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Boosting Immunity Naturally: How To Stay Well This Winter

Dec 01, 2010 ● By Lynn Bednar

The “sick season” will soon be here, but you can prepare by building up your immune system. Managing stress and getting proper rest, nutrition and exercise will help you stay healthy. Certain nutrients boost immunity, and many herbs possess antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal qualities. Homeopathic remedies also can be taken at the first sign of flu or other illnesses.

A good-quality multivitamin is the single most important supplement to take to help avoid getting sick. Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” has been shown to protect against viral infections, and recent Japanese research reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed Vitamin D to be twice as effective as flu shots in preventing influenza A.

Vitamin C also is well known for fighting disease and plays a vital role in many immune mechanisms. Vitamin A is essential for the health of the skin and mucosal surfaces in the lungs, nose and mouth—the body’s first line of defense.

The minerals zinc and selenium are also necessary for a healthy immune system. Zinc deficiency increases the risk of infection, so take zinc at the first sign of illness. Selenium is vital to the production of white blood cells, and its antioxidant action prevents damage to cell membranes.

In addition to a quality multivitamin, take some probiotics, the “friendly” bacteria that populate the gastrointestinal system to ensure proper functioning of the gut and promote healthy digestion and elimination. Probiotics help protect against viruses and bacterial and fungal infections.

Herbs and mushrooms also help ward off ill health. The prime herbs for supporting the immune system are astragalus, echinacea and elderberry. According to Herbal Antibiotics, by Steve Buhner, astragalus increases spleen activity and antibody release, signals virus destruction and supports the respiratory system. Echinacea stimulates the immune system and elderberry thwarts viral attacks upon healthy cells. Medicinal mushrooms—including maitake, reishi and shiitake—are antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral, and have been used worldwide to bolster immunity. These helpful botanicals are available in many forms, including teas and capsules.

At the onset of illness, also turn to garlic, as well as andrographis and oregano oil. Buhner says garlic is antiviral and one of the most potent antibiotics in the plant kingdom; it is most effective when eaten raw, and can be chopped or mashed and added to salads, pastas or other foods. Andrographis has been used in Asia for centuries to treat upper respiratory infections, fevers, colds and sore throats, and is available in capsule form. Oregano oil is a powerful antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral essential oil; it should be taken only when you are ill, and be sure to follow label directions. Conveniently blended herbal formulas containing one or more of these herbs also are available.

Homeopathy, which employs natural substances to help the body fight illness, may also ease flu symptoms. Choosing the correct remedy requires matching specific symptoms; visit to find an appropriate remedy. Essential oils may also help to prevent or reduce cold and flu symptoms.

Staying well during the “sick season” can be a challenge, but these approaches can help boost your immunity and health, naturally.

Lynn Bednar is the owner of Walsh Natural Health,  located at 2116-1/2 Central St., in Evanston. Call 847-864-1600 or visit