Flu Season: A holistic Approach to Staying Well this Winter.

 

Statistics: 

Every year in late summer and early fall we begin to hear about the coming flu, how dangerous it is, and how the best way to protect ourselves is by getting the flu shot. Both of these statements are patently false.

First of all, the flu is not really dangerous. When the CDC, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, tells us every year that so many people die from the flu, if you look at the numbers closely you will see that they actually say that so many people die from flu and pneumonia each year. For example, in 2005, deaths for both flu and pneumonia combined were 61,000. But deaths from influenza alone were only around 1800 people. And, in fact, deaths from influenza since 1979 have been fairly consistent, averaging around 1300 people each year.

The second issue is that of the flu shot being useful in protecting ourselves. There is an organization, the Cochrane Collaborative, that is an international collective of individuals who evaluate scientific data from all over the world and publish their findings in the form of reviews. When reviewing scientific data, they throw out studies that are biased and/or designed poorly.

Their reviews of studies looking at the effectiveness of flu vaccines quite clearly show that there is little or no evidence that the flu vaccines are useful in the following populations… babies under 2 years old, children with asthma, adults, elderly adults. Furthermore, Cochrane reviews also show that healthcare practitioners that get flu shots do not protect the elderly in nursing homes that they take care of.

The real reason we get the flu is the combination of a few simple factors that, when adjusted, make it much easier to avoid the flu and much easier to treat the flu if contracted.

Factor number one has to do with our lifestyle habits that make our immune systems less effective at fighting off the influenza virus. There is more detail about this in the lifestyle section, but here is a synopsis of the issue. October begins a 3-month long sugar eating, lack of sleep, stress-inducing time period that we expose ourselves to. Beginning with Halloween, and then Thanksgiving, the Holidays, and culminating with New Years, we get too much sugar, not enough sleep, and stress galore trying to accommodate family and friends, buy the perfect gifts, etc.

The other factor has to do with our Vitamin D levels dropping. Did you know that there really isn’t a flu season along the equator? That’s because proper exposure to the sun, year round, keeps Vitamin D blood levels elevated; which plays a major role with appropriate immune function!

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Diet: 

  • For dietary concerns there are “do’s” and “do not’s”

    The “do not’s” really revolve around sugar… in all of its various forms. That obviously means cakes and cookies and candies and doughnuts. It also means avoiding too many processed and refined carbohydrates. Too much pasta, bread and cereal can be just as detrimental. Also, take an inventory of how much high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) you are ingesting in your diet. You might be surprised to find that some of your foods, like soups or salad dressing, contain this health-damaging form of sugar. Here is a link to an article for more details about HFCS.

    Fruit juices are also a source of concentrated fructose that should be avoided.

    The ‘do’s” have to do with foods that give your body, and in particular your immune system, what it needs to function optimally at this time of year. It may seem obvious, but I’ll state it anyway… more fresh fruits and vegetables will serve you well. Please also remember that water is essential for all cells to work properly, including your immune cells. Water also helps loosen and break up mucus in the chest and sinuses, so ensure you’re getting adequate supply of water throughout the day. Aim for around 2-3 Litres/day.

  • Adding spices such as ginger, garlic and turmeric to your cooking. Making healing soups, casseroles and stews to warm the body is a wonderful healing tool.
  • Herbal teas including liquorice, eucalyptus, elderberry, ginger and parsley can be soothing and healing for the body.
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    For the Vitamin D issue – there are really no viable ways to get enough Vitamin D from your diet – you must supplement with it – see the supplement section below for more information.

Lifestyle: 

  • The following issues are of equal importance – so don’t just grab on to the one thing here that is easy for you to do. Give each of these areas equal and fair attention!
    • Wash your hands. Often. There is no question that the major way that you get exposed to the influenza virus is from the hands of someone else.
    • Get your sleep. Your immune system is acutely affected by lack of quality sleep. Try to stick to a fairly rigid sleep routine during the cold and flu season. This may be hard to do because of parties, visiting relatives and too many things on your to-do list. It may seem like you’re missing out on some of the fun… but you’ll be the one having fun when everyone else is in bed with the flu.
    • Get your exercise. Again, don’t stray from your scheduled exercise regimen just because of the time of year it is. If walking is your gig and it’s too cold outside, walk inside at one of the local malls. Make sure that at least 4 times a week you are getting some aerobic and some weight-bearing exercise in.
    • Tend to your stress needs. Maybe the biggest factor in a dysfunctioning immune system is stress. And the cold and flu season is the most stressful time of year for many people. So start by pledging to be more observant of how you are feeling and when you are feeling stressed. And when you are, find a way to sooth yourself immediately… don’t wait for “later” because for busy people, later often never comes. Be willing to care for yourself as much as you care for everyone else.

Beneficial Supplements: 

  • There are supplements to use now to help prevent the flu and ones to use if you happen to get the flu.

    For Prevention:

    • Vitamin D3: Activated form of Vitamin D known as Cholecalciferol. It is bioavailable to the body for ready absorption. Getting your vitamin D blood levels to at least 50ng/ml will give you an amazing level of protection, i’d even recommend aiming for up to 80ng/ml. For most people this will require at least 5,000IU – 10,000IU a day. I also recommend that you get your vitamin D blood level checked to best know the appropriate dosage for you.
    • Herbal Remedies: Elderberry extract is a powerful remedy that sort of makes a blockade to viruses being able to enter into your cells. This can be used in anticipation of a situation that you know you are going to be exposed to the flu.
    • Vitamin B Complex vitamin and Zinc.

    For Treatment:

    These supplements are best used at the very first sign of getting the flu. So, if you wake up in the morning feeling that scratchy throat or sinus congestion, you want to have these things in your home already – don’t wait until you get sick to go find these supplements.

    • Vitamin D3. Using high doses of Vitamin D-3 at the beginning of symptoms is a very effective way to avoid getting the full-blown flu. For most people, taking anywhere from 25,000iu to 50,000iu a day for a few days does the trick.
    • Iron Phosphate Mineral Therapy salts. For first sign inflammation and sickness such as a runny nose, tickling throat and headaches. Tablets are safe to use, and safe in efficacy. Usual dose is 2 tablets chewed every 15-30mins until feeling better, used in acute cases, and or chronic 3-4 tablets chewed daily. (Usually this is a preventative measure).
    • Zinc has been shown to be effective at helping to prevent the spread of the influenza virus in the body. These lozenges also contain Vitamin C, Slippery Elm and Bee Propolis. Use up to 3 a day.

*Disclaimer: This article should be used as a reference guide ONLY. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you experience any symptoms of the flu. Never self-diagnose as it can be dangerous, causing unwanted side effects and possibly cause chronic conditions. 

If you have any questions, feel free to get in contact with me

Healthiest regards throughout the colder months,

Tegan, Nutrition Nourishment 

 

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