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Forget The Flu Shot: Preseason Flu Fighters Are Your Best Defense

There are simple and cost effective ways to fortify your immune system before the various strains of flu start gathering strength. If you do this at the end of the summer, you can greatly increase your ability to fight circulating viruses. All of the following products are widely available in
health-food stores.

Propolis. A bee resin and one of the most broad-spectrum antimicrobial compounds in the world, if not the broadest spectrum, according to master herbalist Donnie Yance. Propolis is also the richest source of caffeic acid and apigenin, two very important phenolic compounds that aid in immune response. Try 500 mg capsules or if you can find propolis integrated with honey from your local bee keeper, that's even better.

N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC)
. A metabolite of the amino acid cysteine, NAC not only helps the body fight flu, research shows that it also dramatically reduces symptoms in those who do fall prey. Italian researchers designed a study to weigh NAC’s effectiveness at reducing flu symptoms in older people (65 and older). One group began taking NAC supplements three months before the start of flu season and continued throughout the winter months, while the other took no special precautions. The group taking NAC had symptoms that were, on average, 75% reduced compared with those who did not take NAC. Other reasons NAC is helpful: It’s an antioxidant and a precursor to glutathione, said to be the master antioxidant of all. Try 1,500 mg of NAC daily, best taken between meals. Caution: Pregnant or nursing women should not take NAC -- and, if you take nitroglycerin, you may find that NAC magnifies its effects and also increases side effects, including headache. Check with your doctor.

Tumeric. A general immune system booster due to its high antioxidant capacity, and an anticancer agent as well; turneric is 5 to 8 times stronger than vitamins C and E, and even strong enough to scavenge the hydroxyl radical, which is considered by some to be the most reactive of all oxidants. Try 500mg capsules of tumeric extract.

Zinc and Selenium. These two minerals are immune system strengtheners and boost the protective antibody response to the flu vaccine. This is especially helpful for older adults, who are most likely to have low blood levels of zinc and/or selenium. Zinc and selenium supplements won’t help you immediately, as it takes several months for your body to build up effective stores -- so begin taking them now. Try 25 mg of zinc daily (with food to prevent nausea) and 100 mcg of selenium.

Garlic. Incredibly beneficial to your immune system, garlic works because it offers a triple-whammy: it’s antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal. You should be eating garlic every day. One of the best things about garlic is that bacteria, viruses, and yeast build up no resistance to it, unlike with synthetic antibiotics. For optimal benefits, garlic should be fresh since the active ingredient is destroyed within one hour of smashing the garlic cloves. In other words, garlic capsules are basically useless you try something like Allimax which dilutes allicin very quickly to a concentration where it is stabilized.

Vitamin D. Most people don’t connect the multipurpose vitamin D with flu resistance, but there is growing evidence that people with healthy vitamin D levels get fewer colds and cases of flu. In fact, some experts speculate that the relative lack of sunshine in winter and our bodies’ resulting diminished levels of vitamin D contribute to the season’s numerous respiratory ailments. So, as the sun’s path sinks low in the sky -- which is starting right about now -- begin to buttress your vitamin D levels by taking 1,000 IU to 2,000 IU of vitamin D-3 (avoid D-2) daily. Caution: Consult your doctor first if you take digoxin (Digitek) for congestive heart failure.

Black Elderberry. In the herbal category, black elderberry capsules or syrup may be very effective once you begin feeling poorly. These contain flavonoids, including anthocyanins, that can bolster immunity and keep viruses from effectively implanting in mucous membranes. Try 750-mg supplements twice daily with food. If you use the syrup, check the label for dosage.


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