By Ginny Chandoha
There’s a lot of publicity this time of year about the flu. Here are some natural ways to ward off winter colds and flu.
First we must understand how the immune system works to fend off viruses. Each time our body comes into contact with a pathogen, our immune system jumps into action and makes new antibodies. Each strain of virus has a specific shape. The antibody attaches to the virus and molds itself to that particular strain’s shape. The antibody then “tags” the virus and can either neutralize the microbe itself, or signal our body’s killer cells to attack and overcome the pathogen. Antibodies constantly stream throughout our body on a search and destroy mission, looking for a shape match. It’s referred to in scientific literature as a “lock and key” system where the virus is the lock, and the molded antibody is the key.
Viral organisms constantly evolve and change shape. When an unknown virus is met, the same antibody manufacturing process unfolds. Antibodies live for many years but will eventually weaken and die. Each time we are exposed to a pathogen, our body manufactures new antibodies. This is our body’s own “booster shot” and it is how we achieve lifelong immunity.
People with weakened immune systems can have viruses, like Herpes, live within them. Viruses are organisms that need a living host in order to survive because like any other organism, they need to eat. Viruses thrive on argenine from our food as it is digested in our lower intestinal tract.
Is There Really Such A Thing as “Flu Season” and Do You Really Have the Flu?
We come into constant daily contact with viruses and other pathogens. Do we really believe that the influenza virus hovers off the coast of the United States and can’t cross its borders until “flu season?” Like any other pathogen, the influenza virus can strike at any time of the year. However, most people don’t associate a “summer cold” as possibly being the influenza virus.
There are over 200 different viruses that cause flu-like symptoms. The flu vaccine only targets around 10% of all viruses, and only those with two distinct shapes. Unless testing confirms that one has the specific influenza virus, most flu-like symptoms are caused by different viruses and other organisms such as mold and bacteria. According to the CDC, most people with flu-like symptoms tested negative for the influenza virus.
Why Are People More Prone To Colds And Flu-Like Symptoms In Winter?
In winter we are typically in closed environments, breathing each other’s germs. It’s like living in a Petri dish. In addition, heating systems that have been dormant during hot and humid months have accumulated dust, bacteria, and mold that are released into the air when heating systems are in use during winter months.
We are advised that in order to stay healthy during “flu season,” we need to avoid crowds. Our immune system is like any other part of our body and needs to be exercised. Living in a bubble would weaken our immune system through lack of antibodies created from exposure to pathogens.
So why are some people able to ward off these viral attacks while others succumb? It all depends upon the health of their immune system. In a healthy body with a strong immune system, disease can’t get a foothold. There are many reasons why immune function becomes weakened:
- Inadequate Vitamin D levels – Vitamin D is our number one antioxidant vitamin.
- Poor diet – Processed foods are low in nutrition because they contain mostly chemical and genetically modified ingredients. Processed foods destroy beneficial intestinal flora. Foods that need to be “fortified” with vitamins are non-nutritious.
- Lack of exercise – Viruses can’t survive in an oxygen-rich environment. Exercise brings more oxygen into our blood stream.
- Toxic home and personal care products – Most commercial products, even so-called “green” products, contain chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system, are neuro-toxic, and often carcinogenic.
- Pharmaceutical medications – Whether they are prescription or over-the-counter, pharmaceuticals interfere with the body’s metabolic functions. A perfect example are statins which block the body’s ability to manufacture CoQ10. CoQ10 is a key molecule for building and maintaining strong muscle tissue.
How Can We Make Our Immune System Strong to Ward Off Colds and Flu?
- Increase Vitamin D – The best source for natural Vitamin D is through sun exposure. Thirty minutes a day between the hours of 11 am and 2 pm, when UVB rays are optimal and UVA rays (the skin cancer causing ones) are minimal.
The next best option is supplementation. The Vitamin D Council recommendations are:
- Healthy children under age 1: 1,000 IU per day
- Healthy children over age 1: 1,000 IU per 25 lbs of body weight per day
- Healthy adolescents and adults: 5,000 IU per day
- The maximum level should be 10,000 IU per day unless under a physician’s care.
Make sure the Vitamin D supplementation is D3 Cholecalciferol. Natural food sources of Vitamin D are fish, Omega-3 fish or Krill oil, and egg yolks (preferably from free-range chickens).
- Nutritional diet – Eat a diet (preferably organic) high in fish such as wild-caught salmon (avoid farmed fish), raw vegetables, nuts, and dark-skinned fruits that are nature’s antioxidants.
- Vitamin and Antioxidant Supplementation – Look for organic whole food vitamins and antioxidants. Many come in powder or capsule form. Vitamins that come as tablets typically contain synthetic compounds and fillers.
- Probiotics – Our first line of defense is our skin, but our second immune defense is our digestive system. If we have beneficial intestinal flora, it destroys pathogenic bacteria. Yogurt, raw milk, and fermented foods such as Miso, contain beneficial flora. The other option is taking a probiotic supplement.
- Personal hygiene – Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, wash hands before eating. Use an organic soap for hand washing. Studies show that plain soap kills 99.9% of germs. Avoid the use of anti-bacterial soaps which contain triclosan and other harmful chemicals, including “fragrance.”
- Exercise – Exercise boosts our immune system and brings oxygen into the bloodstream. Pathogens can not survive in oxygen-rich blood.
- Sleep – Our body needs rest in order to rebuild itself.
Natural Cold and Flu Symptom Relief
Despite all of our good intentions, sometimes we still get colds or flu-like symptoms. How can we naturally gain relief?
- Water – Water is a detoxifier. It should be plain or with a bit of lemon or raw ginger root added.
- Increase Vitamin D
- Nutritional Diet
- Vitamin and Antioxidant Supplements
- L-Lysine – 400 mg of L-Lysine three times a day speeds up our body’s absorption of argenine in the upper GI tract, thereby starving a virus. Available as a capsule or in a powder (it tastes salty).
- Optimal sleep
- Exercise – While we might not feel like exercising when we are sick, it’s beneficial for two reasons: it oxygenates the blood and exercise induces sweating out toxins.
- Tea – Green tea and Detox teas contain herbs that aid healing. There are many brands on the market.
- Healing Soaks – These are great if you have a Jacuzzi or large soaking tub. Fill the tub so that you will be submerged up to your shoulders in water around 99°F-100°F. Add 2 quarts of hydrogen peroxide, 4 cups of Epsom salts, and 2 tablespoons of freshly grated raw ginger root. Soak for 30 minutes. The ginger root opens the pores, Epsom salts draw out toxins, and hydrogen peroxide oxygenates the blood. Drinking detox tea while soaking will induce sweating.
- White Willow Bark – It is nature’s natural pain reliever without side effects. It starts working a little slower than OTC pain relievers, but the effects last for hours because it remains in the bloodstream longer. Available as capsules.
- Natural Antibiotics - There are many home remedies, herbs, and botanicals available online (too many to list here) that offer symptom relief and/or bolstering the immune system.
Ultimately it’s a waiting game until our immune system fights its way back to health but we can speed up the process by providing a nourishing environment.
About the Author
Ginny Chandoha is a published writer whose short stories have appeared in The Staying Sane book series by DeCapo Press. Having spent many years in the publishing industry, she has been a contributing editor of several travel trade publications and is the author of the forthcoming book, “Lichen Sclerosis: Beating the Disease.”