Flu prevention

A lot of older people nowadays opt to have the flu vaccine before winter sets in. While it does reduce your statistical risk of getting flu, it can only prevent the strains of flu included in the vaccine, so it’s a bit of a lottery; and it certainly won’t stop you getting colds.

If you’re worried about flu, it makes sense to make sure your immune system is working as well as possible, so that you’ll be ready to deal with whatever infection comes your way. The usual dietary rules apply: eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, avoid excess carbohydrate and sugar. But we’re finding out more about why some foods are more beneficial than others. We’ve known for a long time that the flavonoids in foods like berries, tea and red wine will help you deal better with the flu virus; you might still get it, but it will be milder and you’ll recover faster. But we now know that there is a particular gut microbe, Clostridium orbiscindens, that interacts with flavonoids to produce interferon. This helps deal with infection and prevent complications like pneumonia.

So it’s back to a healthy gut again. Keeping your digestion in good nick is fundamental to wellness, so if you have ‘minor’ problems like reflux or irritable bowel, it’s really worth doing something about them; it could help prevent infections, as well as auto-immune problems and other more ‘serious’ illnesses. Many of the herbs that help boost immunity, like Calendula or Astragalus or Commiphora – the list is endless – work partly by encouraging good gut function. Taking Echinacea will help, certainly, but if you’re prone to flu, colds or chest infections, it’s well worth looking at the bigger picture.

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