You don’t need a flu shot to protect yourself this year. Use natural immune boosters to stay strong and healthy through the fall and winter.
Despite the fact that the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention advocates a seasonal flu shot for everyone, the reality is that not all people feel comfortable with this recommendation. I and many other health experts do not endorse widespread seasonal flu vaccines, including the H1N1 vaccine. Your immune system, when working properly, has a remarkable capacity to fight off the flu and colds. Even if an infection does gain a foothold, it’s usually just a matter of time before the immune system mounts an effective counterattack.
Recipe for a Strong Immune System
Whether you get a flu shot or not, it is important to bolster immunity during the fall and winter months. This increases your resistance to colds and flu, and protects you against cancer and other diseases. Try these steps to boost your immune system:
- A healthy lifestyle is essential for immunity. Be sure to eat a healthy diet, get exercise, avoid toxins, maintain your appropriate body weight, and get enough sleep.
- Stress lowers immunity. Practice relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, visualization, or meditation.
- Avoid refined sugars and saturated fats, but make sure you get plenty of quality protein and essential fatty acids.
- Take a high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement. Vitamins B complex, C and E, zinc, and selenium are especially important.
- Boost your vitamin D levels (see below).
- Take a clinically proven immune-enhancing product (see “Go Shopping” below).
Recent research on the proprietary ingredient Wellmune WGP (beta-glucan from baker’s yeast) has been shown in a double-blind study to prevent colds and flu. Subjects were treated with either 500 mg of Wellmune WGP or a placebo for 90 days. The Wellmune WGP group reported:
Wellmune WGP is available in certain foods, beverages, and supplements, including supplements from Alacer Corp. and Jarrow Formulas.
Why Vitamin D is Critical for Flu Prevention
Research shows that vitamin D targets more than 2,000 genes (about 10 percent of the human genome). It is now known that low levels of vitamin D are a major factor in the development of at least 17 varieties of cancer, as well as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, and many more common health conditions. As it relates to flu prevention, here is what is known:
- Individuals who have vitamin D blood levels lower than 38 ng/ml had twice as many upper respiratory tract infections as those with higher levels.
- Children who took 1,200 IU of vitamin D daily reduced their risk of developing the flu by 58 percent.
- Women taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D (to protect bones) had an average of 30 percent fewer cold and flu episodes compared to women taking 200 IU of vitamin D.
Because it is estimated that one out of every two Americans is likely to have blood levels below 20 ng/ml, supplementing with vitamin D may prove to be more effective than getting a flu shot. For optimal vitamin D status, take 2,000—5,000 IU daily.
While echinacea has been shown to exert significant effects on immune function in more than 300 clinical studies, not all of the research has been positive. Mixed results most likely stem from insufficient quantity of the herb’s active compounds. There is tremendous variation in these levels—even within the same product from batch to batch. Echinacea must be grown properly, harvested at the exact time, and extracted properly for maximal levels of all active compounds. Clinical studies with Echinamide (a patented echinacea product standardized for effective levels of key compounds) have proved useful in preventing, as well as shortening, the severity and duration of colds and flu.