fatty or processed food diets, which are all acidic, and when we stress our bodies which generates acid within, vegetables come to the rescue to neutralize these effects. Disease causing organisms are not prone to living in alkaline bodies. On top of that, alkaline bodies spare their resources for building a strong body, not for constant repair due to various stresses.

Vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals too. As mentioned in the fruit section these are both important components for carrying out all important body processes properly.

7. Decrease Your Intake of Nutrient Deficient Food (Fast Food and Processed Food)

These foods are not only highly acidic and wreak havoc on our bodies where our immune system is concerned for reasons mentioned above, but they also provide very little if any valuable building blocks for your body with which to build new, strong and healthy cells.

Hence, it is in one’s best interest to focus on getting more natural foods and nutrient dense foods in their system to provide a stronger framework with which their body can function, especially if you are concerned about the flu.

Today we know, using scientific proof, that the quality of food we put into our bodies, heavily dictates the state of our health. Remember, if you put in low quality food, you get low quality health.

8. Take a Spirulina or Chlorella Supplement

Both of these algae are nutritional powerhouses and are just emerging onto the nutritional scene in the Western world, while many other cultures, both modern and traditional have used them for many purposes, for ages now.

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that has a wide array of health benefits. However, one of its most valuable benefits, especially at this time for us, is that it boosts our immune system. See the following study for more information or the following article entitled “Spirulina shown to prevent and treat cancer while boosting immune system function.

Chlorella is a single-celled fresh water algae. Chlorella helps build the immune system by stimulating the activity of white blood cells and T-cells by increasing interferon levels, which in turn enhances the immune system’s ability to combat foreign invaders. To learn more about Chlorella read the following fact sheet or the article entitled Chlorella: A Powerful Defender of Health.

Here is a link to a free e-book by Mike Adams called Superfoods for Optimum Health: Chlorella and Spirulina.

9. Exercise Effectively

Aside from the amazing benefits of exercise for our heart, moderate and regular exercise also has a huge benefit for our immune system. When we exercise, we take in more oxygen and as more oxygen circulates in our bloodstream, it is available for various beneficial reactions, namely cellular respiration that can provide more energy to fix damaged cells. Aside from this, actual movement also stimulates our lymphatic system, which has a strong connection to our immune system.

If you don’t exercise at all, now would be a good time to start and it really is as easy as a 30-60 minute daily brisk walk. Check out the following article entitled Exercise boosts immune system.

If you exercise heavily, then you should actually take it down a notch or two, as heavy exercise actually strains the immune system. For starters it generates an acidic environment in your body, and this as I mentioned above is not at all ideal for good, let alone optimal health. And secondly, it causes a lot of tissue damage, on which your body then has to use a lot of its resources to repair, which weakens the immune system. See the following study for more details.

10. Have Effective Stress Outlets

So you may be eating right, sleeping right and exercising and then you turn on the news and stress, stress, stress! Well, sorry to tell you, but you are undoing all the good that the above mentioned were providing.

Worrying whether you get the swine flu or not is not helping anyone, especially your immune system and if you think about it logically, it does not help you to prevent it one bit either. On the other hand, taking appropriate action does.

During any times of stress, our body releases cortisol, the stress hormone. This reaction alone is potent enough to delay and decrease the function of our immune system. Secondly, stress generating reactions are also acidic to the body and suppress the immune system. To read more details of how stress affects your immune system, check out the following article entitled How Stress Affects the Immune System.

So if you lead a stressful life, consider seriously participating or engaging in some effective stress management or relief exercises. This can be anything from exercise, especially yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques and most importantly conscious thinking, that focuses on the moment of now. When we engage in conscious thinking, we start to see other perspectives to all situations and most importantly begin to feel empowered that we can handle anything that comes our way. The same is true for living more out of the moment of now, rather than in the “future moment”. We have no control over the future, but we always have control over the now in terms of what we choose to do and how we choose to respond.

And most importantly find relaxing time for yourself. Stop making excuses that you have no time and start focusing on what really matters – your health.

So instead of stressing, go grab a good book, make yourself a green smoothie, kick up your feet and focus on the great health you have today!