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  • Flu Fighters

    Try to make it an illness-free winter, or at least get a handle on your cold
  • Ah, January, the time when you pack away the holiday lights, put away the presents — and get ready for the flu season.
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  • Ah, January, the time when you pack away the holiday lights, put away the presents — and get ready for the flu season.
    Flu activity usually peaks in the U.S. in January or February. According to this week's FluView report posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza activity is on the rise for the season in the U.S., with 29 states experiencing high levels of influenza-like illness.
    What can you do to prevent the flu? Practice good hygiene, including washing your hands frequently, including before you touch your face or eat.
    If you have not been vaccinated against the flu, you should do so now. If you have severe influenza illness, or are at risk for influenza illness-related complications, you should get the influenza antiviral medications (regardless of whether you've had the flu vaccine).
    In addition, there are a number of holistic interventions you can do to boost your immunity before or during a flu or upper-respiratory infection.
    Here are our top holistic immunity-boosting tips for the flu season:
    • Decrease your intake of processed carbohydrates and sugary foods. Even small amounts of sugar can suppress the immune system and make you more likely to get an infection, or more sick when you have one.
    • The herbs echinacea angustifolia and echinacea purpura are for prevention and long-term immune support. Doses generally used are 2.5 grams of root taken preventively, and can be tripled to head off an impending infection.
    • The herb androgrophis paniculata is used in acute viral or bacterial infections. Doses used are typically 1,000 milligrams per day of extract, or about 6 grams of the herb.
    • The herb ashwgandha is considered an adaptogen, and can help the body respond to stress and ward off illness. It also can help insomnia related to the flu if taken in the evening. Doses of ashwgandha are around 1,000 milligrams a day, or a couple pills a day when the pills are around 400 to 500 milligrams.
    • Fresh ginger steeped in hot water to form a hot tea can be a natural immune booster, and can help against nausea, congestion and abdominal bloating. You can add a little fresh lemon and honey to the tea to calm a sore throat.
    • Nasal saline rinses, or nedipots, used daily can help wash out viruses and bacteria in the nasal passages.
    • Garlic — raw, cooked or in the form of supplements — can boost immunity and has been shown to reduce cough and congestion.
    Doses of garlic recommended are 2 to 5 grams of fresh raw garlic, 0.4 to 1.2 grams of garlic powder or 2 to 5 milligrams of garlic oil daily.
    Garlic can be taken with food to minimize gastrointestinal upset.
    • Exercising in moderation has been shown in many studies to be a natural immunity booster, and may reduce the incidence and severity of viral infections.
    • If you think you have the flu, contact your physician.
    • If you don't have the flu, make sure you have had the flu vaccination, eat healthfully and exercise daily.
    Try these holistic remedies if needed, in conjunction with your physician's advice.
    Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden are medical directors of the Sutter Downtown Integrative Medicine program in Sacramento, Calif.
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