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Boosting your immunity in cold and flu season

The leaves are changing, the air is cooling, and the flu season is starting to gain its annual momentum. While western medicine offers little in the way of preventive options for boosting your immune system, several natural remedies provide ways to support your body's natural defense mechanisms so you can enjoy the best things this fall brings.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to 20 percent of the American population will be affected by the influenza virus this year. Colds are even more prevalent, with children averaging three to eight colds per year. Want to make sure your family is protected? Yvonne Casaus, an herbalist at the Santa Fe store, gives her recommendations.

People will want to take precautionary measures this year because of the recent development of the H1N1 flu strain. Yvonne says the quickest way to boost your resistance is a steady dose of probiotics. She recommends taking New Chapter's All-Flora daily, or at least two to three times a week. "If your system is supported by good bacteria, it will be more resistant to infection by invading viruses," says Casaus.

Another great option is to support your system with a liquid herbal tincture like Herb Pharm's Immune Defense Tonic. Yvonne recommends that kids take an herbal formula like this two to three times a day, several weeks before heading back to school. Casaus has also had success strengthening the immune system with Astragalus Root from Vital Nutrients or Gaia Herbs, especially when coupled with Echinacea.

If typical cold or flu symptoms develop, reach for Oscillococcinum at the first sign of illness. This homeopathic remedy is FDA-regulated and clinically tested while boasting no side effects like many popular over-the-counter medications. Yvonne also recommends New Chapter's Immunity Take Care. These therapeutic lozenges help support the immune system's fight against disease with Elderberry extract.

Of course, all of these remedies are more effective when coupled with good rest and decreased stress. If possible, Casaus says, at the first sign of symptoms, head home and get a good 12 hours of sleep. "The herbs work," she says, "but couple that with some really good rest and you're in much better shape."

For more personalized health care advice, turn to the licensed health-care practitioners at any of our Pharmaca stores.

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