As part of my efforts to maintain optimal heart health, should I get an annual flu shot?
Generally, I don’t recommend flu shots, except for the elderly and debilitated, as well as anyone who is suffering from a serious illness like congestive heart failure, any type of obstructive lung disease, diabetes, or osteoporosis.
I’ve never had a flu shot in my life. People come into my office every day with the flu and I don’t catch it because I take steps to strengthen my immune system. Specifically, I eat a heart-healthy and immunity-boosting diet and get extra nutritional support through a core group of supplements. Other specific immune-supporting supplements that I like include the complex sugar beta glucan (250 mg daily), the amino acid N-acetylcysteine (1,000 mg daily), and vitamin C (1,000 to 5,000 mg a day in divided doses—but it’s best to increase your intake slowly because too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea). In addition, I keep my immune system strong with a sensible daily exercise routine that’s targeted for optimal heart health.
If I do feel a little under the weather, I use a few herbal remedies to bolster my immune system, including echinacea, goldenseal, astragalus, and ginger. In addition, ginko biloba and licorice root extract can be helpful, but their use comes with some restrictions. I do not recommend taking ginko in combination with Coumadin and aspirin, as it can lead to eye-related problems, including bleeding in the retina. And anyone with high blood pressure should use licorice root extract for no more than one or two weeks at most, because it can cause blood pressure to rise. Finally, taking melatonin can promote restful sleep.