Flu Prevention 101

2018 Flu Pandemic.  In full swing.  What should we do?

Well, flu statistics tell us that February is the month with the highest rate on infections.  So, the worst is yet to come.  Pharmacies are having difficulties keeping Tamiflu in stock, and they are saying this could be the worst flu season since the bird flu scare.  As a functional medicine practitioner, I have never been a fan of the flu shot for a couple reasons:

  1. The flu shot is a vaccine that we produce BEFORE flu season.  This means that we GUESS which pathogen will be the issue, and we are notoriously wrong.  That means that massive amounts of people are convinced to get a shot that includes adjuvants.  What are those?  Things that wake up the immune system.  Often times they use things like components of an egg.  It always makes me wonder if they has anything to do with why so many people have egg allergies now.  It’s just not normal to have egg anything in the bloodstream and it actually makes sense that the immune system would recognize this as abnormal and produce antibodies against it.  Hello food sensitivities.   Anyway, that’s exactly what happened this year.  We dispersed vaccines against a strain that was not the correct one.  So, even if you had a flu shot, you are just as susceptible as everyone else.  Sorry, Charlie.
  2. The flu vaccine was created specifically for immunocompromised populations.  The elderly, HIV patients, you know, people that will DIE if they catch the flu.  However, a healthy individual may be down for a few days, but then they will be fine.  We shouldn’t need to intervene with toxic therapies.

We can’t take back the fact that the vaccine was against the wrong strain.  So, is there anything we can do now?  Yup.  Here are my tips for preventing and treating the flu naturally and effectively:

  1. Wash Your Hands.  When you go around touching surfaces and then touching your face, you expose your mucus membranes to all the organisms that may have been resting on those ledges, hand rails, door handles, dollar bills, pens, you name it. So, washing your hands before you eat is huge deal right now.  Just do it.
  2. Eat plenty of plants and organ meats.  Plants are full of phytochemicals that keep your immune system robust.  Spices also contain compounds that can stimulate the immune system, so use them generously.  Organ meats (from appropriately-raised animals) are full of fat soluble vitamins like A and D.  These are heavy-hitters for the immune system.  They also have minerals like Zinc.  Zinc is a well-known immune-supporting mineral, which is why zinc lozenges adorn the shelves of every pharmacy.
  3. Get 8 hours of sleep.  When you sleep, cortisol levels go down.  When you wake up, cortisol levels go up.  Cortisol levels are inversely related to immune system function.  That means that you immune system is allowed to its best work at night when cortisol is down.  If you deprive yourself of sleep, then you don’t do much to support your immune system’s ability to fight infection.  Why do you think people just want to stay in bed when they are sick?  Sleep matters.
  4. Take supplements.  I’m not a huge supplement person, but there are a couple supplements to consider in these types of situations.  The first one is colostrum.  Colostrum contains antibodies.  The antibodies have the ability to bind up viral antigens like those present in influenza to eliminate them before they would get into your bloodstream.  The other supplement is one that has a mixture of herbs and nutrients that specifically support immune function.  You should be looking for beta-carotene, zinc, Vitamin C alongside herbs like Echinacea and Andrographis.  If you feel the slightest tickle in your throat or “off-ness” start taking an immune stimulating formula right away.

A word of advice:

The flu is caused by a virus, which means antibiotics have absolutely zero impact on it’s treatment.  If you have confirmed flu, consider denying the antibiotics and letting it run its course if you are healthy.  Most people will be just fine.  Keep hydrated, get rest, get some nutrients, and consider taking some supplements to boost immune function, but DO NOT take antibiotics and expect them to treat your flu.  What they will do is wipe out the healthy bacteria in your gut that is fighting for you  It will take 3 months to rebuild that bacteria, so think about it!

Cheers to a happy and healthy winter season!

Herbal Series: Echinacea for Cold and Flu

This photo of a purple coneflower was taken over a year ago before I even realized it was Echinacea!  Often times, we have medicinal plants growing all around us, and we are completely unaware.  Therefore, I wanted to highlight some of the herbs you may see around or that may pop up in your supplements.  I’ll let you know what they are, what they’re good for, and anything you should consider when taking them!

What is Echinacea?

Echinacea is a wildflower native exclusively to North America, and Indians used it therapeutically more than any other herb. In 1895, an Ohio drug firm manufactured the first preparations of Echinacea in the US, and by 1994, German physicians had prescribed Echinacea over 2.5 million times.  To this day, it remains popular in Europe, and is used most to shorten the duration of the common cold and flu.

What is it good for?

Echinacea is one of the most studied herbs in herbal medicine and it has shown many effects on the immune system.  It increases antibody responses to viruses and it signals to WBCs to fight infection.  This is a great tool to take when you feel as though you may be coming down with something, but it’s not that great for prevention.  So, look for Echinacea to use short-term during cold season.


Autoimmunity: Echinacea boosts the immune system and unfortunately, in today’s world, there are many people that suffer from autoimmune conditions.  These people have an over-activated immune system and should be careful using herbal remedies that boost immune activity, such as Echinacea.  These patients would do better using beta-glucans instead.

Medications: Echinacea can have an effect on liver enzymes and increase blood levels of certain medications including statins, allergy medications, and birth control.  Like I have mentioned before, herbs can work just as well as medications and therefore can react with medications or affect their ability to work properly.  The more you can rely on herbs PRIOR to using medications, the less interactions you have to worry about.

*This is not intended to diagnose or treat any conditions.  Please consult with a knowledgeable physician to decide it is right for you.