It’s everywhere, it’s everywhere!  Or so it seems.  Kids home from school, co-workers not showing up to work, grandparents ending up in the hospital.  It is official: the flu has struck.

The media is all over it, naturally. Morning talk shows and even nightly news programs are warning of the dangers of the flu and promoting the flu shot – some hosts and hostesses even getting their shots on air.  They call it a pandemic, epidemic, the “deadly flu.”  Of course the drug companies LOVE this.  More flu cases, more fear, more flu shots all equal MORE MONEY.

What do I say? Hogwash. First of all, I would never get the flu shot. Ever. I would rather be locked in a box of poisonous snakes than get the shot (OK, maybe not quite, but you get my point). The current flu vaccine is based on so much guesswork, and not sound statistical evidence.  Not to mention the negative side effects and ingredients, including mercury! (See related article below). Second, I am highly opposed to doing anything to make the drug companies more money. And third… have I had the flu in the past 10 years – or longer?  Nope.

Even with the flu all around you, there are steps you can take – natural, home remedies even – that will protect you from the nasty influenza bug… or help you feel better if you do happen to contract it.  Here are a just a few ways to help you get through flu season this year and in years to come.

Probiotics: This is my own secret weapon when it comes to staying healthy.  Now, you may ask – how can probiotics, those sneaky little “good bacteria,” help keep you from getting a cold or the flu?  Well, it all starts with your immune system.  See, the health of your gut is tantamount to keeping the health of the rest of your body in check.  If you don’t have a digestive system that’s in tip-top shape, the rest of your health – and your immune system – suffers.  Here’s an example: over the holiday I wasn’t eating like I typically do; wasn’t on top of taking my probiotics and other vitamins, and wasn’t getting enough exercise.  Sure enough, I started struggling with a little stomach bug.  Because of that, my immune system was weakened and I developed a nasty cold.  BUT, once I was able to get back on my health routine, I kicked that cold right to the curb.  And I attribute probiotics to a large part of that.

Garlic: Can you believe it?  Garlic has a use besides flavoring your favorite dish and warding off vampires!  Garlic contains compounds that actually boost the ability of your white blood cells to ward off infection.  Whether you chew on the cloves, inhale the garlic’s fumes, or actually ingest the garlic – all three are beneficial to boosting your defenses.

Echinacea: Going back over 400 years, Native Americans used Echinacea as a “cure-all” for all sorts of ailments and to bolster immunity.  Dosages vary depending on age and weight, so make sure you consult your herbalist or naturopathic doctor.

Ginseng (Panax Ginseng): Clinical trials have shown that ginseng has the ability to prevent colds and flu.  This is due to its adaptogen properties.  An adaptogen is a substance that helps the body adapt and react to the stresses of life – including those caused by looming flu germs.  In one study, patients who took ginseng had fewer cold and flu episodes, higher antibody levels and increased white blood cell activity.

If you DO happen to contract the flu, there are a few herbal remedies you can utilize to help ease the pain.  For instance, marsh mallow root (Althaea officinalis) and slippery elm bark (Ulmus rubra) help soothe irritated mucous membranes and in ease cough symptoms.  To help loosen phlegm in your upper respiratory tract, try using the following: thyme leaves (Thymus vulgaris), horehound leaves (Marrubium vulgare), licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and eucalyptus leaves (Eucalyptus globulus).

And of course, whether you’re trying to prevent the flu or you’re trying to recover from it, you should always get plenty of rest, plenty of liquids, eat smart, and always, always, always WASH YOUR HANDS!  Also, some experts suggest that you add humidity to your environment. This is because the less water that’s in the air, the longer a flu virus can live – and the greater chance that you will become infected if someone else in your household is sick.

Just keep in mind… just because the media is good at its job (spreading fear), doesn’t mean that you have to buy into that fear.  There are simple, tried-and-true ways to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy this winter that DON’T involve the flu shot.

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