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Natural Awakenings Boston

Avoid Winter Colds and Flu Through Prevention

Dec 24, 2013 04:12PM ● By Gary Kracoff

As winter colds, flu and other ailments hit their yearly highs, many people feel as if they have no control over whether they become ill. The reality is that most people can dramatically reduce their chances of contracting these illnesses with some awareness and simple actions.

First, lifestyle is a significant predictor of wellness, and the importance of adequate rest and good nutrition cannot be overstated. Medical researchers have drawn a very clear correlation between rest and illness prevention. Lack of adequate sleep has been tied to scores of diseases and adverse health conditions. If the body is not rested, it is not prepared to fight off invading germs. Sleep experts recommend eight hours a night for adults and more for children.

As far as nutrition is concerned, a diet full of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables will help to maintain a strong immune system. Conversely, a diet high in refined sugar and saturated fats will tax the immune system, making the body work harder to process food and, essentially, thwarting its ability to fight illness.

Water helps to ensure the health of the kidneys and other vital organs. Sipping water throughout the day in a quantity equal to half your body weight is ideal. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds should drink 75 ounces of water. This is in addition to any coffee, tea or soda that may be consumed, especially those with caffeine, which acts as a diuretic.

Stress reduction techniques such as yoga or meditation may also be used preventatively, and washing hands before putting them near your face or eating can help reduce the chances of infection.

Fresh air contributes to good health, yet most people spend the majority of their time indoors during winter, breathing germ-filled air (even if filtered). If getting outdoors for fresh air is difficult, open the windows for a few minutes each day. A humidifier used in winter will remove dryness from the air that irritates the skin and dries out mucus membranes, leading to respiratory illnesses. Note that it’s important to clean the humidifier weekly.

Supplements that can boost immunity include a daily multi-vitamin that includes vitamin D3; a daily probiotic containing the healthy bacteria that keep the digestive system working optimally; and astragulas, an herbal remedy that has been shown to boost the immune system. For those who are coming down with an illness, the following remedies can shorten or reverse the process: ViraStop 2x contains proteolytic enzymes that serve as catalysts to metabolism, detoxification and the immune system; elderberry syrup or extract, which is known to aid the respiratory system; oscillococcinum helps to reduce the duration and severity of flu symptoms; and WholeMune primes and mobilizes key immune cells to protect against challenges and increases immune vitality and mental clarity.

Finally, it’s important to know that alcohol can limit the body’s immune response because it kills good, healthy bacteria and reduces the amount of deep sleep that a person gets. When used beyond moderation, alcohol has a negative effect on the body.

Building a protective layer through good health practices and the use of natural supplements can bolster the body against illness. Time spent doing these things now is time that’s less likely to be lost to illness later on.

Dr. Gary Kracoff is a naturopathic doctor and registered pharmacist at Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center, located at 577 Main St., Waltham. For more information, call 781-893-3870 ext. 2 or visit

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