Keep Your Family Healthy During Cold/Flu Season

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For families with young children, cold and flu season is an endless cycle of somebody getting sick, recovering and then catching the next round from another family member or friend. Add to the mix the latest FDA concerns about cold and cough medicine safety for kids, and the drill becomes even more complicated.

"The best way to break the sickness cycle is by taking protective measures and focus on boosting immunity," says pharmacist Scott Berliner, R.Ph., President of Life Science Pharmacy in Harriman, New York. Founded in 2000, his integrative compounding pharmacy supplies physicians at medical clinics including Beth Israel's Continuum Center for Health and Healing and Greenwich Hospital's Center for Integrative Medicine. "Our approach is more comprehensive than the norm. You won't find aspirin, Tylenol or Robitussin on our shelves, but our medicines have a track record of success backed by research," he says.

Here are Berliner's tips for cold and flu season using an immune-boosting approach:

-- Begin with your gut. Yogurt is excellent for creating good bacteria to boost total body immunity. A few spoonfuls a day can be effective preventive medicine. But stay away from yogurts laden with sugar and candy, or that don't claim active cultures on the label. Also, enteric-coated Acidophilus Pearls are a sure shot for helping the good bugs found in yogurt to survive stomach acid and make it into the gut in tact.

-- Stay alkaline. Sugar makes the body acidic, and pathogens tend to live on sugar. So especially during cold and flu season, reduce sugar intake. Drinking lemon juice-hot or at room temperature-is great for maintaining alkalinity. "Surprising as it sounds, some citrus fruits, despite being acidic, encourage the body to be more alkaline and healthy," says Berliner. "My favorite is lemonade, only lightly sweetened." When you're feeling less than 100 percent, try favoring more fruits and veggies in the diet since they promote alkalinity.

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-- Stay hydrated in a balanced way. Everyone knows it's good to drink lots of liquids when you're getting sick to flush out mucus and toxins. However, when you hydrate, you also need minerals to hold onto the water. Sodium maintains water balance outside the cells, while potassium, magnesium and calcium -- all available in a good multivitamin with minerals -- help to maintain water balance inside the cells. This is the reason to not drink distilled water, which leaches important minerals from the body.

-- Go herbal, but cautiously. Most have not been tested in children. One formula with extensive safety and efficacy studies is Esberitox and it's been proven safe for children as young as 2 years old. In a clinical study in Europe, it was shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds and flu by 50%. A blend of two potent strains of Echinacea along with two other immune-boosters, Thuja and Baptisia, Esberitox has been recommended by pediatricians and family physicians in Europe and the U.S. for many years. "It's chewable, so no tears over trying to swallow a big pill," says Berliner. "This formula is especially good for children because it tastes great."

-- Prescription for sore throat and inflamed tonsils: Make a regular cup of black tea and gargle, adding 1/2 tsp of salt. The tannins in the tea are astringent and effective for shrinking the swelling and reducing irritation. The salt enhances the anti-inflammatory effect.

-- Linus Pauling touted C. He said the immune-stimulating effect of Vitamin C was reached at 10 grams (10,000 mg). While 10 grams of Vitamin C is not for everyone, it's definitely helpful to boost Vitamin C intake, which is effective in acute situations. Try a bio-available form at 1000 mg 5x/day, which is equivalent to 20,000 mg of regular ascorbic acid.

-- Zinc also has extensive research. Three doses of zinc lozenges spread throughout the day help to form a "bandage" over the irritated area of the throat. Studies have found that Zinc can stop the progression of colds and flu and shorten the duration of infection.

-- Elderberry extract or syrup is also a proven treatment for viral infections. It's been popular in Europe for years, and now available in the U.S.

"Even if the headlines predict widespread infections during cold and flu season, you and your kids may be able to avoid them," concludes Berliner. "If you take proper care, you can dramatically reduce the number of days you're out of commission or even dodge getting sick altogether. And if you do happen to get sick, you can use these 'integrative pharmacy' tips to get better faster."

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