Influenza: Your Family’s Protection Plan

Flu season typically peaks between January and February, but the time to start boosting your family’s immunity is NOW! Today I’m sharing a list of practical tips to help you put together a protection plan. There are many steps you can take to cut your risk of contracting the flu (or reduce the severity and duration if you do catch it).

A Few Quick Flu Stats

  • Every year between 5 and 20% of the population end up with the flu.1

  • Symptoms include a fever of 100͒ or higher (or a generally achy feverish feeling with or without the temperature spike), cough and/or sore throat, a runny or congested nose, headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.2
  • The flu is transferred through droplets from sneezes and coughs. It can also be passed around with contaminated objects such as toys, computers and phones.

Nutrition and Lifestyle Tips

1. Cut out foods that suppress the immune system.

The most important thing you can do this season as far as diet goes is to give sugar the boot. Sweeteners (even healthier ones such as raw honey and coconut palm sugar) are pro-inflammatory when eaten in excess.

You’ll also want to cut back on gluten and dairy during this time of year. Both are linked to increased inflammation and mucous production.

To replace these foods with better choices, a little planning is key.

  • Breakfast: Instead of cereal or bagels, plan high-protein breakfasts that include eggs, protein shakes or homemade turkey sausage. A little fruit on the side provides disease-fighting phytonutrients.
  • Lunch: Take nutrient-dense salad, topped with chicken or fish. Add some texture – diced apples, shredded beets and crunchy sunflower seeds.
  • Dinner: Ditch pizza and lasagna for a meat & two, or a healthy stir-fry with a probiotic-rich miso sauce over basmati rice.

2. Load up on foods that boost immunity.

Turmeric – Researchers at Oregon State University discovered that curcumin, the active element in turmeric, stimulates the “innate” immune response by “modestly but measurably” increasing the levels of a protein (cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide – CAMP) that can fend off viruses and other invaders – even if its the first time the body has come into contact with them.3

This aspect of immunity is present at birth, so even young children can benefit if you incorporate this mildly-flavored herb in your cooking. Nursing infants can benefit from Mom’s diet.(Don’t supplement young kids with curcumin unless instructed by your doctor.)

Turmeric may be especially helpful against the stomach flu.

Sprinkle some ground turmeric (on its own or as a component of curry) onto your family’s meals, or grate the fresh root into some into very hot water for a warm turmeric tonic.

Homemade Bone Broth – A.K.A. stock, this mineral-rich base for soups can play a key role in restoring the integrity of your gut lining, thereby boosting your overall health and immunity.

Gently simmer bony chicken parts or beef bones in water with a couple of carrots, celery stocks an onion and a splash of apple cider vinegar for at least 3 hours. Lamb stock is delicious too!

Orange Winter Vegetables – So many to choose from! Butternut & kabocha squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots … we could go on and on. These perfectly-timed seasonal veggies are both nourishing and detoxifying, with loads of antioxidants, carotenoids and a heavy dose of vitamin C.

Cultured Foods – No immune-boosting protocol would be complete without probiotic-rich cultured foods. Several times a week or even daily, incorporate sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, miso or traditionally made pickles (such as Bubbie’s brand – using only sea salt to ferment). If you feel bloated and uncomfortable after eating cultured foods, talk with your doctor. You may be dealing with SIBO.

3. Eat foods that keep your respiratory system in top form.

This is especially important for children and adults who have asthma and/or allergies so that the respiratory system is in good shape in case they come down with the flu.

Incorporate into your diet onion, salmon, avocado, apples, chia seeds and dark leafy greens – all superfoods for asthmatics.

4. Elderberry syrup

Numerous clinical studies have shown that elderberries effectively target the flu, by binding to the virus and inhibiting it from taking hold (or from replicating). Elderberry has also been shown to stimulate flu antibodies.4,5,6

You can purchase elderberry syrup at a health food store, or make it yourself by simmering dried elderberries (purchase here) in water for 30 minutes to make a decoction (tea). Add a little honey and/or juice to make it more palatable.

5. Practice good hygiene

Make sure everyone is washing hands frequently, especially when returning from school or work and before meals.

Another thing you will want to keep clean is the inside of your nose! This is the first line of defense against airborne viruses. To keep your nose clean and sanitized, use an all-natural saline spray throughout the day or try the neti pot once or twice a day during flu season.

Lastly, disinfect shared toys, computers, phones and other surfaces more frequently during flu season.

6. Vitamin D3

This nutrient regulates and strengthens the immune system. Adults can take 2000 IU per day to bolster immunity and children, 2 years and older, can take 400 IU daily. 

7. Astragalus

Adults can take one dropperful of the tincture daily this season and move to 3x per day at the onset of a cold or flu, but don’t continue it if you have a fever. This adaptogenic herb boosts immunity and is great during season changes and other times of transition. Children, 2 years and older, can take half of a dropperful daily during the flu season.

8. Get some rest and plan “self-care” into your routine.

While diet is very important, if you don’t get adequate rest your immune system is going to tank. Strive for 7-9 hours of sleep every night and pace your activity during the day. It’s also important to schedule in “you time” – slow down with a restorative yoga class, a massage or just some time to sit down and reflect with a chai smoothie!

The Flu Vaccine & Therapeutic Injections

Here are some injections that I offer at my clinic beginning this time of year – especially to those who are at a greater risk this flu season.

1. Preservative-free flu shots

We offer mercury-free flu shots made by Alfuria for those age 5 and up.  

A little tip: if you are getting the flu shot this year – NSAID fever reducers (such as ibuprofen) can reduce the effectiveness by inhibiting your body’s production of flu antibodies. If you are concerned about pain or fever associated with the vaccine, talk to your doctor before taking a NSAID in conjunction with the vaccine.

2. Engystol Homeopathic

This immune booster can bolster you against the cold, flu and sinus conditions. You can get a shot at the start of the season as a preventative, or as soon as you notice symptoms to lessen the severity and duration of your illness.

3. Myers Cocktail

This formula of intravenous nutrients (including B12, magnesium and vitamin C) helps with cellular energy and metabolism while boosting energy levels and immunity.

4. Vitamin C Shots & Infusions

Intravenous Vitamin C can add an extra boost for those who are immunocompromised, such as those undergoing chemotherapy.