There’s no doubt about it- flu season is here. Aside from the common sensical things like washing your hands frequently and not putting your hands in your mouth, what can be done to minimize the risk of getting not only sick… but catching the dreaded flu!
Echinacea? Flu shot? Live in a bubble? What is the best way to boost your immune system to keep healthy this winter?
Antioxidants: There is a constant balancing act going on in your body between the free radicals and the antioxidants. Free radicals are damaging little atoms zooming around your body desperately trying to find additional electrons to complete them. And they’re mean. They’ll rip through anything and everything to get what they want, leaving a path of destruction behind them. Free radicals are created in the body during a lot of things we do on the daily: breathing polluted air, eating pesticide sprayed or fried foods, smoking, drinking chemically treated water, consuming alcohol, even exercise! They’re unavoidable, but can be reduced with a healthy diet.
Antioxidants are the clean-up crew. They repair the damage in the body that the free radicals have caused on their reign of terror. Vitamins A, C & E are antioxidants that are easy to find in food sources, but supplementing with them additionally will help to tip the balance of free radicals to antioxidants in your favour. If your body isn’t struggling to keep up with the day-to-day battles, it will be better prepared to handle other pathogens you may encounter. You may have heard of food sources such as pomegranates or goji berries that are exceptionally high in antioxidants and can absolutely be added into your diet for an extra boost. Beware of products that are made from these foods though. For example, orange juice purchased from the cooler section of the grocery store has most likely been pasteurized which means that it has been exposed to intense heat in order to kill off any potentially dangerous bacteria. Unfortunately this also means that same heat has damaged some of the vitamin C naturally found in oranges. You’re better off to crack open a pomegranate or peel an orange yourself than to chug a glass of either of these fruits juices. Go for whole foods!
Echinacea: I keep a bottle by my bedside this time of year and when travelling as a preventive measure for just this. Nobody wants their downtime to be spent in bed with a red nose, thermometer and sweaty pj’s. It is more effective at boosting immunity when taken before a bug hits your system though, so don’t wait until you’re feeling crummy to hit up the health food store.
Panax Ginseng: While this herb has been used for thousands of years for just as many uses and disorders, boosting the immune system is certainly included in that list. If you do find yourself taken down by the germ du jour and end up on antibiotics this fall, ginseng has been shown to increase their bug-killing effectiveness. Always finish all of your prescription! Supplementing with probiotics after a round of antibiotics is an additional way in which to ramp up your immune system.
Lots of Rest: This one should go without saying, but running yourself ragged is just asking for it. Aim for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each evening, even if it’s not feasible. If your body is fighting an uphill battle because you’re living on caffeine in a sleep deprived state, you will be far more susceptible to catching something. Better to take the preventative approach rather than your body forcing you to take a time-out.
Flu Shot: This is one that you’ll have to decide for yourself as there’s a myriad of information out there. There’s supporters who get one every year and claim it to be their key to health and those who would never go near the things. Controversial, it is. Discuss with either your M.D. or N.D as to whether this is the right way to go about boosting your immune system to protect against this years flu strain and other pathogens floating around through the winter months. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet either- no matter who has published it.
Oscillococcinuum: A mouthful indeed! This homeopathic preparation is the best selling flu remedy in the world, good to be taken when you feel that first tickle in the back of your throat. If the preventative actions you’ve taken up until this point have failed you, this is a great way to reduce the severity of your flu. Homeopathic are safe for everybody and have no drug interactions.
Elderberry & Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa Syrups: If it’s too late, these two herbal cough syrups will absolutely help soothe a sore throat along with any other flu symptoms you might be sporting. Both can be found in most health food stores and are effective alternatives to the regular players in a traditional drug store.
As for living in a bubble… maybe not. Exposing yourself to the microbes of the world is exactly what builds up your immunity. Let your kids play outside, don’t attack them with germaphobe wipes at every turn and know that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! Remember… “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” -Ben Franklin
Keep yourself healthy so that you can enjoy your life to the fullest!