13 January 2013

Influenza Blues? Seven Tips to Prevent Infection...

Cold and flu season are in full swing.  I frequently get asked if I recommend the flu vaccine.  My answer is simple...  a healthy immune system is the best defense against colds and flu.  If you have an immune deficiency or other serious illness it may be appropriate.  However, for the rest of us, strengthening your innate immunity is the key!  Besides, who willingly has formaldehyde, aluminum, MSG, or thimerosal injected into the body, anyway?

Seven Tips for Preventing and Treating Viral Infections:
  1. Basic Immune Nutrients - Make sure you are getting adequate immune supporting vitamins.  I recommend Vitamin D3, Vitamin C, Zinc, Omega-3 Fish Oil and high potency probiotics as some of the basics
  2. Hydration & Sleep - Often overlooked but essential!  Drink plenty of fluids and avoid sticky and sweet soda or fruit juice.  Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.  It is no coincidence that we often get a cold or the flu after activities like the holidays or travel, when we return to high stress and fail to get adequate sleep.
  3. Homeopathic Medicines - One of my very favorite homeopathic flu remedies is Boiron Oscillococcinum.  I am never without this helpful cure!  It comes in adult or kid friendly versions.  Take 1 vial weekly for prevention of flu. My husband & I do this all through the winter months or when flying.  Upon the first sign of sore throat, fever or myalgias, take one vial up to 3X daily for acute illness.  It's safe at any age and has been shown to limit the severity and duration of the flu symptoms.  For best results, take at the very beginning of symptoms.  Some of my other favorites by Boiron are ColdCalm for cold symptoms and Sinusalia for sinus symptoms.
  4. Elderberry - Elderberry syrup (such as Sambucol) is a great alternative to anti-viral medication.  Take one tablespooon 4X daily for up to 3 days when symptoms begin.  One study suggested that using a standardized elderberry extract, Sambucol, could shorten the duration of flu by about 3 days.
  5. Avoid sugar - Perhaps the most important thing you can do to boost your immune strength is get rid of the sweets!  Avoid all sugar and highly processed foods.  Even small amounts of sugar can significantly impair the immune system, making one more susceptible to a flu infection.  One classic study showed that sugar decreased neutrophil activity (your cells that fight infection) for hours after sugar ingestion.
  6. Functional Foods - Many foods are helpful to boost immunity.  Drink organic green tea, eat garlic raw or cooked, use fresh oregano and thyme to spice your foods, and enjoy fresh ginger in cooking or smoothies or make a cup of honey ginger tea.  Cruciferous veggies and certain mushrooms are also loaded with immune boosting properties.  Both garlic and onions contain compounds that rev up the activity of immune-system cells called natural killer cells and T-helper cells.
  7. And don't forget to wash your hands... a simple but effective way to wash away the viruses that cause cold and flu.  Use plain soap and water (NOT the anti-bacterial soaps which contain the toxin, Triclosan)  Make your own hand sanitizer with the following simple recipe.
    • Fill 4oz glass spray bottle with sterile water
    • Add 1 tsp aloe vera gel
    • Add 5 drops each of the following essential oils:  cinnamon, clove, rosemary, eucalyptus
    • Mix 10 drops of lemon or wild orange essential oil
    • Shake gently and use 2-3 sprays on your hands as needed.
Take to heart these simple tips and you should be WELL on your way to a healthy, happy, virus-fighting immune system this flu season!

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