As fall and winter approaches, there are ways to naturally prepare yourself for the flu season. The flu season typically starts in the fall and peaks in January or February but it can also begin as early as October. Groups more likely to experience complications include seniors (age 65 and older), children (especially those younger than 2), and people with chronic illness. Symptoms of the flu include fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, fever, cough, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The flu can halt and wreak havoc on your activities of daily living, therefore it may be wise to nurture a healthy immune system by decreasing your susceptibility to disease. Poor nutrition, inactivity, emotional stress, environmental toxins, and negative thought processes can your increase susceptibility. So here are some guidelines that I find particularly helpful:
If you feel symptoms beginning (like sore throat, headache, congestion, fever, etc.), take a day off if possible. Keep your bedroom cool and humid. If you are cold, add covers. If you are too warm, uncover or take a lukewarm bath. Consider investing in a humidifier or keep a dish of fresh water near your heat source. House plants can also be helpful alternative to purchasing a humidifier. The humid air is helpful in keeping mucous membranes moist.
Create a Healing Space
When feeling ill or under the weather, allow your bedroom to be the quietest yet cheerful place in the house. Let air flow freely into the bedroom, clearing any stuffiness or foul smell. Be sure to sleep on clean sheets and wear clean clothes.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Drink large amounts of filtered water, herbal teas, broths and soups. Avoid fruit juices and sweetened beverages (like sodas), because the high sugar content will actually inhibit your immune cells from doing their job. If you do choose to drink fruit juices, dilute them with water (use equal parts). Try to avoid alcohol, coffee and black tea because these can depress the immune response as well.
To prevent a cold from affecting every family member or to help shorten the duration of a cold you may need to purify your living space. An onion is very helpful in clearing indoor air. Begin by taking one medium or large size onion. Make two cuts into the onion, crosswise. The onion should open up like a lotus flower. Put the onion on small dish and sit it in the room of the affected person. Crack the window just a bit for greater air circulation. Ideally, an onion should be placed in every room (i.e. the rooms with the most people traffic) of the house.
Optimize Your Diet
Eat mostly alkaline forming foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. If possible buy seasonally organic local farmed produce. Seasonal fruits for TN in late September include: apples, Asian pears, blackberries, cantaloupe, grapes, nectarines, pears, raspberries, watermelons.
Seasonal vegetables for TN in late September include: arugula, green beans, snap beans, shell beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, chili pepper, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, scallions, dark leafy vegetables (collards, kale, etc.), lima beans, okra, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, radicchio, radishes, shallots, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, winter squash, and zucchini.
Buy local, sustainably raised meats (including beef, chicken, lamb, pork) and dairy. Here are a few helpful resources:
http://www.localharvest.org/ http://www.eatwild.com/products/tennessee.html http://www.eatwellguide.org/
Avoid processed foods, sweets, simple sugars, ice cream, cold drinks, and dairy products including yogurt, milk and cheese especially when feeling sick. Upon the onset of a cold or flu try following a light and warm diet like boiled or steamed vegetables and vegetable soup. Drink spice or herbal teas with a piece of crushed ginger to help warm your core. Immune boost soup loaded with garlic and onions can have an antimicrobial effect. See following recipe:
Combine 2 cups of water, 1 small yellow onion, 3 garlic cloves, 1 inch fresh ginger root, 1 large lemon freshly squeezed, 2 tablespoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey (optional), with a pinch of cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and steep for 20 minutes. Add the juice of 1 freshly squeezed lemon and a pinch of cayenne. You can vary the recipe by adding chopped Reishi mushrooms or marrow bones.
Avoid Foods to Which You Suspect You Are Allergic
Repeated exposure to food allergens increases the toxic load on the body thereby compromising the immune response. In addition, these foods can cause asthma, eczema, arthritis, migraines, and other chronic conditions as well as susceptibility to acute infections.
If tolerable, contrast shower is a simple yet convenient way to stimulate your vitality. The idea behind contrast shower is to alternate between hot and cold water while you are showering, to tolerance. After your normal hot shower, gradually turn down the hot water until the shower is pleasantly cool and rinse your body for about 1 minute. Then switch the shower back hot to rewarm your body for 3-5 minutes. Repeat 3 times then end with cool. Dry yourself off quickly, rubbing briskly with towel to stimulate rewarming. Two key points to remember when doing contrast shower: first – the hot phase should always be longer than the cooler phase and second – always finish with cool water.
The temperature contrast will help strengthen and normalize the nervous, circulatory, endocrine (hormonal), musculoskeletal and immune systems and is excellent for helping the body cope with physiological and psychological stress. However, contrast showering may be contraindicated for those with heart disease, asthma, diabetes, pregnancy, or Raynaud’s syndrome or phenomenon.
Vitamins and Minerals
￼￼￼Consider supplementing with zinc, vitamins C, vitamin A. Zinc plays an essential role in maintaining healthy immune function. Vitamin C can enhance the immune system’s ability to fight infections. In controlled trials Vitamin C has been shown to aid in the prevention of influenza, as well as shortening the duration and reducing the severity of infections already contracted. Vitamin A maintains the integrity of mucus membranes, which are at the front line of our defenses against viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections. “Airborne” may be helpful, but check the ingredients for possible dietary difficulties.
Homeopathic First Line Treatment
Use Boiron’s homeopathic “Oscillococcinum” upon the first sign of the cold or flu. This homeopathic remedy is mostly helpful if taken upon the onset of illness. Take a capful every 2-3 hours.
Elder or Yarrow
If you are feeling feverish, use Elder flower and Yarrow, tinctures or teas. Make a cup of tea from equal parts of the ground flowers, or add about 60 drops of the mixed tinctures into a cup of hot water. Drink just before or in a hot bath. It will help you sweat the illness out. If you are feeling other symptoms try elderberry syrup. The berries are very helpful for viral respiratory tract infections.
Lemon juice and honey
For a simple, daily cleanse mix half a cup of warm water with one teaspoon of lemon juice and drink daily, particularly in the morning before breakfast.
Try to find ways to minimize stress. Stress decreases the body’s ability to fight infections. Life is meant to be fulfilling and enjoyable. Yet it is so common in our culture to feel overwhelmed by life situations. If stress is a major part of your life and you feel you have no options, consult an emotional and/or occupational counselor. Living with an unpleasant situation can not only decrease your happiness, but can impair your overall health, contributing to conditions as serious as high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers, etc. Conversely, laughter and enjoyment increase immunity as well as overall well- being.
If you are needing more personalized or specific nutritional recommendations, please give us a call for a consultation.
Yours in Health,
Clinical Pearls. (2011). Retrieved September 15, 2015 from http://www.salmoncreekclinic.com/influenza.html.
Clinton, C. (2015). Preparing yourself for Flu Season Naturally. Retrieved September 15, 2015 from http://www.naturopathic.org/content.asp?contentid=250.
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Lindlahr, H. and Poesnecker, G.E. Nature Cure 2000: Philosophy and Practice Based on the Unity of Disease and
Cure. 1998. Quakertown, PA. Beverly Hall Corp. Pp. xxii, 360.
Seasonal Flu. (2015). Retrieved September 15, 2015 from http://www.flu.gov/about_the_flu/seasonal/index.html.
Seasonal Food Guide. (2015). Retrieved September 15, 2015 from http://www.sustainabletable.org/seasonalfoodguide/.