‘Tis the season for get-togethers, gift exchanges and goodwill.

But it’s also the season for colds and flus.

The best defense is offense. Wash your hands for 20 seconds when touching or near contagious people or shared items. Use the hand wipes provided in grocery stores to wipe the handles of shopping carts.

Another important defense strategy is keeping your gut bacteria balanced. About 70% of the immune system is in your gut. Taking a probiotic supplement with at least five different strains and a 10 billion strength should be a daily habit, especially during flu and cold season.

Should you succumb to any of the prevalent bugs, here are some natural ways to speed your recovery:

Oscillocococcinum (Oscillo)

This homeopathic is now commonly available at checkout counters in many grocery and drug stores. If you take this remedy at the first first inkling of flu symptoms – body aches, headache, chills, fever, fatigue – you can actually stop the virus in its tracks.

Elderberry

Elderberry is an immune-stimulating herbal remedy that dates back to Native Americans. The syrup (500 mg) works wonders for sore throats. Elderberry lozenges are also helpful. Look for a supplement with at least 100 mg of elderberry extract and added zinc. Zinc has been shown to be helpful for treating colds.

Vitamin C Powder

Vitamin C is an extremely powerful antioxidant. The best way to get high doses in your body is by using the powder. Look for a 1,000-mg powder. Typically, ¼ teaspoon contains 4 grams of vitamin C. Start out adding 4 grams to a 4-ounce glass of grapefruit or orange juice, as the powder is slightly bitter. Repeat every 3-4 hours. Increase the dosage until you reach bowel tolerance (need to poop). When sick, your body can absorb a tremendous amount of this powerful vitamin.

Ginger Tea

Ginger tea is an ancient Chinese remedy. Thinly slice a 3-4-inch piece of organic ginger and place in a pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain into a cup and add lemon, honey, turmeric and cayenne. This is a powerful antioxidant tea, which often induces sweating and release of toxins through the skin. The unused tea can be stored in the refrigerator.

Healing Foods

When sick, it is very important to eat nutrient-dense foods. As appetite is often suppressed during these times, drink protein powder smoothies with added greens powder. Bone broths and chicken soup are rich in mineral and vitamin micronutrients. Maximize your fluid intake, which can include water and herbal teas. Avoid dairy foods, as they create mucus, and sugary foods, which have no nutritive value.

Epsom Salt Baths

Warm Epsom salt baths help sore muscles and the release of toxins. They are also very relaxing, as the salt is magnesium sulfate. To counter the drying effect, add lavender essential oil, which in addition to being relaxing is an excellent skin nourisher.

What do you do to help avoid colds and flu in the winter months? Have you tried any of the suggestions in this article? What other tips can you suggest for healthy aging? Please share in the comments.

Sherry KahnSherry Kahn, MPH, is a health educator, author and marketing communications consultant. A former UCLA Medical Center principal editor and Reuters medical journalist, Sherry’s career has taken her into all areas of the U.S. health system. Her most recent book is Surviving the U.S. Health System: Insurance, Providers, Well Care, Sick Care. She has presented at major conferences and made numerous media appearances, including on The View. Connect with Sherry at surviveushealthsystem.com and consultkahn.com.

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