Seems like every year around this time you start feeling worn down, a little congested, maybe develop a scratchy throat, and before you know it, you're faced with a full-blown cold. But this year can be different. Arm yourself with these six tips to evade nasty bugs before they knock you out.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
1. Keep Clean, the Right Way
Hand washing is so important to keeping those harmful germs out of your body, but there is a right and a very wrong way to do it. The biggest bad-news culprit when it comes to washing your hands? Antibacterial soaps. Triclosan, the antimicrobial chemical, is a hormone disruptor; it damages your heart, and creates antibacterial-resistant superbugs. And it's totally pointless. The Food and Drug Administration and the American Medical Association have found that antibacterial soaps are no better than using regular soap.
2. Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer
Can't find a sink? Hand sanitizer is the next best thing. Just make sure you're not slathering on more triclosan. Instead, try this natural recipe from Renee Loux, author of Easy Green Living, for a clean hands spritz.
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon plain aloe vera or lemon witch hazel
1/8 teaspoon tea tree oil
24 drops essential oils of lavender, lemon, cinnamon, peppermint, and/or thyme (use two or more varieties for good action and a balanced aroma, and also because these oils are potent)
4 drops grapefruit seed extract
1. Mix all the ingredients in a 1-ounce glass spray bottle.
2. Shake well before using.
3. Spray two or three times on grimy paws and rub them together.
3. Bundle Up Strategically
Staying warm doesn't just help your immune system focus on the real threat; it can also help protect you from germs in the environment. Avoid warm winter clothing with claims of being "antibacterial," "germ-fighting" or "odor-free." These are often catchall terms for chemical- or nanoparticle-based ingredients. For a safe, warm, naturally antimicrobial material, look for hats and winter gear made of wool.
4. Say "Ohm" Instead of "Ah"
"Stress really hammers the immune system," says Danny Penman, PhD, author of Mindfulness. He explains that the human body evolved to suppress the immune system during times of great stress, such as getting chased by a tiger. "Under acute stress, the body diverts all its resources to escaping," he says. "The body doesn't waste time when we're being hunted with maintenance. The problem is, under long-term stress, the body has the same reaction, so it can't repair itself the way it's supposed to." And, while most of us aren't getting chased by tigers, we do face sustained stress from sources like jobs or financial worry.
The good news is meditation is the perfect solution to immunity-killing stress. Research has shown that participating in meditation programs decreases biomarkers associated with disease and increases activity of the immune system's protective "killer cells."
5. Trust Your Gut
Your gut bacteria are also proving to be insanely important for a strong immunity. In fact, research has shown that probiotic foods can help prevent colds in kids (a demographic that's especially prone to getting sick since young ones tend to constantly put things in their mouths).
6. Eat Your Breakfast
Not only is breakfast a chance to load up on nutrient-rich foods, such as eggs, but it also may keep you healthy. Research from Cardiff University found that eating breakfast was significantly related to lower rates of illness. This is a correlational study, so it's possible that those who ate breakfast also generally took better care of themselves, but we'll never balk at a good reason to eat some breakfast greens.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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