Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Your Immune System: 5 Natural Solutions to Avoid Catching Every Cold and Flu This Season

If you haven't thought about your immune system this year, you might want to. Why? Because the U.S. is being hit hard by the flu this year according to the Centers for Disease Control (http://on.webmd.com/WgniPB). As of the first week of January, 47 states reported widespread flu activity, and Northeastern states have seen a flood of patients in the emergency room with flu-type symptoms. And those statistics don't even consider the common cold!

Yuck! No one likes suffering through the symptoms of the cold or flu. Luckily, you can take steps to strengthen your immune system so that you don't catch every cold or flu making the rounds. Check out these 5 simple natural solutions that can boost your immunity ... and generally keep you healthier and happier!

5 Natural Solutions to Strengthen Your Immune System
Notice that these tips for strengthening your immune system are "natural solutions." The reason we focus on solutions that work with your body's natural immune responses is because this approach can help you avoid colds and flus rather than trying to quell symptoms after you get sick. In addition, research now shows that the use of antibiotics to treat colds and flus is not only ineffective (since colds and flus are viral and antibiotics only help with illnesses caused by bacteria) but can actually cause future resistance to antibiotics (http://on.webmd.com/UhiKeO). So focus on prevention rather than easing symptoms after you catch a cold or flu.

#1 - Help Your Immune System by Cutting Down on Smoking and Drinking
Did you know that heavy smokers catch colds more often, and suffer more severe symptoms? What's worse, even hanging around a smoker can reduce your immunity. Smoke paralyzes the delicate hairs (cilia) that line the mucous membranes in your nose and lungs. These hairs "wave around" as you breathe, and literally "sweep" cold and flu viruses out of your body. Experts estimate that the smoke from a single cigarette can paralyze these cilia hairs in your body for as long as 30 to 40 minutes! So don't smoke and avoid smokers.

Similarly, avoid heavy drinking, which can suppress the immune system. Studies show that heavy drinkers are more likely to develop both initial symptoms of colds and flus, plus secondary complications. In addition, alcohol consumption dehydrates your body, increasing your chances of catching a cold or flu.

#2 - Boost Your Immune System with Natural Supplements
If you know that you are going to be stressed or in contact with people who have a cold or the flu, you can strengthen your immune system by adding a few natural supplements to your daily regimen. For instance, instead of taking antibiotics, take probiotics. Probiotics are the friendly bacteria that live in your gut, and are a first line of defense against illnesses of all kinds. Acidophilus is one of the most important forms of probiotics because it produces B-vitamins and acidophilin for immune system support. In fact, you can take acidophilus to support your immune system so you don't get sick, or take acidophilus if you do end up with a cold or flu. We have found that taking therapeutic doses of acidophilus during an illness can help support the immune system so the body can more easily recover.

Another useful supplement is one made from  WGP beta glucan, an ingredient found in baker's yeast. This specially processed supplement has been shown to support the production and activity of beneficial white blood cells. Overall, WGP beta glucan also provides generalized immune support.

#3 - Get a Pet
No kidding. Pets can be good for your health! Studies show that having a pet can provide multiple health benefits, including supporting your immune system, reducing blood pressure, improving heart health, and even reducing cholesterol levels. Pets can provide companionship, exercise, and loving attention through their presence ... and your body will respond!

#4 - Add Antioxidant Foods to Your Diet
Antioxidants are those molecular substances that your body needs to protect your cells from damage, which in turn supports your immune system. To ensure that you get enough antioxidants, focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables of multiple colors. For instance, mix the following into your diet: dark leafy greens, oranges and lemons, berries of all kinds, broccoli, red peppers, and papayas. Can't slow down to make a salad or smoothie? No worries ... try this antioxidant supplement!

#5 - Sweat, Hydrate, and then Relax!
You probably already know the immune benefits of exercise and hydration, but they still bear mentioning here. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, increases circulation and oxygenation in your body, both of which can support and strengthen your immune system. Studies also show that aerobic exercise increases the number of virus-killing cells in your body, which reduces your chances of catching a cold or the flu.

Drinking plenty of water helps your body flush toxins, plus keeps your circulation going at top efficiency. Be sure to replace all the water you sweat away during exercise.

Finally, relax and reduce stress as much as possible to strengthen your immune system. Studies indicate that people who consciously relax, whether through meditation or other methods, have a better immune response. When the body relaxes, interleukins (a first-line response against cold and flu viruses) increase in the bloodstream. So train yourself to relax on a regular basis ... and we do mean relax because people who are just bored rather than relaxed don't get the same beneficial change in their blood chemicals!

So there you have it ... 5 simple natural solutions to strengthen your immune system. Doesn't sound too difficult, right? For instance, if you already have a dog, how difficult is it to take a few moments to pet your pet? Or eat a piece of fruit? Or go for a walk? It's all about slowing down and thinking about your actions before you get sick.

An ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure!



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