Top three things you should take if you get the flu this year
In the September 16, 2016 Parade Magazine there was an article on “Boost your Flu IQ”. While the article had some good points such as reduce the amount of times you touch your face and to thoroughly dry your hands after washing, it was the number one thing they stated “You should do to prevent the flu” that as a nutrition professional I beg to differ with.
Dr. Grohskopf, a medical officer in the Influenza Division of the CDC said “getting the flu shot is the single best thing you can do to protect yourself against the flu and prevent its spread” She went on to say that if you do get the flu, your symptoms “could be” less severe.
Hmm. I was recently asked to go back to work on a very part time basis at the nursing home where I used to work. The reason I am unable to return is because I opt out of the flu vaccine. In all my years working in long term care I have never gotten the flu.
From my perspective, there are many things you can do if you get the flu but what you should be doing is supporting your immune system year round so that you don’t get the flu! Why do doctors not discuss this with their patients?
In the Parade Magazine article there was no mention of healthy eating and supporting your immune system (nor your gut health, and those of you who read my posts know by now that over 80% of your immune system is in the gut).
So here is what I, as a nutrition professional, recommend for flu prevention. Please remember however that this is for educational purposes only since you are not a current client and as always seek medical attention when necessary.
Four tips for Year Round Immune Support to avoid getting the Flu
- Probiotics: either take a probiotic supplement daily or eat fermented foods. It is best to rotate, so say eat fermented vegetables one day, kefir the next and probiotic supplement the next day. This way you get a variety of strains for immune health. The more variety in your strains the better. Either purchase your probiotic from the refrigerated section of the store or one that says it is freeze dried. Look at the label on the back to see how many strains it contains. Ideally you want to see a long list, not just a couple of strains listed.
- 18 month study on children from ages 3-5 showed that those taking probiotic lactobacillus acidophilus strain had 53% fewer fevers, 41% fewer coughs, and 28% fewer runny noses than placebo group
- Another group of children given the acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis strain has 72% fewer fevers, 62% fewer coughs, and 59% fewer runny noses than placebo group
- In 198 college students: 97 received a placebo, 101 received bifidum and lactobacillus strains for 12 weeks.-all got colds at same time but the probiotic group experienced a shorter duration in colds, symptoms were 34% less severe, fewer missed school days
Take away-take probiotics or eat fermented foods on a regular basis. You can look for products that contain the strains mentioned but more importantly consume a wide variety of probiotic rich foods.
- Replace the refined carbs, sugar, and excess alcohol with less processed foods, more vegetables and fruit and filtered water. The sugar and alcohol lowers your white blood cell count which in turn lowers your immune resistance. Sugar and grains upset the balance of the gut flora which in turn will weaken your immune resistance to germs. Alcohol will also deplete your body of nutrients such as your B vitamins and magnesium.
- Try to get more sleep. If you have difficulty sleeping get evaluated for possible liver or blood sugar issues. Try calming herbs such as passion flower, valerian (only at bed time), Kava Kava, chamomile and lavender. There are many “sleepy time” herbal tea blends or try one herb at a time in tincture form.
- De-stress. Add in what works for you, such as an infrared sauna, yoga, meditation, walks, journaling and/or exercise. Add in the herbs mentioned above to help calm and relax the body during times of high stress. Stress of any kind (including exercise and “good” stress such as getting married) depletes the body of vitamins and minerals especially zinc, vitamin C, and your B vitamins
Top 3 things to add in if you do get the flu
Sometimes even with best intentions and doing everything right, we still get sick. I think of it as the body’s way of telling us at times that we need a break, and forces us to rest and recover. We live in a society that rewards that “go, go, go attitude”. We can’t do this non-stop.
But that being said, you don’t want to feel miserable for weeks, which for some the flu can leave you still at the 2 week mark feeling exhausted and drained.
Add these in:
- Master Tonic: this is my “go-to” when the flu or a cold strikes. I take a small bottle with me when a I travel and also send bottles of it to my adult son’s. Ideally you want to make this a month before cold/flu season. I typically make it at the end of the summer and then let it sit and ferment for 4 weeks. You can do a search online for the recipe and they all vary a little but the principle ingredients are the same (garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, hot peppers, horseradish and apple cider vinegar). We have had great results with it and I get calls from people in a panic saying they “need some right away”. So do yourself a favor and make some to have on hand. It is good for 2 years but I usually have to make a new batch every year. Take it as soon as you feel run down. Only take during the course of the cold or flu. The herbs in this product can be very drying to the body so while they are ant-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral in nature and great for excess mucus too, you don’t want to dry out your system too much.
- Vitamin C: Along with the Master Tonic, if I am feeling run down I will take 1,000 mg. of vitamin C as often as I remember. Some will take it every 15 minutes on that first day. I usually end up taking a dose every couple of hours. With this protocol typically in less than 24 hours, sometimes only a few hours later, I am feeling much better. Look for vitamin C with bioflavonoids. Take up to bowel tolerance, meaning for some people you may not be able to take this high of a dose as it may cause diarrhea. Just take the amount your body can handle at that time and instead add in citrus foods to your diet as well as plenty of other fruits and vegetables. Kiwi is exceptionally high in vitamin C along with red bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
- Homeopathic Oscillococcinum: This homeopathic remedy can take effect quickly when used at first sign of symptoms. While many are skeptical of homeopathic products, this has been shown in clinical trials to help reduce the severity and shorten the duration of flu-like symptoms. Take this remedy as soon as you feel yourself getting run down. With homeopathic pellets, do not touch the pellets and allow them to dissolve in your mouth and do not drink any water or use any lozenges or food for 15 minutes before and after the dose.
Bone Broth: This is another one I make in advance. I let my organic chicken bone broth cook for 24 to 48 hours so I don’t want to be making this when I am already sick. I make a batch in late summer and keep it in the freezer. This way if I or someone else is sick I can just heat up the amount needed and sip through the day. If you are sick and don’t want to eat, this is a great way to get your protein, some of your electrolytes and nutrients in while supporting your gut health at the same time. For how to make and easy recipes I suggest reading Nourishing Broth by Fallon Morell and Daniel.
Fluctuation in temperature is not the reason why we get sick. We get sick more often in colder, winter months because we are in more confined spaces in colder months, we eat more sugar (comfort foods) in colder months, our stress levels increase around the holidays, we tend to drink more alcohol and less water in the winter and skip workouts more often in colder weather. This adds up to the perfect storm for getting run down and susceptible to germs. Take care of gut and immune system year round to avoid getting sick this season.
Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2104) Therapeutic Nutrition. CA: Bauman College
Fallon Morell, S. & Daniel K. (2014) Nourishing Broth. NY: Grand Central Life & Style.
Papp, R. et. al. Oscillococcinum in patients with influenza-like syndrome: A placebo-controlled, double-blind evaluation. Br. Homeopath J. 1998,87;69-76.
UMDNJ. (10/22/12) Probiotics are secret weapon for fighting symptoms of the common cold in college students, study suggests. www.sciencedaily.com
Winters, C. (9/18/16) Stay Healthy: Boost your Flu IQ. Parade Magazine www.parade.com/flu
Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions. For more information and for her free food swap guide visit her website at www.trufoodsnutrition.com
As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes