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Originally published March 7 2006

8 ways to avoid the flu naturally

by Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

Couple the recent media predictions of a pandemic-proportion flu season with talk of more vaccination shortages, and the spread of panic isnít far behind. However, the flu does not have to be inevitable for you or your family and can be avoided naturally by strengthening your immune system.

Taste the rainbow
Eating a wide variety of fresh, wholesome foods packed with powerful vitamins and minerals is the first step to ensuring a strong immune system. Vitamins A, B6, C and E and the minerals zinc, iron, copper and selenium are critical for maintaining strength and immunity. Make sure that your diet consists of a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to ensure that you are getting all of the necessary nutrients. Supplementing your diet with a daily multivitamin will fill the gaps where your diet falls short and should be an essential part of your health regime. During cold and flu season, increase your dosage of vitamin C for added virus fighting benefits. Should you still become sick, studies have shown that the powerful antioxidants in vitamin C can reduce both the symptoms and duration of the flu.

Iíll have extra garlic, please
Certain foods can give you an extra boost and should be factored into your regular eating habits. Garlic is known for its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties and can prevent infections from taking hold and spreading. A daily serving of two raw garlic cloves will provide you with the bulbous herb's healthy benefits. Tip: To avoid offensive garlic breath, cut the cloves into smaller pieces and then swallow them with water or herbal tea. Follow with a sprig of parsley.

A mushroom a day
Mushrooms have been found to increase production and activity of white blood cells, improving your chances of fighting off infection. Both shiitake and maitake mushrooms provide the biggest immunity boost.

Have a tea party
Jump-start your immune system each morning with a fresh pot of black tea. While the healthy properties in black tea have been known for centuries, a recent Harvard University study confirmed its healing effects. The study found that people who drank five cups of black tea a day for two weeks had 10 times higher levels of the cold- and virus-fighting chemical interferon than those who did not drink tea. Researchers suspect that green tea has the same effect.

Run away
Exercising for 30 to 60 minutes daily can give your immune system the extra kick that it needs. A study conducted by David Nieman at Appalachian State University found that people who walked regularly for 12 weeks had half the number of colds and sore throats as people who were less active.

Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress and its harmful effects on the immune system. It has been estimated that 90 percent of illness and disease is stress related. But donít overdo it! Too much exercise can have the opposite effect on your immune system. Exercising for more than 90 minutes a day could make you more susceptible to the flu virus.

Sleep on it
Getting a good nightís sleep is essential for the immune system to recharge itself. An overly fatigued body doesnít have the necessary strength to fight off infections. With eight hours a night of solid sleep, your body will be ready to face a new day and ward off pesky invaders.

Lather Up
A strong immune system should be able to combat the flu virus, but washing your hands frequently can increase your health odds even more. Use warm water and soap and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes to prevent the virus from entering your system.

Avoid the flu shot
According to Dr. J. Anthony Morris, the former Chief Vaccine Control Officer at the FDA, "There is no evidence that any influenza vaccine, thus far developed, is effective in preventing or mitigating any attack of influenza." When you also consider the toxic mixture of chemicals found in the flu vaccine, the decision becomes a no-brainer. Among the vaccineís ingredients are such toxins as ethylene glycol (a.k.a. antifreeze), formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), aluminum (linked to Alzheimerís disease and known to produce cancer in mice) and thimerosol (a form of mercury, the most toxic of all heavy metals). Thimerosol has had so much scrutiny in the past decade that it has been banned in all childhood vaccinations in the United States, yet it still remains in the influenza vaccine today.

This year the flu season doesnít have to get you down. Take good care of your body and you will be rewarded with a lifetime of good health. And just think of what you can do with all of those unused sick days!

Dr. Connealy, M.D., M.P.H. began private practice in 1986. In 1992, she founded South Coast Medical Center for New Medicine, where she serves as Medical Director. Her practice is firmly based in the belief that strictly treating health problems with medications does not find the root cause of the illness. Dr. Connealy writes monthly columns for Coast and OC Health magazines, and is a biweekly guest on Frank Jordan's "Healthy" radio show. She routinely lectures and educates the public on health issues.





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