How to survive 'sick season'

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We are officially in "sick season," that time of year it seems like everyone around us is coughing and sneezing. 

Each year anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of Americans will catch the flu, and millions more a cold virus.

Your best defense against season flu is to get vaccinated.

And Dr. Taz Bhatia, founder of CentreSpring MD, who specializes in integrative and holistic medicine, says now's the time to build up your immune systems, starting with your eating.

"We want to remove sugar," Bhatia says. "We want to remove it because we know it depletes the immune system. We know it brings down antibody levels and makes it harder for the body to function, so that's probably rule number one."

Next, Bhatia says, make sure you're getting enough sleep.

"Aim for about 8 hour of consistent sleep at night," she says.  "That's going to help you really stay strong and fight off different viruses."

Wash your hands often.

"Make sure you're using soap and water," Bhatia says.

You may also want to make sure you're getting enough Vitamin D.

A 2017 British study found Vitamin D can help our immune system fight off colds and flu viruses.

"Think about optimizing those levels," Bhatia recommends.  "Get anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 units daily, through the sick season, which lasts from October to February."

She also recommends a Chinese herb known as astragalus.

We found a bottle at our neighborhood grocery store.

"It's an antibacterial," she says.  "It's an antiviral. It's an immune booster, it helps us to fight off all the colds and the flu that we might be exposed to."

Astragalus is generally considered safe, but it can affect blood sugar and blood pressure levels. 

So, talk to your doctor before you start using it if you have diabetes, hypertension, or a blood disorder.

"For children, elderberry seems to work," Bhatia says.  "Elderberry has a lot of antioxidants in it.  It has something called anthocyanins, and those actually help fight viruses. So, taking Elderberry every day might be helpful."

If you still get sick, Bhatia recommends rest and a combination of vitamin D, astragalus and elderberry."

"You can increase to taking them 3 times a day," she says.