First and foremost, I would like to announce that I have a brand new hip. Ta da! However, I will admit to nothing. I will not confess that the morning of the surgery your fearless Spry Living columnist and CBS radio host felt as if she was walking the plank to a watery end. But by now, you all know the Better Than Before philosophy: What we worry about most never really happens. And, in my case, I was not thrown to the sharks after all. No, no! In fact, my family didn’t even have the chance to make their way through the first of the five stages of grief. Indeed, in just a few weeks of down time rehabbing my hip, and thanks, as well, to the plate and screws holding together the ankle on my other leg, I am now a Bionic Woman Warrior ready to go back into battle.
And just in time for a new fight – The Flu. Yes, this year we are experiencing the virus in record numbers. It’s an epidemic, so much so that Manhattan, my home town, is now known as “Flu” York. But of course it’s not just here. Alas, the influenza outbreak has hit harder and earlier than ever before, and has so far affected 41 states and counting. And it’s only just begun; flu season generally lasts through February and can linger all the way till the end of March. With all the diverse strains out there, flu shots are no guarantee that you won’t get it, either. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the vaccine is only about 62 percent effective.
All this flu talk makes me want to wear a mask and surgical gloves in public. (Wait! That would be considered weird?) But what can we do? If you are sick, you obviously want to call your doctor, avoid contact with others—which means staying home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events and public gatherings. Furthermore, wash your hands frequently, get tons of rest, drink plenty of liquids and eat extremely healthfully to build up your immune system. As you probably are aware, our immune system, that wondrously integrated network of cells and organs that defend against disease, manufactures antibodies that assist in destroying abnormal or foreign cells. And if it’s weak, it will not be able to do its job to fight the rapidly multiplying flu virus in your body.
I also believe that aside from traditional medications, there are effective natural ways to prevent and alleviate the flu and other respiratory infections. To that end, I asked Dr. Brian Clement, co-director of the Hippocrates Health Institute, one of the country’s top healthy-living, spa retreat centers, for his expert advice:
“It is hard to turn on the television and miss the stark images of overfilled hospitals and people standing in flu shot lines for hours on end as the Northeast grapples with the latest bout of the virus,” he says. “And while a strong healthy immune system is vital to good health”—(see? I told you)—”most people don’t know how to improve it in order to prevent a nasty cold or flu.”
Dr. Clement contends that building up your immune system with foods that contain vitamin C, like onions and sweet peppers, along with chlorophyll-filled leafy greens is essential. That said, as soon as you start to feel the symptoms of a cold or flu, apple cider vinegar or sprouted garlic is very helpful for a rapid recovery.
The following are a few of Dr. Clement’s simple steps for both children and adults:
Osha: Take 10 drops daily of bio botanical Osha root, which is commonly used as a multitherapy for cold and flu symptoms. The root has antiviral and antibacterial properties and, when taken at the onset of and illness, may help reduce the window of time in which symptoms are experienced. It can also help clear mucus from the sinuses and lungs by increasing expectoration which relieves congestion and makes breathing easier.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Twice a day, mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 8-12 oz. of water. This soothes the stomach, fights colds and gives an incredible boost of energy. Apple cider vinegar should be available at your local grocery store.
Sprouts: Use sprouted garlic and onion (available at most health food stores) in a green veggie juice or in salads to help cure the flu. Garlic and onion boost cells in the body that destroy infection-causing viruses and bacteria.
Cayenne: Sprinkle dried cayenne pepper on your salad at lunch, use in your favorite dinner recipe or take 10 drops a day in liquid form. The active ingredient in cayenne is capsaicin which alleviates congestion and thins the mucus in your nasal passages so you can breathe again.
And here are Dr. Clement’s suggestions for the best foods to fight infection:
Sweet organic colorful peppers (not green): Contains vitamin C.
Grated lemon skin and its juice: Also very high in vitamin C.
Raw garlic in food or oil: Alleviates upper respiratory issues.
Onions: Powerful immune builders.
Sea salt to gargle: A natural analgesic.
Leafy greens: Full of chlorophyll — a great mineral support for the immune system.
Turmeric: An effective anti-inflammatory.
Finally…one of the staples at the Hippocrates Health Institute is green juice. Among other healthy properties, it helps with boosting immunity and detoxifying the body. Within 20 minutes of drinking a fresh juice, the nutrients have been completely absorbed and you should start to feel better quickly.
Although there are many recipes for green juice, here is one of Dr. Clement’s favorites, which features two different types of sprouts for maximum nutrition—pea and sunflower. For a 20 oz. serving of green juice combine 5 oz. sunflower sprouts, 5 oz. pea sprouts, 5 oz. cucumber, and 5 oz. celery.
So arm yourself with the best possible anti-flu weapons this season. Just remember: A good offense is the best defense.