I won’t be getting any kind of flu shot this year — if you are interested in why not, you can go to www.mercola.com and search “flu vaccine exposed.” But I will be taking precautions to keep myself as healthy as possible. Supercharging our immune systems is always a good idea, this year even more than ever. Here are 10 things you can do. Most of them are free, and none are expensive.

1. Wash, wash, wash your hands — specially when you have been around someone who is ill, when you come home from being out, or after you have been handling money. Regular soap is actually better than anti-bacterial, because the anti-bacterial diminishes the number of the friendly bacteria, and you want those! Also, run a nail clipper tip or something under your fingernails. I am not suggesting you develop an obsession but a habit is good.

2. Get enough sleep, even if it means sacrificing some of your evening. Keep in mind that you don’t get as restorative a sleep after consuming any significant amount of alcohol.

3. Take a probiotic supplement and/or eat a good quality yogurt. It turns out that our digestive system is a significant source of our immune protection. I just learned that recently and have been diligent about this step since.

4. Drink lots of plain water. I shoot for two quarts a day. When the weather is cold, I sometimes drink plain hot water.

5. Eat a healthy, natural diet, with plenty of fresh produce — organic if possible. Go easy on preservatives, chemically altered foods, and sugars. Supplement with vitamins as you wish; I normally take a good multi-vitamin plus 2 grams (2000 mg) of Vitamin C. You can tell if you are getting too much Vitamin C because you will experience loose stools.

6. Do exercise, in line with your body’s capabilities. I walk a lot, do QiGong (links to my review of Wild Goose QiGong) and some yoga stretches, and sometimes swim. Exercise helps our bodies’ immune systems as well as just about every system.

7. Here’s one that you may not know: Vitamin D is really important in preventing illness. Here in Mexico, I get mine by walking out of doors in the sun with my arms and legs bare. In colder climes, you may not be able to get enough sun in the winter. You can take Vitamin D supplements but be careful about the dosage. See http://www.mercola.com/article/vitamin-d-resources.htm for a lot more on this.

8. Garlic can be very helpful in warding off illness. If he thinks he might be coming down with something, my husband Kelly cuts a thin slice of garlic at bedtime and holds it in his mouth all night. (This is not conducive to romance, choose your times!) I prefer my raw garlic chopped up in tiny bits on a salad. A well-known tonic is to cut up some garlic and put it in a small jar of honey. After it has steeped for a few days, take a teaspoonful or so. It will last a long time; we always refrigerate it but I don’t know if we need to.

9. There are numerous homeopathics that can help prevent flu, or can help alleviate symptoms if someone has it. I have long used the widely available if unpronounceable Oscillococcinum made by Boiron. This year, I also have some Engystol to take as a protection and if I get something, and Fluplus for relief of any flu or cold. Both are made by another Homeopathic company called Heel. I am sure that various other homeopathic remedies can help as well.

10. Herbal remedies: there must be hundreds, but I get good results with echinacea. I don’t take it for long stretches at a time, as I’ve heard it becomes less effective as a cold and flu fighter if you do. I rarely take it longer than 2 or 3 days, because by then it has usually worked its magic. Or if I have become ill anyway, the echinacea isn’t going to help me get over the bug. I also use a Chinese herbal complex called Yin Chiao. Goldenseal is another well known thing, but I can’t speak from experience about it. I routinely keep powdered cayenne in a salt shaker and sprinkle it on many foods.

It’s worth remembering that just because something is herbal doesn’t mean it has no side effects. If you are pregnant, nursing, immune-suppressed, or have allergies, check with an alternative health professional. Some allopathic doctors are becoming more educated on herbs too. (Is that more in Mexico? One doctor I went to here had grown up learning about hundreds of Mexican, Chinese, and Indian herbs that his mother and grandmother grew in their garden.)

If you or someone in your family gets the flu, a lot of rest is good. Eating healthy foods becomes more important than ever, and chicken soup is well known for its benefits. Part of the benefit is the hot liquid so if you are vegetarian, make up a good vegetarian soup! Many of the tips above still work, but go easier on exercise, skip the echinacea, and curl up with a good book or DVD.

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Here’s a large pack of  Oscillococcinum at Amazon: