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Stronger Immunity for a Flu Free Season

By Robert Beingessner, BscPharm

This year’s flu season is quickly rushing up on us, and for many people, that means taking a moment to roll up our sleeves, grit our teeth, and get our annual “Flu Shot”. It’s a brief moment of discomfort that promises to protect us from a season of illness and misery. Yet, in spite of growing numbers of people who ensure that they get their annual immunization, there are still multitudes who don’t quite find the right time, or perhaps secretly try to avoid the needle altogether. I hear many well reasoned excuses and explanations for skipping out on the poke; “I’m pretty healthy and strong, so I don’t really need to get immunized.” as well as, “The vaccine isn’t very effective, and many people still get sick, so why bother?” Unfortunately, the influenza virus doesn’t really discriminate about who it attacks, and some years it can really be quite devastating. A quick review of the statistics over the past few years and we discover that about 10 – 20% of all Canadians suffer from influenza each season, with as many as 20,000 admissions to hospital, and in some years up to 4,000 deaths attributed to one little virus. This isn’t just the common cold, this is pretty serious stuff. One patient once told me that she was so sick with the flu that she couldn’t lift her head off her pillow for a week!

So,….what is the best way we can avoid days of (unwanted) bedrest and keep ourselves healthy and well this season? The answer lies in building up or strengthening our immune system and giving ourselves the best chance ever to fight off this year’s virus. Our immune system needs energy to fight against all the nasty germs and pests it encounters each day. That means ensuring that we get adequate sleep and rest each day to feel energized and alert. When we allow our bodies to get worn down, our immune system really suffers. Regular exercise goes a long way to building up our strength and our immune system. Twenty to thirty minutes of aerobic exercise at least five times each week will boost your ability to fight off colds and flu bugs. Our immune system also needs anti-oxidants to fight off foreign invaders, so ensure your diet includes lots of fresh fruit, colorful vegetables, and whole grains. The brighter the colors, the better the anti-oxidant fighters for your body. One of the most harmful elements to your immune system is unhealthy stress (is there such a thing as healthy stress?). Anxiety, worry and fear all tend to eat away at our strength and sap our body’s ability to fight off viral onslaughts. So, be sure to make time for yourself to relax, to meditate, or to connect with someone who can care for you and chase away your worries. One of the best ways we can reinforce our immune system and strengthen our ability fight off cold and flu bugs is to avoid the things that weaken or tear down the immune system. Both smoking and alcohol consumption tend to have a weakening affect on our immunity and may prevent us from being able to stop the next virus to come our way. By reducing, or eliminating these immunity defeaters we will improve our chances of an illness free season.

More than all of these, the most effective way that we can strengthen and reinforce our immune system against the flu, is to sure to get our annual influenza vaccination. This year’s vaccine will help your body build the specific anti-bodies it needs to fight off the most likely viral offenders in our community this season. A moment of discomfort for a season of health! Flu shots are available as of October 24th at any of our Imagine Health Pharmacies or Medical Clinics. Drop by and get yours today!


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