Natural Flu Prevention
September 14, 2014
Symptoms of the flu include fever, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, runny nose, cough and stomach symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes a flu virus can come on slowly or it can hit suddenly without much notice. Each year this leads people to wonder how they can prevent themselves and their family from getting the flu. Naturopathic prevention and treatment of the flu virus includes vitamins and minerals, botanical medicine and lifestyle recommendations.
Vitamins and Minerals:
Vitamin C- Vitamin C can greatly enhance the immune system’s ability to fight infections of many kinds. In controlled trials Vitamin C has been shown to aid in the prevention of influenza, as well as shortening the duration and reducing the severity of infections already contracted. Vitamin C is found abundantly in almost all fresh fruits and vegetables – eating vegetables that are in season currently is the best way to ensure their high vitamin C content. Squash, zucchini, onions, pumpkins, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, apples and pears are good foods to consume right now and this fall.
Zinc- Zinc plays an important role in maintaining healthy immune function. Low levels of zinc are associated with a decrease in T cell function, a vital white blood cell that helps fight infections. sufficient zinc in your diet (15–25 mg per day). Zinc lozenges and throat sprays can help by slowing the multiplication of the virus in the nose and throat, thereby shortening colds. Zinc is found naturally in red meat, chicken, fish, oysters, eggs, legumes such as lentils, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds.
Vitamin D- This power nutrient effectively boosts immunity and helps prevent colds. People with the lowest vitamin D levels are 36% more likely to have upper respiratory infections, compared with those with the most D. Adequate amounts of D help produce cathelicidin, a protein with virus-killing qualities. Since it's tough to get enough from sunlight or diet (fish and fortified dairy are the best sources) inland in Canada, you'll need a supplement to attain optimal levels. Aim for 4,000 to 10,000 IU for flu prevention.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranosus)- Astragalus is an ancient herb used in Ayurvedic (India) and Chinese medicine as an adaptogenic tonic. Adaptogenic means that it adjusts your immune system up or down according to what's needed. The root of Astragalus stimulates the white blood cells that fight infection. It can be taken as a tincture (liquid extract) or tea, and should be started as soon as the weather changes. Astragalus is safe for the whole family to take throughout the fall and winter season to ward off infections.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)- Research demonstrates that elderberry extract has particular immune-modulating and antioxidant properties that neutralize the activity of viruses so they can no longer enter the cell and replicate. The berries also contain vitamins A and C, and the flavonoids quercetin, anthocyanin and rutin, all of which boost immune function.
Garlic (Allium sativum)- Garlic has a long and storied history of healing which includes warding off colds and helping open sinuses. Crushing or cutting garlic cloves generates a sulphur compound known as allicin, which has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Allicin is available only from raw garlic, however, so add garlic at the end of cooking, or eat it raw in salad dressings or hummus to tap its full medicinal power.
Lifestyle tips for the prevention and treatment of the flu:
Sleep- Maintaining a balanced sleep routine is one way to keep our immune system healthy. While you're off in dreamland, your body gets to work repairing cells and injuries you may have incurred during the normal day's wear and tear. Getting your 7 to 9 hours (for adults, children and teens need 10-12 hrs) a night means your body can repair and heal itself and ward off infections. Consistent inadequate sleep lowers the body’s defenses needed for fighting viral infections.
Stress- While stress is a part of everyday life; excessive stress can decrease immune function and make it easier to come down with the flu. Establishing stress management techniques like deep breathing, massage, yoga or meditation can help ensure that every day stress won’t leave you vulnerable to the flu. Try to get regular, moderate exercise, like a daily 30-minute walk. It helps your immune system fight infection.
Nutrition- A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and quality proteins is a foundation for a healthy immune system. Studies have shown that eating a sugary snack or meal can depress the immune system for up to 6 hours, creating a window of time during which it is easier to get the flu. Avoiding excessive sugar can keep the immune system working at the level needed to fend off viral infections, like the flu.
Hand-washing- As many as 80 percent of infections are transmitted via contact like sneezing, coughing or touching surfaces that have been sneezed or coughed on,and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose. Gently scrubbing your hands with soap and warm water before eating, drinking or touching your face can greatly help to avoid those infection-causing viruses.