I recently wrote the following article for a local publication. Hope you enjoy it!
As we welcome the falling leaves of Fall season we also see the beginning of the flu/cold season. Flu virus and colds are the leading cause of absences in the work place during this time of year. We begin to wonder if we should take advantage of the many opportunities to have a flu vaccination. Some of us are trying to take measures to avoid getting sick and trying to decide what to do if we do become ill. Hopefully, this article will help you understand the flu, how to avoid it, and what to do if you do get it.
James Balch, MD and Phyllis Balch, CNC notes that during an epidemic, from 25 to more than 50 percent of the population can become infected with with flu. More than 200 different individual strains of virus can cause cold and flu, and strains of viruses are constantly changing, so vaccinations against influenza have been only partly successful in preventing outbreaks of the disease. Balch and Balch do not recommend flu shots in general. Their usefulness is questionable, and the side effects may be worse than the flu would be.
So what can be done to help avoid these seasonal illnesses? The following are suggestion I give to the people I see in my office regarding flu and cold concerns.
Stay hydrated from the inside by drinking the appropriate amount of water for you. A good rule of thumb is to drink one half of your body weight in ounces per day. For example, if you weight 150 lbs., you should drink 75 oz of water per day. The total amount of water consumed per day should never be more than 100 oz total.
Stay hydrated from the outside. Keep the inside of your house humid. With the central heat on, the air in the home becomes dry and the mucous membranes of the body dry out. This makes the mucous membrane more susceptible to contact with the virus.
Use a Neti Pot. This is a proven tool to greatly reduce illness from colds, flu, and allergies by keeping the mucous membrane of the sinuses hydrated and clean.
Reduce (or eliminate) consuming sugar – except for fruit. Did you know that sugar feeds virus and bacteria? Did you ever notice that many people begin experiencing flu symptoms shortly after Thanksgiving dinner? This year, cut down on sugar and don’t overindulge on Thanksgiving treats!
Go outside. Doctors and researchers now acknowledge that Vitamin D deficiency plays a prominent role in making people susceptible to virus and possibly even cancer. Exposure to sunshine is the most natural and best way to get Vitamin D.
Get plenty of rest.
Eat fresh seasonal food. Gerard Mullin, a Johns Hopkins Hospital internist and gastroenterologist notes, “It’s interesting that in the fall, root vegetables like yams and carrots, which are all very rich in Vitamin A and antioxidants, which play a huge role in immunity, come up in our diet,” he explains. “If you focus on eating seasonal fruits and vegetables, you’ll get all of the immune-boosting vitamins and minerals you need without having to think about supplements.” He adds that a wide variety of mushrooms, including shitakes and even plain old white buttons, have also been proven to improve immune function. And since, according to Mullin, it has now been firmly established that the gut is the center of immunity, he suggests regularly eating yogurt with probiotics, which help maintain healthy gut flora.”
Look on the bright side. Optimistic people have stronger immune systems.
Get moving. Walk 30 minutes a day, preferably outside. This is a great way to build your immune system, reduce stress, and get in a little Vitamin D.
Here are a few examples of remedies and supplements that are helpful during the flu/cold season.
Ginger tea. This is a staple in my family and very helpful for stomach upsets and clearing congestion in the sinuses and chest. Simmer fresh peeled ginger root in a pan of water. Strain out the root pieces. Pour into a cup, add a squeeze of fresh lemon, mix in honey to taste. Sip all day.
Echinacea. Begin taking this herb now. It is most effective in preventing virus and not as effective when taken after contacting an illness.
Andographis. A great herb that fights virus AFTER becoming infected.
Olive Leaf Extract. Enhances the immune system and fights virus and many types of infection.
Garlic. This has been referred to as “the poor man’s antibiotic”. Has powerful antibiotic and antiviral properties.
Reishi, Shitake, and Maitake extract. These are mushroom extracts that are immune boosting and essential for fighting the flu.
Remember that a fever is one of the major defense mechanisms the body uses against the flu. Viruses cannot survive well in a warm environment. The body uses fever to create a warm environment to fight viruses and bacteria. Don’t try to suppress a fever unless it is over 103 degrees.
These are all easy, inexpensive, and very effective steps we all can take to have a healthy flu and cold season.