How to Keep your Immune System Healthy During Flu Season
Fall is in the air and flu season is right around the corner.
We are all at risk, yet many people erroneously think antibiotics will cure what ails you. Unfortunately nothing can be further from the truth.
Millions of Americans will be affected by the flu before the year is over, some will be laid up for days while others will be achy, sneezing and coughing for weeks. Let’s talk prevention.
Ask your doctor for a flu shot each fall. Influenza is still responsible for several thousand deaths every year in the United States, and beefing up your own immune system annually can trim your chances of developing this nasty bug.
Even if you are not in a “high-risk” group (those over age 65, pregnant women, or those whose immunity has been compromised by cancer treatments or HIV), make sure to get a flu shot annually.
Outside of a preventative flu shot, there are some healthy cold and flu fighters to consider too.
Manage your stress, avoid eating a poor diet and get plenty of sleep. Emotional state also affects your immune system. Grief and sadness make you more susceptible to illness. Weakened defenses are the primary reason most people get sick.
Some safe remedies to consider:
Nature’s flu fighter, purple cone flower Echinacea, is a plant used by traditional Native American people as a natural antibiotic for treatment of the cold and flu viruses. Echinacea has antiviral and antibacterial properties and can be used in larger doses at the first sign of flu symptoms or at a lower dose to help prevent colds or flu. According to a study conducted by the University of Connecticut, Echinacea can cut your chances of catching the common cold by 58 percent and reduce its duration by 1.4 days.
Herbalists recommend a total daily dose of 3 grams or 3-4 ml of Echinacea per day at the first sign of cold symptoms. Usually a dose should be taken every 2-3 hours. After one to two days, the dose is usually reduced. Incorporating Echinacea tea or a supplement into your everyday diet could be beneficial for prevention.
Probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus
The probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus or L. Acidophilus, is a lactic acid producing bacteria, thought to have beneficial effects on digestion and overall health. This good gut bacteria is responsible for proper digestion of the food we eat. Excessive alcohol consumption, antibiotics, and food additives can kill this bacteria, leading to irregularity, allergies, and a weakened immune system. Probiotics can stop the growth of disease-causing bacteria, such as salmonella and shigella-caused dysentery, various types of diarrhea, and virus-caused flu. According to a year-long study at the University of California, subjects who ate a 3/4 cup of yogurt daily had 25% fewer colds than non-yogurt eaters.
Green and White Teas
Teas have numerous health benefits including the ability to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and prevent certain cancers. The antioxidants contained within tea contribute to overall health by preventing damage to body cells and repairing damage that has already been done. A natural anti-viral and antibacterial remedy, teas act as natural immune boosters by stopping the growth of bacteria that causes infection.
Garlic is a member of the lily family, related to onions and chives, and frequently used in cooking. This aromatic root bulb is an anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and has anti-yeast properties. Garlic kills viruses responsible for colds and flu, according to studies at Brigham Young University. Other studies suggest garlic boosts the immune functioning by stimulating infection-fighting T-cells. If you opt for a supplement, try taking enteric-coated garlic pills, which dissolve deeper in the digestive track and lessen the garlic taste. Use caution when taking garlic as a natural remedy because, like aspirin, garlic acts a blood thinner. Consult your doctor if you are already taking aspirin or prescription blood thinners.
Many of those experiencing the early symptoms of the flu will want to request prescription medicines like the Z-Pak, a five day course of the antibiotic, Azithromycin, which is supposed to kill the infection before it takes hold. Colds and flu (along with most common infections) are caused by viruses, so antibiotics (designed to kill bacteria) are useless. They can hurt and kill off the friendly bacteria that are part of our immune defenses. If you’ve used antibiotics a lot lately, consider a course of probiotics (see above), replacement troops for friendly bacteria.
The CDC has guidelines too to help you through the season: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/index.htm
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