With cold and flu season in full bloom, it is important to discuss the H1N1 vaccine and the flu vaccine with your doctor. It is also more important than ever to bolster your immune system right now. Here are some natural, simple solutions that will help you during this season!
1. Treat Your Body Right Encourage your body to fight flu and other infections by giving it the care it needs.
• Get at least 7 hours of quality uninterrupted sleep every night. Studies show that your immune system function drops by an average of 60% after just three nights of poor sleep
• Keep your stress level low with meditation, tai chi, or yoga. It is well known that stress hormones depress the immune system and make one susceptible to colds, flu, and infections.
• Dry body brushing daily can slough off dead skin, activate surface immunity, promote lymph circulation that is important to clear out toxic debris, and stimulate immune function.
2. Stimulate Your Thymus Your thymus is a golf ball-sized gland located behind your sternum in the center of your chest. It plays a critical role in the functioning of the lymphatic and immune systems.
• To support thymus health, Chinese medicine devised a simple way to stimulate your thymus using acupressure. With your index and middle finger together, gently tap against the sternum (midway between the nipples) 50 times, in the morning and the evening.
• Another natural way to support your healthy thymus function, use the popular Chinese herb astragalus root. Studies show astralagus is an adaptogen, which means it corrects both high and low metabolic imbalances, acts on invaders wherever they attack the body, and promotes overall vitality. The usual dosage is 100 to 150 mg per day in capsules or you can drink astragalus tincture or tea
3. Chestnuts Bolster Immunity Chestnuts differ from other nuts with their low fat content and high fiber. An excellent source of potassium, folate, vitamins B6 and C, chestnuts strengthen the kidney-adrenal system and bolster the immune system to fight off the flu and combat infections, according to Chinese medicine. This flu season, introduce more chestnuts into your cooking: they are good roasted in the oven, cooked with chicken, lamb, beef, or pork, or in any dish with beans and legumes.
4. Immune-Supporting Herbs You can use the following herbs to help strengthen your immune system:
• Ligustrum has been the focus of much research recently, which has revealed this herb’s immune boosting functions. Its actions include increasing white blood cell production, phagocytosis, and T-lymphocyte helper cell activities
• Cherokee Rose is traditionally used to protect the body from external pathogens with its astringent properties. It is also one of the highest natural sources of Vitamin C
• Honeysuckle is a natural anti-microbial herb that has been used for centuries to increase resistance and fight against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections
You can find these and other herbs in health food stores, online, and at the offices of practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Often, Chinese herbs are combined into formulations that work synergistically towards intended benefits.
5. Beta-Carotene Builds Immunity Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that improves immune function and promotes mucous membrane health. In fact, a 1997 study conducted by the Institute of Food Research in the United Kingdom suggested that dietary intake of beta-carotene can enhance cell-mediated immune responses.
Eat more orange-colored vegetables, including carrots, winter squash, butternut squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and yams. Additionally, these are all an excellent source of vitamin C, a famous immune support.
If you feel your immune system has already been compromised and illness is on the way, see your healthcare practitioner immediately. Do not underestimate the flu—36,000 patients die of the flu and its complications each year in the U.S. alone. Help yourself and your loved ones by keeping your immune system strong and follow the ways to a winter free from cold and flu.