Instead of putting your health at great risk by getting a flu shot, a healthier option is to prevent the flu naturally by limiting immune suppressors.

Three immune suppressors you have direct control over are dehydration, stress and overdosing on sugar. One sugar related study showed that immune cells in a "no sugar" group destroyed 14 times more bacteria than the "high sugar" group. Avoiding soda and sugar is critical, as well as refined carbohydrates and processed foods. And, by the way, alcohol is sugar. Your immune system is suppressed for eight to 12 hours after consuming sugar.

Avoid foods your body's sensitive to (foods that make you tired, hyper, create hives or sinus problems, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, etc.). The main culprits here are processed soy, dairy products, gluten, wheat and sugar.

Sleep is one of the greatest immune enhancers and helps boost your ability to fight disease. Growth hormone is released at this time, which boosts the immune system and aids in the growth and repair of your body. The greatest antioxidant we possess is a good night's sleep.

Another thing we often forget about is to assure that the superhighway of the lymph system is open to carry immune fighting WBC's and remove toxins. This can be achieved by practicing deep breathing, bouncing on a mini-trampoline or regular, moderate exercise (intense or excessive exercise suppresses immune function).

Basic organic foods and teas can be more powerful than pharmaceuticals, and without the side effects. Increase the amount of color you consume in foods and ditch the white processed stuff. Green and white teas contain polyphenols. Polyphenols and antioxidants clean up free radicals, damaging compounds that can reprogram DNA, degrade collagen, accelerate aging, breakdown your immune system, and cause inflammation.

Boost your immune system with garlic, turmeric, ginger, oregano, coconut oil, kefir, shiitake, reishi and maitake mushrooms, lemons, green and white teas and protein. The first 40 grams of protein you eat every day goes to rebuild your immune system.

Increase water consumption (add unprocessed sea salt), exercise moderately (without overdoing it), eliminate sugar and processed foods, get sufficient rest, reduce stress, increase fruits and vegetables to 10 servings a day, and consider vegetable juicing.

Healthy saturated fats and cholesterol actually help fight infections, particularly viral infections like the flu. Medical advice about avoiding saturated fats and cholesterol and eating margarine instead of butter actually weaken your immune system making your cells more vulnerable to attack by viruses.

A healthy gut equals a healthy person. Seventy percent of your immune system is located in your digestive tract. Address digestive dysfunction. A healthy gut is essential to absorbing and digesting nutrients.

Relationships and connections. Studies shows that people who are connected to others through healthy, loving marriages, friendships and communities live longer, are healthier and have better performing immune systems.

Supplements can build up your immune system. It's important to know that it takes most people six to 12 weeks of use before the immune system becomes stronger. It's challenging to obtain sufficient nutrition from food alone. Much of our food today is over processed, void of essential nutrients and grown in soil saturated with synthetic fertilizers, chemicals and pesticides.

• Multivitamin-mineral

• Vitamin C

• Digestive Enzymes

• Zinc

• Selenium

• Omega-3 fatty acids

• Probiotics

• Vitamin D

Lastly, practice good hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly after restroom use. Refrain from sneezing openly or into your hands and instead sneeze into your elbow.

Boost your immune system naturally with the four powers: nutrition, lifestyle, exercise and supplements.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens is a nutritionist, fitness expert and weight loss coach with more than 20 years of experience. Reach her at

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