No Flu for You!

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It seems like everyone and their cat has “the flu” this season. With many of the afflicted continuing to grace us with their viral presence at work, parties, in bars and in markets, it’s pretty hard to stay immune.

Some of the first signs that your body is under attack are fatigue, watery eyes and a slight runny nose. Sore throat is the most noticable, but not always present, and if not treated early enough will move further down the respiratory system. If you have a sore throat gargle with sea salt in warm water (use enough salt so that the solution is saturated) until symptoms subside.

The first line of defense, aside from staying home, is washing your hands often and well. A scrubbing action with hot water is important, not just wetting your hands and smearing the towel. Pretend you’re a surgeon or that you have something really gross on your hands (’cause this virus is nasty). A sufficient wash will take about 20 seconds, which will seem like 5 minutes, but that is what it takes.

When you don’t have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer. I keep an essential oil spray in my purse and the car. EO (cobalt blue bottle) makes a nice spritzer with lavender (has anti-viral properties) and other essential oils. They have a slim bottle that will even fit in a pant pocket. Spritz your hands when you can’t wash them, whenever you’ve touched something or someone. It seems anal, but it helps tremendously. Viruses won’t enter your skin pores, but you never know when you’ll touch your nose, mouth or eyes, especially in dry weather. side tip: spray a bit on a tissue and inhale in regular intervals if you’re in a crowded area e.g. airplane.

The key to staying healthy is to support your immune system before/ as soon as you notice symptoms. Here are some simple tips, in no particular order:

1) Avoid sugar (suppresses your immune system), dairy (produces phlegm), wheat (suppresses immune system) and over-eating (taps energy).

2) Take a daily probiotic. (quality is key). 70% of your immune system is in your digestive tract. By supporting your digestion, in this case by increasing the number of “friendly” bacteria in your gut, you prevent the “unfriendly” bacteria from proliferating and weakening your immune response.

3) 15 minutes before breakfast, take a shot of apple cider vinegar (raw, organic and undistilled with “mother” [a cobweb like deposit] e.g. from Bragg’s) with warm water. Shot glass- 1:4 vinegar: water. The efficacy of ACV is controversial, but there are enough people who sing its praises to make it worth a try. It’s hard to drink, especially for those who hate vinegar. If you loathe it, don’t do it.

4) Squeeze juice of 2 washed, organic lemons into tea pot, add peel, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 2 teaspoons fresh ginger juice, add boiling water. Add 1 teaspoon of raw honey to cup before pouring tea. If you have a juicer: Juice two lemons with peel and 2 generous cubes of ginger, stir and add 2 teaspoons of that to a cup, then add a pinch of cayenne and hot water with raw honey.

You can also make an immune boost shot: fill 1/2 shot glass with fresh lemon+ginger juice, fill to top with tepid water, add a sprinkle of cayenne. Take shot and chase with 1/2 teaspoon of honey. Drink any of these versions 3 times per day, before meals.

Note: not all raw honey is created equal. Make sure the name and address of the producer is on the bottle. With the honey shortage in recent years (poor bees), there has been an influx of honey from countries like China that have illegally circumvented quality assurance. 75% of honey in the US isn’t actually pure honey, this means that either it has been watered down or the pollen has been removed to the point that it isn’t considered pure and it loses its medicinal benefit. So buy local, organic, raw honey, if you can or from a certified trusted source. Supposedly Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carry real honey. It’s better to spend a little more on a good product than to get a dose of sugar paste.

If you’re already feeling the effects of a cold/ flu, you’ll want to add some fresh garlic for an added anti-microbial boost. If you have low blood pressure, don’t use garlic.

5) Stay hydrated with herbal teas and water (viruses like it dry and your nasal passages and lungs needs moisture). Gaia Herbs has a “Bronchial Wellness” tea that will support your lungs before and during a cold/flu. (note: it contains licorice, so if you have high blood pressure, don’t drink more than 1 cup per day) Traditional Medicinals also has one, but it contains a Chinese proprietary blend and although effective, I’m always a bit leary of herbs from China. This product is also only 88% organic. It works, though, so better than nothing.

6) Green Tea is part of a daily healthy diet and especially effective during cold/flu season. Some researchers have found that the catechins in green tea inhibit the replication of influenza virus. As with anything else, organic is best.

7) Olbas makes a nice massage oil that works well as an inhalant. If you don’t have a humidifier, boil some water and steam inhale with 3 drops of oil, add more oil as needed. It’s pretty potent, so inhale gently.

8) Gaia has an expensive (~$26), but good, elderberry syrup for night-time immune support. It also contains Poppy and Lemon Balm to relax the nervous system.

9) If you can’t expose 10% of your body to 10 minutes of sunshine per day, then take a vitamin D supplement. Solgar has a 2200IU vegetarian capsule.

10) Vitamin C- Solgar: Ester C in 500mg or 1000mg capsules. Take 3000 mg per day.

During the high risk weeks, avoid drinking caffeine stimulants in the morning, so you can assess actual energy levels. If you feel especially tired and don’t have a probable cause, it would be advisable to take it a bit slower. If possible, take an illness-prevention day from work. Exercise is still great, but keep it moderate.

From anecdotal evidence and research these easy tips can help prevent/ lessen the effects of a cold/flu; assuming that you have a healthy digestive system. If your digestion is not optimal, (1 nicely formed BM per day, no cramping, bloating or belching), then you should address that as well; not just to prevent the flu, but for all other health maintenance and illness prevention measures….but that is another topic.

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