Want to skip the flu shot and looking for natural ways to prevent colds and flu this winter? Look no further—here are five things you can do to keep those pesky bugs away.

 Avoid Sugary Foods

Did you know that sugar suppresses your immune function for up to five hours? In your body, you have neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, that scavenge your blood for things that are not supposed to be there like viruses and bacteria. The more active your neutrophils are zipping around eating viruses and bacteria, the less likely you are to get sick and you won’t even know there was a potential threat. When they come across a virus they will gobble it up, much like the game Packman.

When you consume as little as a tablespoon of sugar, you essentially shut down your immune system. Your neutrophils become inactive and unable to zip through your blood gobbling up viruses. This lowers your immune system’s ability to keep you healthy which means you are more susceptible to catching the flu or any other “bug” going around.

 Get Your Daily Dose of “C”

You’ve heard of vitamin C right? And how Vitamin C can keep you immune system healthy? Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that activates neutrophils and allows them to take action upon viruses and bacteria. Vitamin C helps your neutrophils to become more aggressive and move faster. Choose vegetables such as chili peppers, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and brussell sprouts or fruits such as guavas, kiwi, papayas, oranges and strawberries for a great vitamin C punch.

Choose Whole Foods

Whole foods such as fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are phytochemicals that are non-nutritive plant chemicals that contain protective, disease-preventing, compounds. Ironically enough, these compounds are produced in the plant to protect itself from disease, injury insects, and pollutants. When you consume these types of super foods you take on their disease fighting abilities.

Super foods such as onions and garlic contain natural antibiotic, antiphrastic, and antifungal properties that can keep you healthy and naturally stimulate the immune system. All whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, quality lean meat, poultry, fish nuts, seeds and unprocessed whole grains contain vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that help protect your immune system and keep it running optimally so that it can ward off viruses and bacteria that can make you sick.

Drink Plenty of Water

Mucous membranes in your lungs are an important component to resisting sickness as they provide an effective barrier to bacteria, viruses and pollutants. When choosing a drink, choose water over juices and sodas. Water lubricates tissues and membranes keeping your resistance strong to bacteria and viruses.

When you breathe in a potential threatening virus, drinking water will flush the virus into your stomach where natural stomach acid will kill it and flush it out of your body where it can do no harm. Aim for half your body weight in ounces each day. In other words, if you are 160 pounds, half your body weight is 80. At this weight, one would require 80 ounces of water daily or 10 cups (8 oz each) of water daily.

Mind Your Manners

It is extremely important to wash your hands and often. We all carry viruses and bacteria on our hands. You have no control over that but you do have control over washing your hands. According to the CDC, “Hand washing has the potential to save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention.”

The proper way to wash is to wet your hands under warm water, apply soap and lather for 20 seconds, rubbing your hands front and back paying special attention to fingers and wrists as well as any rings you may be wearing. Finally, rinse your hands under warm water for another 20 seconds.

If you must sneeze, do so into the inside of your shirt or into your elbow if a tissue is not handy. This courtesy avoids spewing a potential virus into the air and you will keep it off of your hands.

Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes as this is the quickest way for viruses to enter your body. When talking with people, try to stand back a little to avoid spittle.

Viral germs can live for hours on surfaces. Clean shared objects regularly to prevent transmission of the virus: toys, remote controls from TVs and gaming consoles, keyboards, phones, light switches, door knobs and any other areas used by groups such as a computer room or work space.

Soap and water or water and vinegar will work to clean and disinfect without harsh chemicals. You can add a couple of drops of tea tree oil, oil of oregano or grapefruit seed extract to your spray bottle to add an extra punch. It is a good idea during the winter months to use paper towels in the bathroom in place of a towel. In the kitchen be sure to replace towels, sponges and cloths daily. Wash them in hot soapy water and allow sponges to air dry before using again.

You can’t control the fact that it is cold and flu season but you do have control over prevention. Follow these simple tips for healthier, cold and flu free winter.