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Support a Healthy Immune System
by Keri Marshall, MS, ND

When it comes to preventing winter illnesses, don't look for a quick fix or magic bullet. Your best defense is consistent healthy living, which comes from staying well-rested and well-nourished. When your body feels fatigued and undernourished, it makes you more susceptible to the bacteria and viruses that linger around us. When your body is healthy, your immune system tackles these invaders before they have a chance to make you sick.

Wash your hands often and be sure your children do the same. Good old-fashioned soap and water will do the trick. Antibacterial formulas destroy all the bacteria on your hands, both good and bad. Using only these products actually diminishes your natural immunity, making you more susceptible to bacteria and viruses.

It is important to understand that if you do get the flu, it is not immediately curable, rather it is self-limiting. What this means is that when you are well-nourished, well-rested and destressed, your body will be better able to take on the immune challenge and recover in an ample amount of time. But let's face it, despite putting our best foot forward and eating the perfect whole foods organic diet and sleeping eight hours a night, who isn't stressed? We are currently living through some of the most challenging economic times, which have impacted us all in one way or another.

However, there is hope. Administered during the onset of a cold or flu, the right herbal medicines can significantly reduce cold symptoms as well as duration. The million dollar question—what are those herbs and how do I get them? First, keep in mind that similar to items like cars, food, appliances, or clothing, not all herbal products are created equal. As far as supplements go, if the product seems especially cheap, there is usually a reason behind this. An exceptionally low price usually signifies poor quality raw materials, and perhaps less integrity in the final product, suggesting a lowered efficacy. While you don't necessarily need to purchase the most expensive herbal product you can find, you should investigate the company at hand and explore their manufacturing practices. Do they grow and harvest their own products? Do they import their raw materials from China? Do they use organic herbs? Do they fill their capsules with unnecessary binders and fillers (this is usually the case with cheaper products, resulting in a lowered medicinal potency)?

A novel discovery was made at Gaia Herbs' organic herb farm in western North Carolina, through an NIH-funded Echinacea research study. Gaia Herbs' analytical laboratory determined that the class of compounds in Echinacea known as alkamides, specifically isobutyl amides, is not immunostimulatory as previously thought, but is immunoinhibitory and anti-inflammatory. This discovery explains why Echinacea is effective during the initial onset of symptoms, rather than days into an illness. Activation and inhibition of immune cells is necessary to initiate, amplify, and then terminate immune responses in a timely manner. Gaia Herbs Quick Defense was developed as a result of this study and is meant to be taken as soon as symptoms appear in an effort to obtain a healthy immune and inflammatory response.

Gaia Herbs Quick Defense is a combination of high potency Echinacea, Elderberry, Ginger, and Andrographis that helps support the body's immune and inflammatory pathways, quickly placing you on the road to recovery. For adults and kids over ten who can swallow a capsule, try two capsules five times per day for three days.

For those of you who struggle throughout the entire cold and flu season, catching everything that comes your way, try Gaia's Whole Body Defense. This product promotes a healthy immune system all season long. The formula is particularly beneficial for those who tend to get sick when stressed out or have difficulty eating and sleeping the way they know they should. Try two capsules twice a day. Finally, try to keep stress levels at a minimum by eating healthfully and getting enough sleep, as well as drinking plenty of water.

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