Reading about all the new viruses going around this month could make you a bit fearful. Fear is one of those things that is very bad for your immune system. Being afraid all the time, even at a low level, depresses your immune system. So here are some things you can do to upgrade your system so when some weird bug comes along it will be less likely to make it's home in your body.This is huge subject that involves every aspect of how we live our lives: from eating over processed food devoid of life force, to chronic stress patterns, from how we contaminate our world environment to how we treat ourselves and each other. We MUST change if we and our children and our children's children are not only to survive but to flourish.Do whatever's necessary to create a healthy environment for you and your kids. Turn off the TV, have the whole family involved in making dinner, let the kids know it matters what they eat. We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. How much time do you spend outside just watching what the clouds are doing? You've heard this all before and in this column you'll hear it again and again. Take care of yourself! If we don't change, there's the ever growing likelihood of getting sick. And not just sick and quickly dying, but getting sick and being debilitated for years. Our job is to live a life of joyful prayer and you can't do that when you feel awful. About the immune systemIn his book "Vibrational Medicine", Dr. Richard Gerber describes the immune system as a cohesive network of tireless workers which modulates the cellular environment of the body, sensing foreign proteins and elements that are identified as non-self.These abnormal proteins may be the external coats of viruses, the walls of bacteria, or even the outer membranes of cancer cells. The immune system in it's beautiful, complicated way is what keeps us from getting sick. But our bodies are designed to use clean air, water and food as fuel. Optimally we would utilize all the nutrients and chemical components in this fuel, and get rid of the waste. Nowadays, it's getting harder and harder to do this. When we eat food that has high fat and sugar content, it gives us very little fuel, much like putting leaded gas in a car designed for unleaded gas. Good fuel is vegetables, fruit, whole grains, deep sea fish and organic chicken and meat. Another terrific food is seaweed. The stuff tastes good and I feel good after I eat it.Trouble With (Burp) DigestionProcessed foods have little life force and few nutrients the body can use well. And after the body has taken what's usable from processed food, the junk that's left needs to be moved out. Just watch TV for awhile and look at all the ads for antacids and diarrhea medicines. Clearly, we are having allot of trouble digesting what we eat. Yes, we can continue to overuse antacids, but as an alternative, if we take some digestive enzymes(available at any health food store), and change the way we eat a bit, our systems will be healthier.You are an amazing, exquisite, complicated, incredibly resilient mechanism. Your body may have some areas that need more attention than others but the human body is designed for health and balance. Have a cup of mineral tea-nettles, red clover and alfalfa- every day. I can hear you saying:" I hate teas, I don't have the time, I don't know where to get that kind of stuff." Stop it! This kind of thing can save your life. Put some honey and lemon in it. Make the time. You can get this in any herb store and from most Herbalists. More: a body that is oxygenated (huff and puff breathing, walking, exercise) and has a good mineral balance is a formidable foe against disease of all kinds.The Antibiotics MessCertainly, they are one of the most important medicines we have but, as you've read, they are also among the most abused. You get the flu, go to the doctor and because of the insane pressures our health system is putting on these remarkable people, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. Not only may this do you no good, it causes havoc with your immune system. Before you start gulping antibiotics, insist on a blood test to find out if you have a bacterial or viral infection. If it's bacterial, make sure a culture is done to get the right medicine. If you have a viral infection, don't take antibiotics. The doctor is not always right and we must take responsibility for our own health. If you have a viral infection and the doctor still thinks you should take and antibiotic, find out why.Overuse of antibiotics leads to a build up in our tolerance so that we have to take more and more of the drug to get it to work or it stops working altogether. We can become dependent on drugs to the point where our system no longer remembers how to work properly. Possibly the most dangerous side effect is that eventually the body can't tell the good guys from the bad and starts attacking itself - auto immune disease.Some Help if You're on ThemIf you have to take antibiotics, drink mineral tea. Be sure to take extra doses of high potency lactobacillus or acidophilus complex to maintain and/or reinstate the all important intestinal bacteria that will be destroyed by the antibiotic. Has anyone ever mentioned you're supposed to rest while taking this potent medicine? The idea is not to take this medicine so we can keep going. You take this medicine in extreme situations where the invaders have overwhelmed you. So it's time to lay down and let your body do the healing.Echinacea and Goldenseal are the new mantra these days. But why are you taking them? Echinacea is a wonderful immune stimulant when you need one. But unless you have some kind of chronic condition, save the Echinacea until you need it. Also, see if you can get cultivated instead of wild Echinacea since some of the varieties have been almost totally wiped out in the wild. In China a combination of Echinacea and ligustrum is used to enhance deep immunity. It not only stimulates existing disease fighting cells, it actually helps create more of them. Goldenseal is fast becoming another endangered plant. It does have immune stimulating properties and is used primarily for mucous membrane problems. You can easily substitute Oregon Grape (Mahonia), Barberry (Berberis) or Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis). Oregon Grape and Barberry are both staph and strep inhibitors.Astragalus helps promote vitality and healing. Licorice is another immune stimulant. Just use a bit of caution here. If you have any blood pressure problems, taking too much can raise your blood pressure, although I've had clients on pretty large doses with no side effects. There are dozens of plants that will help you and probably the best are the ones that grow right around here. Cut leaf coneflower (Rudbeckia lacimiata) looks just like yellow Echinacea, and has many of the same immune stimulating properties. Self Heal (Prunella Vulgaris) is a terrific anti-inflammatory as is Figwort (Scrophularia) especially in rheumatoid arthritis Agrimony (Agrimonia) is good for an auto-immune problem like Lupus. Alfalfa, Red Clover and Nettle tea are a must for anyone with chronic disease. They help move junk out of the body and increase your electrolytes. Hops (Humulus Americanus) as a tea or a tincture or in salves as an anti-microbial. One of the most important plants I've started using is Fire Weed (Epilobium Augustafolium) because it inhibits Candida overgrowth as do Sweet Root (Osmorhiza) and Desert Willow (Chilopsis); perfect for using with or after antibioticsCheck Out ArnicaMichael Moore, Head of the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine in Bizbee, AZ, is a big believer in Arnica. Not only is this invaluable in salves for any time you have pain on movement. But, most importantly, fresh plant Arnica tincture can be used to stimulate macrophage and monocyte activity. These cells are the primary deep scavengers within the body that eat the bad stuff and clean up messes. For a long time Arnica was considered to be poison taken internally but in low dosages 2-3 drops (repeat: 2-3 drops) in a formula can make a real difference in immune response. Michael also gave me a formula to use before, during and after hospital stays - lots of bugs in hospitals. Mix no more than 5-7percent Arnica, Baptisia, Thuja or Arizona Cypress, Marshmallow and Echinacea. If your going into the hospital, get an Herbalist to make up this formula for you.OK, so you get the idea. We are not in a hopeless situation with antibiotics and our immune systems. But in order to get and stay healthy we have to start living our lives in a different way. I think it's basically simple but not easy.Vera Lawrence, co-publisher of Crosswinds, is an experienced healer in private practice in Albuquerque, an ordained minister of the Healing Light Center Church in Los Angeles, a practicing herbalist and licensed massage therapist.