How to Not Get the Flu This Winter

Q:The flu gets me every year -- how can I stop it?

A: Influenza comes on like a freight train, with high fever, headache, fatigue, chills, body aches, and respiratory illness. Since it's difficult to treat, start protecting yourself now.

Douse free radicals and repair and strengthen immune cells with a cascade of antioxidant- and nutrient- rich foods. 

Prepare a meal with any of these immune-boosting flu fighters: mushrooms (a good source of potassium and the antioxidant selenium); red bell pepper (chock-full of vitamin C, another antioxidant); sweet potatoes or pumpkin (for the antioxidant beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in your body); garlic (with virus-fighting sulfur components); Brazil nuts (packed with selenium); whole grains (rich in zinc and selenium); and beans (a good source of zinc and the B vitamin folate). Our Mushroom and Lima Bean Stew has it all.

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that vitamin D (1,200 IUs daily) during the winter may help fend off influenza. If you've been around someone with the flu, consider calling your doctor, who can prescribe an antiviral drug (such as Tamiflu), which is up to 90 percent effective in preventing contagion after exposure. 

If you get the flu, take a spoonful of elderberry syrup at the first sign of illness, recommends Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Elderberries are loaded with antioxidants, even more so than most berries. 

The homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum can also help reduce flu duration when taken at the onset of symptoms.

It's never too late to get vaccinated! This year's flu vaccine protects against three different flu viruses, including 2009 H1N1. Influenza germs can survive on counters and tables for up to eight hours, so disinfect all common surfaces with a household cleaner regularly.

Read more from our Winter Wellness Guide.

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