The Second Half: Swine flu, what do I do?

By Kathleen D. Tresemer


Last column I gave you some info about swine flu, and promised to tell you my plan to ward it off without taking the new, somewhat-scary, swine flu vaccine.

With all the hype about dangerous vaccines and government conspiracies, I didn’t know whom to turn to for solid info. Last column I shared the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendations, which focus on hand-washing, avoiding contact with humans or anything they might have touched, and dealing with stress.

OK, so don’t breathe in, don’t touch anything, stay clean, and don’t worry. GAD!

I did check out advice from the guru of all things healthy, Dr. Weil. His Web site,, says, “I suggest taking a daily antioxidant, multivitamin-mineral supplement, as well as astragalus, a well-known immune-boosting herb that can help ward off colds and flu.”

Astragalus? Dr. Weil says astragalus is a root of a plant native to China used for: “chronic or recurrent infections (especially respiratory infections); low resistance to disease, colds and flu (both prevention and treatment); physical effects of stress; lack of vitality; debilitation after sickness or surgery, adjunct treatment for cancer.” Broadly stated, it boosts the immune system and has antiviral activity.

Not planning a trip to China anytime soon, I decided to hunt some local sources. First, I contacted my local Nutrition Works store in Roscoe. Friendly store clerk Mario knew immediately they do indeed carry it. He advised me that astragalus comes in two forms, 100 capsules for $8.49 and 2-ounce liquid tincture for $10.49. Small price to pay for protection against swine flu.

Next, I pulled up an article on the CVS Web site: “This herb, also known as Huang ch’i, may help fight cancer by stimulating the immune system. When researchers at the University of Texas Medical Center mixed astragalus with the blood of cancer patients in a test tube, the function of cancer-killing cells called T lymphocytes improved by 260 percent. …The downside is that the herb can cause low blood pressure, dizziness, and fatigue, and overdoses can damage the immune system. When used orally in appropriate dosages, usually 9 to 30 grams a day, astragalus seems to be safe, according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.”

So now I had an appropriate dosage and any potential side effects. I called CVS in Roscoe to see if they carry it. Friendly, helpful Jeff took my name and number so as not to keep me on the phone while he searched. He called me back with the news… he checked all the books and consulted with the pharmacy guys, but no luck. Great service, Jeff, and thanks for the effort!

Handling stress seems to be on everyone’s list as a preventive, including the CDC. My favorite chiropractor, Dr. J (Jarrod Kerkhoff of Loves Park Chiropractic) turned me on to a new breathing technique alleged to have great stress-reducing properties.

“Have you seen the research on deep breathing?” Dr. J asked me. “Proper breathing techniques can positively impact your health in so many ways, including blood pressure and heart disease.” He directed me to the Web site of suburban Chicago-based wellness specialist Dr. Mercola ( Here’s how it works: Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your top teeth, breathe in to the count of four, hold your breath for seven counts, and then exhale with a “whoosh” for eight counts—repeat four times, three times daily or anytime you want to relax.

In the article, “The Most Powerful Health Recommendation…,” Dr. Mercola says breathing exercises such as the 4-7-8 technique have a positive impact on your:

Respiratory system, reducing mental and physical fatigue, as well as relieve symptoms of asthma and bronchitis;

Circulatory system, improving blood circulation and cell oxygenation throughout your body;

Nervous system;

Digestive system, by acting as a pump to massage internal organs;

Endocrine system, the action of your diaphragm helps push lymph throughout your body, eliminating toxic waste and strengthening your immune system;

Urinary system, by helping to eliminate fluids and massaging your kidneys; and

Skin, eliminating toxic CO2 waste more directly through your breath, and positively affecting your skin by improved blood flow and oxygenation.

I am surprised by how few people do any conscious form of deep breathing. One pal commented, “Leave it to you, Kathleen, to make even breathing a chore!”

For those of you siding with my un-named friend, I direct you to The guy who runs the Web site, Mike White, calls himself “The Optimal Breathing Coach.” Check it out for his list of conditions or diseases connected to inadequate breathing—my favorite is regarding weight loss. He says, “Virtually every health condition and human activity is improved with Optimal Breathing.” DUH…can’t live without oxygen, people!

Back to my plan to ward off swine flu:

1. Eat right and take my vitamins every day, including turmeric and astragalus.

2. Keep a supply of Oscillococcinum, the homeopathic flu remedy, on hand at all times.

3. Sleep at least eight hours every night.

4. Wash hands often and avoid crowds.

5. Practice deep breathing along with meditation to ward off stress.

I was disappointed to find NOT ONE expert recommended chocolate—a great antioxidant, it helps me relax, and I usually have to wash my hands after eating it. I’ve already been stocking up—dark chocolate is my secret flu-fighting weapon!

Here’s how it works: breathe in, breathe out, eat chocolate…repeat until chocolate is gone. AHHH!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

from the Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2009 issue

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