It’s that time of year. Coughing, runny nose, sneezing, and fever can indicate an old-fashioned flu. A practitioner from says there are natural ways we can boost our immunity.

After spending some 30 years in the tertiary healthcare system, Dr. Sharon M. Weinstein became interested in more holistic, alternative and natural remedies. Weinstein says “is a wonderful alliance, if you will, of holistic practitioners who work collaboratively within the ChicagoHealers community to bring the best information related to health and wellness modalities to clients. It’s an amazing consortium.”

A big concern this time of year is influenza. “We are smack in the middle of the flu season,” says Weinstein, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing. “About 10 to 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year. Some people get very, very sick; many people are hospitalized and/or die as a result of complications.” Weinstein says she has spoken to several people who tell her they never got the flu until they received an influenza shot.

Who should be concerned? Weinstein says all youngsters, from six months to age 19; all adults 50 and older; all women who are or will be pregnant during the flu season; people who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities or work with those who are ill; individuals with long-term health problems or chronic diseases and those who work with and around kids who are compromised.

Faced with another flu season, Weinstein says there are natural ways you can boost your immunity. “Your immune system is the only thing that prevents you from being riddled with infection and a host of other chronic diseases.”

Weinstein mentions a product that you might spread on your morning English muffin: Honey. “Honey is a natural germ-killing agent, readily available…you want to get something that is, in fact, raw, unprocessed honey.” It’s great as a sweetener.

Aloe Vera is also readily available and, according to Weinstein, kicks in the immune modulators and fights off disease. “I drink Aloe Vera every single day.”

A popular pizza topping may give you ammunition in your fight against the flu.  “Mushrooms are amazing. Many mushroom extracts from shiitake and all kinds, have excellent immune-boosting properties…these are really good in terms of boosting the body,” adds Weinstein.

Don’t forget products rich with Vitamin C. Says Weinstein, “Vitamin C is fabulous. There are great sources of vitamin C in nature: guava, papaya, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, oranges and grapefruit.” Vitamin E is a good immune booster, available in seeds, vegetables and whole grains. Carotenoids, including carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach, are also good for boosting the immune system.

Weinstein says other influences keep the immune system from doing a good job. Too much sugar, says Weinstein, reduces the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by 40 percent. “Obesity can lead to a depressed immune system. It affects the ability of white blood cells to multiply, to produce antibodies and to rush to the site of an infection,” says Weinstein, adding that it’s also important to avoid generic table salts because they’ve been processed and stripped of vital minerals. Sea salt, on the other hand, has natural germ-fighting capabilities; natural sea salt (processed properly) contains 70 living minerals required for healthy cell function.

One thing we overlook is water. Weinstein says the body doesn’t work unless it’s well hydrated. Weinstein says you should be consuming at least half of your body weight a day in ounces of water to flush out the toxins. Coffee and alcohol dehydrate your body. If you consume coffee and alcohol, you should drink double the amount of water that’s recommended.

Don’t forget the obvious. Wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and use those little plastic bottles of hand sanitizer. They’re there for a reason. Weinstein recalls an interesting situation after taking a colleague to the emergency department. “I have to tell you that they had a hand sanitizing system in the reception area, that they expected all of the patients to use. But in the emergency department itself, not a single care giver washed their hands. Not one.”