How to prep to survive flu season

It’s that time of year…

The CDC recommends anyone getting a flu vaccine should do it by the end of October.

Yet, according to an issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the 2017-2018 vaccine was estimated to be only about 36 percent effective. I read that 2018-2019 was closer to 47 percent effective for those receiving the vaccine.

But don’t get me wrong — it’s not that I don’t think anyone who wants to shouldn’t get a flu shot. I just want you to know that trying to stay well during flu season may be best approached from all angles.

What’s the old saying — never put all your eggs in one basket, right? So, I’d like to share with you additional precautions you can take to reduce your risk of infection this flu season…

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Immune-boosting vitamins and minerals

Vitamin and mineral nutrients are vital to a healthy body and for an effective immune system. The best sources of these nutrients are whole foods.

However, getting safe, clean whole foods can be troublesome these days. I could go on and on about the dangers of genetically modified foods, pesticide-ridden produce, and meat that increases your risk of antibiotic resistance, but I won’t today.

I will suggest that you do your best to eat a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet, full of fresh fruits and vegetables. I will also suggest that you supplement. Just follow guidelines about recommended dosages.

However, there are very few vitamins that most of us can get too much of, especially if eating the standard American diet — which is woefully depleted of nutritional value.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Vitamin A deficiency is associated with impaired immunity and increased risk of infectious disease. Vitamin A supports and maintains your mucosal surfaces, like the lining in your sinuses, where pathogens can be trapped and attacked by your body’s “killer” T-cells — your body’s first line of defense. Food sources include mango, sweet potato, carrots, squash, tuna fish, cashews and peanuts.

Vitamin C has been the “go-to” nutrient to strengthen the immune system for as long as I can remember. Studies also support its immune-enhancing properties. During infection and stress on the body, vitamin C concentrations decline. But supplementation has been found to improve components of the immune system such as antimicrobial and natural killer cell activities. Excess amounts of vitamin C leave the body through urine, so don’t be afraid of getting too much. If you get diarrhea and know it’s not because you’re sick, that’s a sign of too much vitamin C. Food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruit, green and red bell peppers, kale, broccoli, and strawberries. 

Vitamin D is extremely valuable to the immune system. Studies have shown that vitamin D, which is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight, signals antimicrobial response. Get as much as you can safely from the sun and supplement. Food sources include salmon, fortified milk, fortified cereal, pork, eggs, and mushrooms. When supplementing choose vitamin D3. Science has shown D3 effective on human health, which cannot be said for D2.

Dr. Michael Cutler has some specific thoughts on dosing for vitamins C and D to make your body flu-proof, here.

Zinc is an immune-booster on its own, but it is especially powerful with vitamin C. A zinc deficiency impairs your immune system so it’s obviously important to beef it up during the threat of illness. Vitamin C and zinc can together reduce the risk, severity, and duration of infectious disease. Food sources include beef, cooked oysters, spinach, cashews, and wheat germ.

Quality matters when supplementing

Let me say a thing or two about the kind of supplements you might use, and I’m not referring to brand…

Most vitamins come in the form of rock-hard horse pills. These vitamins are very hard to digest. In fact, most of it will probably exit your body barely digested. If you’ve been taking those kinds of vitamins, no wonder you might be skeptical about their benefits.

Nowadays, many vitamins come in “melts” and liquid form. I enjoy my little round B12 tablets, flavored like cherry, that melt in my mouth and enter my bloodstream quickly. I believe and have read, that vitamin “melts,” liquid vitamins and even soft capsule vitamins will offer you more nutritional value.

Quality matters for supplements. That doesn’t mean they have to cost an arm and a leg. I found a powdered vitamin C at a big box store (very reasonably priced) that I add to my morning smoothies or even a glass of water when I’m rushed for time. Just take time and choose quality bioavailable (easily absorbed) supplements.

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The healing power of garlic

Your flu season survival plan is not incomplete without garlic.

Garlic contains a powerful compound known as allicin that is likely responsible for its long-standing reputation as a traditional cure-all. It’s even been reported to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In studies, allicin has demonstrated antiviral, antifungal and antibiotic effects. Odorless garlic capsules are available in stores, but I think you get more of garlic’s medicinal benefits when you cook with it. Most dishes could benefit from a couple of cloves of garlic without being overpowering.

Below is a recipe for garlic broth that could be made ahead of time to store in the fridge to sip on daily or use as a base in soups or other recipes. Mashed potatoes are especially good with broths instead of milk.

Ingredients for Garlic Broth:

  • 8 cups organic vegetable stock
  • 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 whole head of garlic, cloves peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • A pinch dried sage
  • Shitake mushrooms (see why below)
  • Salt to taste

Bring to a boil then simmer for about half an hour.

Now, mushrooms have been part of the human diet and used medicinally for about 3,000 years. And many immune-boosting formulas of Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) include mushrooms, particularly Maitake, Shitake, and Reishi.

The shitake mushroom is especially recommended by practitioners of TCM for enhancing immunity. It contains lentinan, an antiviral substance that possesses strong immune-stimulating activity. They also contain something called beta-glucans which has been extensively studied as an immune-booster. Shitake mushrooms can be added to recipes or you can consume shitake tea or soup. I would visit a good natural health food store for tea and dried soup mixes. You can also find powdered mushroom online.

Good luck! I hope you make it through this flu season unscathed.

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Margaret Cantwell

By Margaret Cantwell

Margaret Cantwell began her paleo diet in 2010 in an effort to lose weight. Since then, the diet has been instrumental in helping her overcome a number of other health problems. Thanks to the benefits she has enjoyed from her paleo diet and lifestyle, she dedicates her time as managing editor of Easy Health Digest™, researching and writing about a broad range of health and wellness topics, including diet, exercise, nutrition and supplementation, so that readers can also be empowered to experience their best health possible.