Fight the Flu

Cooler temperatures, waning light, and snow mean an increased risk of getting sick. Use these simple techniques to help stave off common illnesses during the coming chilly months.

Reduce your sugar intake. Many people wonder how to “boost immunity,” yet continue to suppress it with poor dietary choices. Refined sugar is perhaps one of the most detrimental foods for our bodies, causing a host of ailments. Studies show that even in relatively small amounts, such as the amount found in one soda, refined sugar suppresses white blood cells’ ability to attack bacteria. For optimal immunity, avoid both white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Choose healthier sweets such as local honey, stevia, or xylitol, and you’ll keep your immune system functioning well.

Use homeopathic prophylaxis. Homeopathic medicine, though widely used by physicians in Europe, is still quite controversial here. Skeptics claim the doses are too small to matter, yet many people experience profound results with this medicine. Studies show that formulations such as Influenzinum are effective in preventing and treating seasonal flu.

Get to know your local plants. Yarrow, wild bergamot, prairie coneflower, blue elderberry, Oregon grape, white horehound—the list of medicinal plants that grow in the Rocky Mountains is endless. Autumn is the perfect time to take a walk in the mountains and to harvest these herbs for winter medicine. From teas and alcohol extracts to steams and baths, incorporating herbal medicine into your life is easy and fun. Each herb produces a different immune response and can often be used quite specifically. Plant ID can be tricky though, so consult your local herbalist or bring along a good field guide to help.

Take time to play outside. Lifestyle has radical effects on immunity, which is why enjoying the great outdoors is essential. Movement increases blood and lymph flow though out the body, allowing white blood cells to circulate to sites of infection. Also, sunshine stimulates vitamin D production in the skin, eventually triggering cells to destroy bacteria and viruses. Breathing fresh air regulates stress responses and encourages the lungs to keep the proper level of oxygen in our bodies.

Holcomb Johnston owns Sweetgrass Natural Medicine in downtown Bozeman. For more information visit or call 585-9113.