With Dr. Angelina Riopel, ND
The immune system is our body’s main system of defense, protecting us from getting sick, as well as aiding our recovery. A holistic approach to flu prevention considers supporting the whole person, which in turn will support and boost the immune system. This approach includes a healthy diet and life style, rest and stress management and therapeutic interventions such as herbal medicine and specific nutrients, when indicated. By improving the health of the whole person we are able to support our ‘natural immunity’, which effectively and safely will prevent the flu and other infections. From a conventional perspective, the flu vaccine has become the primary form of flu prevention that the public and media focus on, although research demonstrates positive effects in a healthy population are small and safety research is poor and inconclusive.
According to The Cochrane Collaboration , 71 people would have to be vaccinated in order to prevent one case of influenza in healthy adults, with only 10-15% of the worldwide population contracting the flu in the first place. The flu is a virus – and a virus changes/mutates frequently in order to survive (they are very smart!). To create the flu vaccine three to four previous flu strains are chosen with the hope that they will address the current strain. In years where the vaccine is not a good match with the circulating virus, the vaccine may not be of any benefit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
We have become a society that unnecessarily fears the flu. The main risk in healthy adults and children is loss of work and school days, according to The Cochrane Collaborations research (see above link). There are risks in other populations, such as the elderly, but according to the same team of researchers, this research is “poor quality and provides no guidance regarding the safety, efficacy or effectiveness of influenza vaccines for people aged 65 years or older”.
Natural immunity is often overlooked from a conventional medical perspective, but is emphasized naturopathically. Natural immunity is developed by actually getting the flu, and may be protective and prevent us from getting the flu again for a number of years.
From a naturopathic perspective we want to focus on prevention but also be prepared for the acute onset, which can lessen the severity and length of the illness, as well as support the recovery process.
- Wash hand regularly with soap and water, especially during flu season
- Avoid touching eyes and face with unclean hands, as viruses enter the body through mucous membranes
- Eat a whole foods diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. They contain vitamins and phyto-nutrients that help to boost immunity and help defend against illness
- Manage stress levels. High stress leads to high cortisol levels, which suppresses the immune system and increases susceptibility to the influenza virus
- Naturopathic support, such as immune supportive herbs, mushrooms and vitamin supplements can help keep the immune system strong so that it can defend against the flu virus
FIRST AID FOR THE FLU
- Acute treatment may be able to prevent a full-blown illness and improve recovery time
- There are number of herbs that can be helpful if taken at the first sign of the flu. Echinacea helps to boost the immune system. Elderberry and ginger can help to shorten the duration of the flu. A Naturopathic Doctor is able to formulate a herbal tincture that will be specific to your needs for both prevention and recovery
- If there is a sore throat, gargle with salt water or a herbal gargle
- Give your self time to REST & RECOVER RECOVERY
- Once the flu has set in you should be in recovery phase. Rest and listen to your body. If you are tired, sleep and don’t push your self.
- If there is a fever, support it. Remember this is your immune system at work and is how your body fights the virus. (The exception being infants and young children with a fever over 104 degrees, which can be a medical emergency)
- Hydrate o Cold & Flu Tonic (1 tbls fresh grated ginger, 1 clove crushed garlic, 1/4 lemon, 1 tbls honey in hot water, let steep in hot water for 5-10 minutes) o Chicken soup, bone broth soup
- Immune herbs such as Astragalus and Siberian ginseng, help to support the immune system in recovery from an infection