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Natural Ways to Avoid ‘Flu 2004-11-08

Posted by clype in Health.
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Here’s a strategy for avoiding the flu that doesn’t involve waiting at the GP’s to ask for an injection you might not even need.

The approach begins with consistent hand washing, eating lots of garlic, and keeping those germy paws out of the leftover Hallowe’en sweets. Also, try sleeping more and stocking up on echinacea, elderberry and zinc lozenges. Work out whenever possible and meditate if you can.

If you think of the flu as an opportunistic bug, one that breaks through the body’s defences when its guard is down, then the best way to prevent it is to bring on some reinforcements, says Dr.Bronner Handwerger, a naturopathic physician.

‘I liken it to bringing on some extra security’, he says.

‘The more cops you have, the better the chance that no one is going to break in’.

While traditional practitioners suggest flu jabs and good old-fashioned hand washing as the best preventatives, nutritionists and specialists in alternative medicine say there are plenty of natural ways to keep yourself healthy in the cold and flu season.

‘The single best strategy you can employ is finding ways to build up your immune system so it’s stronger’, says Dr.Paul Epstein, also a naturopathic physician.

Epstein shies away from making blanket recommendations, saying much of his advice is based on patients’ specific needs. You won’t hear him recommending daily doses of herbs such as astragalus or sharing a recipe for a meal based around fresh garlic. [despite the recommendations below].

‘While I love something like carrot juice’, Epstein says,

‘I hesitate to recommend that because what you need may be to exercise more, eat better, talk to your husband more or cut back on the hours’.

He adds: ‘Stress is the single biggest challenge to our immune system and the chief reason why we get ill‘.

That said, there are some natural vaccines, homeopathic remedies and dietary changes that could help the average healthy person keep the flu at bay.

Here are their top recommendations.

  • Cut back on sugar. This was the advice of all the naturopathic physicians interviewed. As a rule of thumb, they say too much sugar depletes the immune system.

    ‘But when I say sugar I mean all kinds of sugar’, says Handwerger, who tells his patients to avoid natural fruit juices, refined breads, pastas and other sugar sources when building up their immune systems.

    ‘If sugar is the first thing on the ingredients, you don’t want it. If it’s fourth or fifth, it might be OK’.

  • Cut back on caffeine. Coffee taps out the adrenals, says Epstein.

    ‘It creates stress in the body and you don’t need it.’
    [Health benefits of coffee]

    If you need a little caffeine, go with green tea, says Dr.Tim Frank.
    ‘It’s a much better choice because green tea is good for the immune system’.

  • Take zinc.
    Sunflower seeds are a good natural source.
  • Eat yoghurt.
    Good quality yoghurt that has lots of natural bacteria and acidophilus is good for the immune system.
  • Eat garlic. Add garlic to soups, salads and starters.

    ‘If you are in a restaurant and one starter has garlic and another one doesn’t, get the one with garlic’, says Epstein.

  • Take Vitamin C.
    Talk to your GP or a nutritionist about appropriate doses.
  • Consider natural flu vaccines.
    But be an informed consumer. Not all health care practitioners are convinced of their efficacy.
  • Ingest essential fatty acids.
    Epstein recommends flax seed and olive oils. Try natural echinacea, goldenseal and elderberry or astragalus. All are potential boosters to the immune system.
  • Exercise.

    ‘It improves circulation, which naturally boosts your immune system’, says Handwerger.

  • Eat lots of fruit, vegetables and healthy proteins.

    ‘In the elderly, it’s the people who subsist on tea and toast I worry about. But then I also worry about women who are living on muffins and Diet Coke(tm), says Dr.Peter McKnight.

  • Be more vigilant about basic hygiene, but don’t overdo it.
  • Manage stress.

    ‘Stress management is a basic, common sense prescription for disease prevention’, says Epstein.

  • Get good, regular sleep.


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