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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