Protect Yourself From the Flu This Winter!

With daily Influenza Immunization Clinics occurring in the Peel region, and the impending threat of an epidemic in Mississauga, it seems that everybody is worried about the flu. But while there’s no need to over-react, concern that leads to preventive action is the appropriate response.

Everybody knows that the best cure is prevention. Thus, washing your hands frequently will prevent the spread of influenza via hand contact. After that it’s all up to your body’s ability to defend itself. So, besides than the influenza vaccine, what else can one do to improve the immune system and avoid catching the flu or cold this winter?

One of the best ways to improve the immune system is through exercise. Walking, running, biking, skiing, using that gym membership, and even sex, all improve the flow of blood and lymphatic system. Exercise stimulates the disease-fighting white blood cells in the body to move from the organs into the bloodstream, allowing them to be quickly mobilized against the invading pathogens.

Eating well is also important. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables will supply the body with all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to maintain a healthy and quickly reacting immune system. On the other hand, concentrated simple carbohydrates found in pop, processed juices, sugar, dried fruit, etc. are known to depress the immune system. Drinking 8-12 cups of water daily will assist the kidneys in their function of eliminating wastes, thus easing the toxin burden on the body, and allowing for swift removal of any processed viral and bacterial pathogens.

There are many helpful supplements that strengthen the immune system, the most important of which are Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Zinc, and bioflavanoids. Some of the best herbs that strengthen the immune system include: Echinacea species, Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice root),Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), Aloe veraAstragalus membranaceus , Allium sativum(garlic). While these substances are natural and very effective, they can pose health risks in certain individuals, and should be taken under the supervision of a qualified health professional, such as a Naturopathic Doctor.

Should your best preventive methods fail, and you do come down with a cold or flu, staying in bed, getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids truly is the best advice. To relieve some of the symptoms, peppermint tea, or two slices of ginger in hot water are easy home remedies to try. If the symptoms do not subside within 2-3 days, or the temperature rises above 40ºC, medical help should be sought. Your Naturopathic Doctor can prescribe stronger antiviral medications that will strengthen the body while eliminating the viral pathogens.

Submitted for publication to the Mississauga News, 2003.

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