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Condition - Fighting Flu

By Kelly Walker DipION FdSc VN MBANT

Traditionally, at this time of year there is an increase in viral infections and many of us will be exposed to the latest winter flu bug.  Seasonal flu may affect between 10-15% of the population each winter. The current swine flu pandemic is predicted to add to the amount of flu cases this year, although it is now thought that the winter outbreak may affect less people than first anticipated. 

The gloomy statistics (and weather) do not necessarily mean that you need to stay indoors and avoid all contact. There are measures that you can take to ensure optimal wellness.

The current government advice of “catch it, bin it, kill it” is wise, as flu is commonly spread via droplets in the air. Good hygiene can prevent spread and susceptibility to viruses. Avoid handkerchiefs and use tissues to catch a sneeze or cough and dispose of them immediately. Wash hands regularly and spray with a natural biocide such as a colloidal silver solution. A diluted solution of grapefruit seed extract may also be useful for sanitising surfaces.

Maintaining a healthy immune system is the key tool for warding off all winter bugs. Oyster mushrooms contain beta glucan (1,3/1,6) and this is known to play a role in helping to trigger an immune response when challenged. Other nutrients, such as vitamin C, zinc and vitamins A and E, all assist in supporting our natural barriers to infection and ensure a healthy-functioning immune system.

Plants such as echinacea, cat’s claw, black elderberry and olive leaf have been used for many centuries and are known to aid the immune system. Blackcurrant extract has also been shown to support the immune system throughout the winter.  Plant juices containing, for example, hibiscus may also be beneficial for maintaining healthy immune defences.

It is well known that probiotics, the good gut bacteria, support digestive functioning but one of their major roles is also to support the immune system. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that a large proportion of our immune system is in the gut.

Some people, such as pregnant women, young children and the elderly may be particularly susceptible to flu bugs. Others with a serious underlying condition, diabetes or those with a suppressed immune system are also vulnerable. If you are in one of these higher risk categories then it is wise to consult your doctor if flu symptoms persist.

So, do not fear that winter is here! There is plenty you can do to maintain an optimal immune system and to ensure you are strong enough to sail through the winter flu season, giving you plenty of time to get out and enjoy the crisp winter months.

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