Fending Off the Flu

By Allen Josephs, MD.

It is estimated that about 36,000 people in this country die every year from the flu. It is further estimated that there are approximately 200,000 hospitalizations every year relating to the flu. Although these numbers seem scary, they pale in comparison to prior outbreaks. From 1918 to 1919, there was an outbreak of Spanish influenza in the United States that killed about 500,000. An estimated 40 million people died worldwide from the 1918 flu pandemic. With such factors as air travel, crowded cities, and population levels that are much higher, if a similar deadly virus hit us today, the death toll could be quite significant. Although it would seem from the news that everyone gets a flu shot, in point of fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that only about 5-20% of the U.S. population is inoculated for the flu.

The flu typically spreads via respiratory droplets that occur when you are around someone who is coughing or sneezing. It should be noted that when you become infected with the virus, it may be one day before you have symptoms. By that time, you are already able to start spreading the virus. Additionally, the virus can be spread for up to a week after developing outward signs of the flu. The typical symptoms of the flu include fever, muscle ache, sore throat, headache, and runny or stuffy nose. Sometimes, there can be gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The main problem with the flu is the complications from superimposed pneumonia, along with a worsening in chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart failure.

Flu Prevention Tips

There is one surefire way not to contract the flu and that is basically to stay at home and avoid contact with other human beings. Since this is obviously not a reasonable option, there are other things that one can do. It is extremely important that you frequently wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 15 seconds, as the virus can get on your hands, and you can develop the infection by touching your eyes or nose. During the flu season, which typically runs from late-November to March, it is essential that you get enough rest and eat properly. Avoiding sugar, fructose and simple carbs is a good idea, as they can lower immune function. It is also very important to receive adequate bed rest (at least 6-8 hours each night), avoid smoking, and to drink plenty of fluids, at least 1-2 quarts daily, especially water.

Finally, it is extremely important to take vitamins and nutritional supplements to help boost immune function. A good multi-nutrient product, such as one of the Synergy multi-vitamins/nutrients from Nutraceutical Sciences Institute (NSI), would be recommended. Synergy contains natural carotenoids, Ester-C L-Opti-Zinc selenium in a superior form and dose, and natural vitamin E, plus many other nutrients beneficial for immunity. Synergy should be supplemented with daily doses of garlic which has tremendous antiviral and bacterial properties. Additionally, white tea has incredible antioxidant, antiviral, and antibacterial benefits. There is another product from NSI called which contains four separate standardized mushroom extracts -- shiitake, maitake, cordyceps and reishi -- along with a highly purified form of beta glucan (90% pure vs. many that are under 1%) from baker's yeast. These nutrients have been shown in multiple clinical trials to help boost immune function, which is critical in helping to ward off the flu and other similar conditions.

Many of you may have heard about the benefits of MGN-3 from Japan. Unfortunately, the company that marketed this product ran afoul of FDA regulations by making cancer treatment claims. Vitacost has a small amount of MGN-3 left, and once it is sold, we have no way to obtain anymore. There is another product from Japan called AHCC (Active Hexose Correlated Compound) with excellent studies to support immune system benefits. It is similar to MGN-3, and is derived from mushrooms. A typical dosage would be two capsules per day, for a total daily dose of 1,000 mg. Another product that is not only a powerful antioxidant, but that can also help boost energy levels and immune function, is that of standardized olive leaf extract.

For those of you who are unfortunate enough to contract the flu, I would recommend taking supplemental zinc and echinacea (liquid is the best, and has over 180 studies to support it; others probably do not work), along with additional doses of vitamin C. In addition, there is an interesting homeopathic product called Oscillococcinum by Boiron. Clinical studies have shown that when taken at the first signs of the flu, this product can not only reduce the severity, but also the duration of the influenza attack. As an allopathic physician, I must say that I know very little about homeopathy, and merely present this to you as a potential option.

Elderberry

Another excellent product with clinical studies to support its benefit is elderberry. The effect on the influenza virus by a syrup made from the berries of the black elderberry has been studied in a double-blind trial. People receiving an elderberry extract (2 tablespoons [30 ml] per day for children; 4 tablespoons [60 ml] per day for adults) appeared to recover faster than those receiving a placebo. Nature's Way's Sambucol is the actual product these studies were conducted with, and it actually tastes really good. It is a liquid syrup (no swallowing of pills) and extremely safe, so even small children and the elderly can benefit from it. Having read the data on these products, I do plan to have them in my house to be utilized at the first onset of the flu. My foundational supplement regimen consists of a Synergy multi-vitamin that contains the beta glucan, standardized mushroom extracts, and the other nutrients I have talked about. The goal is to reduce my risk of getting sick, and if I do get sick, to reduce the severity and duration.

Body Chills and Cold Noses Reduce Ability To Fight Viral Infections

Dr. Eccles, of Cardiff University, says the results of a randomized study reveal a two-pronged hypothesis: 1. many of us carry around a subclinical cold infection. 2. Chilling the feet opens the door to a full-blown cold.




Allen Josephs, MD

Author Allen Josephs is a licensed medical doctor.




Related:

Mortar

More naturopathic cold and flu prevention tips.