Natural Flu Prevention
1. Foundation of a Healthy Lifestyle
Getting Adequate Rest
This means prioritizing sleep. For most people that means 6-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep nightly. Listen to your body, it will tell you when you need more rest. Often times when people get a cold or a flu, it is the only time they allow themselves to stop or get enough sleep. Getting enough restorative sleep will help keep your immune defenses in check. Be sure to off-set stress with whatever form of relaxation you prefer. Examples include, taking a hot bath, gentle yoga, talking to a friend or reading a good book.
Both aerobic and gentle exercise have multiple benefits that extend beyond immune support. I highly recommend finding a way to move your body that you enjoy, so you can make this a standard part of your lifestyle. Aim to move your body in some way at least 4 times weekly.
The general rule for adequate hydration is half your body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 160lbs you want to drink 80 ounces of water daily. Be sure to drink clean filtered water. If you get bored of drinking plain water, just add lemon/lime or orange slices. You can also add mint leaves, ginger root or a splash of organic unsweetened juice. Its best to drink water away from meals, throughout the day and not too close to bedtime. For every cup of coffee you drink, be sure to drink an extra 8 ounce glass of water. Consider adding 2-3 drops of Concentrace Mineral drops to each glass of water to increase the alkalinity of water and improve intracellular absorption.
Sugar directly lowers immune defenses while increasing inflammatory reactions in the body. There are many difference types of sugar and each person's body responds a little bit differently to each form. Generally, minimizing dessert foods to once or twice a week will keep your immune system working more efficiently. It is especially important to avoid sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners if you feel like you are coming down with an infection. No cookies, ice cream, soda, etc. Drinking some tea with a little honey is fine.
I recommend eating seasonal foods that are grown locally and organically. I also encourage more cooked foods instead of raw in the winter months. Foods that are particularly great for warding off infections include garlic, ginger, medicinal mushrooms (Reishi, Shiitake, Maitake, Chaga, Turkey tail). The mushrooms can be easily added to soups, stir-fry, and other cooked dishes. Many can also be taken in a liquid tincture or capsule form if preferred. Eating root vegetables of various colors, such sweet potatoes, beets,and parsnips are chock full of vitamins and minerals. Be sure to include at least 1 green vegetable daily. Steamed greens with olive oil, garlic, and a pinch of sea salt can be an excellent addition to any meal.
Due to the increases in environmental toxicities at every turn our bodies are being bombarded with toxins on daily basis. The accumulation of toxins in our bodies can be damaging to our nervous system, endocrine system and immune system. I highly encourage everyone to work with their Naturopathic doctor to tailor detox programs specifically for them. It is important to detox safely, to work with a professional who can guide and supervise you through the process. There are many different ways to detox and programs can range from 3 days to 30 days. Lowering your body burden of toxins is one of the best ways to keep you healthy through the flu season and year round.
Having a healthy digestive tract is very important for keeping your immune system working well. If you have a history of constipation, diarrhea, IBS or IBD, I highly encourage you to work with a ND to correct this. Additionally, if you feel like you are coming down with a cold or flu, ensure you have a complete bowel movement to assist your body in eliminating the toxic build up. High doses of Vitamin C or magnesium can achieve this if you need the extra help. Also there are many natural and over the counter laxatives that can be useful for occasions such as this. However, I do not advocate the continuous use of laxatives.
2. Vitamins and Mineral Supplementation
My strongest recommendation is to work with someone who is able to evaluate your nutritional deficiencies and help determine which nutrients you need and the proper amount your body requires. If you are unsure of how much to take in the meantime you can start with a lower dose once a day. The following list of vitamins and minerals are known for their immune building and anti-viral properties. I also encourage taking a good multiple-vitamin and mineral supplement as well as essential fatty acids (omega-3's) to cover your 90 essential nutrients which we tend to be absorbed better when taking collectively. These suggestions are not a substitution for personalized medical advice. Lower doses may be best for prevention and higher doses at the initial onset of any cold or flu symptoms.
- Vitamin A: 5,000-100,000 IU daily after food.
- Vitamin C: 2,000-4,000mg daily after food
- Vitamin D: 1200-10,000IU daily after food.
- Selenium: 200-800mcg twice daily after food
- Zinc picolinate: 15-50mg twice daily after food.
- Probiotics – 15-75 billion IU once daily.
The following is a list of herbs that can be taken individually or in combination to strengthen immune defense and support anti-viral activity. I recommend 1 teaspoon twice daily for prevention and 1-2 tablespoon 3 times daily at the onset of any cold or flu symptoms. Several of these herbs have an added benefit of supporting the body's stress response to make it easier to handle the craziness of life through the winter months. I'll add an “*” to indicate which herbs have this benefit. Pregnant or nursing women should consult with their ND's or herbalist before initiating an herbal immune program.
- Lemon balm/Melissa
- Licorice/Glycerrhiza* (do not use this herb if you are currently being treated for high blood pressure)
- Olive leaf extract
Oscillococcinum – This is a remedy to keep on hand because it works best if you take at the earliest indication that you might be getting the flu. Start dissolving ¼ of the vial every hour until symptoms resolve.
Influenzum nosode – This is an isopathic flu remedy that can be taken daily through the flu season or 4 times weekly to build immunity to the most common flu virus strains of the year.
Many other homeopathic remedies are also available for treating the flu should you become ill. These work best by matching the remedy to your specific symptoms. While it is easy to look up homepathic remedies on the Internet I highly recommend consulting with your ND or homeopathic doctor. By working with an expert you will save valuable time and money which will optimize your recovery
© Dr. Aviva Wertkin 2014
10 Reasons To See a Naturopathic Doctor
1. You want to be treated like a person: When you are not feeling well, going to the doctor's office can be a scary and vulnerable experience. Most Naturopathic Doctors strive to create a comfortable and healing environment. You will not be treated like just a number or an inconvenience. Most Naturopathic doctors prefer to build relationships with their patients, based on sincere caring and mutual respect.
2. You want more time with your doctor: When you have an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor they will take the time to get to know you, to address all of your concerns and answer all of your questions. Most initial appointments are scheduled for one full hour with the physician and follow up appointments are usually 30 minutes. This ensures thorough medical care and not just symptom management.
3. You want a doctor who understands the role of diet in health and disease: Many times people suspect that what they are eating is effecting how they feel but their medical doctors offer little guidance or deny any association. What you eat and put into your body every day has a direct effect on your health. Naturopathic doctors have extensive training in clinical nutrition. Whether it is optimizing nutrition, identifying hidden food allergies, or modifying diet for weight or specific health concerns, Naturopathic Doctors can offer comprehensive dietary recommendations that are tailored to your individual needs.
4. You're sick of taking drugs to manage your symptoms: Prescribtion drugs often deal with symptoms but rarely address the cause of the problem. What happens next is that people end up on medications for each symptom/each part of the body and then additional medications for the side effects of the medications. Naturopathic physicians focus on identifying and treating the cause of disease rather than the symptoms, so the body can actually begin to heal. In so doing, people not only feel better, they actually get better.
5. You want medical expertise on which supplements to take: Many people self treat. They go to the health food store and buy remedies that may or may not be safe or effective for their condition. It can also be overwhelming to sort through all of the options available these days. When you work with a Naturopathic doctor you are receiving a physician's level expertise in science and natural therapies. This assures that the supplements taken are specific to your body's needs and in the proper dosage. This can also save you a lot of money from purchasing poor quality products that won't actually benefit you.
6. You prefer to do things the natural way: You already pay attention to eating healthy organic foods, using eco-friendly products, you prefer living more natural lifestyle. Why should your healthcare be any different? It is possible to be properly evaluated and treated without having to put anything toxic in your body or compromise your philosophy.
7. You've done everything your MD suggests but you still don't feel well: Often there are instances where conventional medicine has failed or has limited treatment options. This is common when treating patients suffering from fatigue, anxiety, migraines and other pain conditions, just to name a few. Naturopathic doctors can offer alternative options in these cases that can work with or in lieu of conventional medicine to help the body heal. Its time to put aside the pharmaceutical based protocols and find out what you need to feel like yourself again.
8. Your appointments are often covered by health insurance: Most people think that naturopathic medicine is expensive. The cost of naturopathic care is actually quite low compared to surgery, loss of work due to illness/injury and other extreme interventions that can be avoided with prevention or correcting the problem. Additionally, more private healthcare plans are covering naturopathic services. Depending on your insurance plan you can have your visits and any subsequent testing covered.
9. You want to prevent genetic diseases: Preventing illness or early detection and interventions are much easier and more cost effective than waiting to treat the disease. There are many approaches to preventing diseases that do not include drugs or surgery. With advances in genetic testing many people are becoming fearful about illnesses they are predisposed to. Naturopathic doctors can help navigate genetic predispositions and work with your specific needs to optimize your health to avoid repeating the “family histories” of illness.
10. You want medicine that doesn't come with side effects: Just because it's natural doesn't mean its safe. However when natural therapies are prescribed properly there is very little risk of side effects because they are geared toward correcting a problem not forcing the body to shut off symptoms. Conversely, there is not a single prescription or over the counter drug that does not come with a list of potential side effects. Often times they can be worse than the initial problem. Many times it's not worth the risk but you don't know what else to do. Its time to consult with a Naturopathic doctor to find out what your other options are.
Aviva D Wertkin, ND
20 Technology Dr #7
Brattleboro VT 05301