Preventing the Flu
News media are flooded these days with frightening predictions of catastrophic epidemics and escalating deaths from flu viruses, the H1N1 virus in particular. Our Pacific Naturopathic office, consequently, is fielding calls from concerned patients as to what they can do to prevent the flu.
Putting things in naturopathic perspective, we remember that, in prevention of infection, there are always two factors to consider. One is the virulence of the microbe (in this case a virus), and the other is the receptivity of the host. The H1N1 virus has not shown itself to be particularly virulent, as compared to other flu viruses. It is the concern that the virus might become a super virus that has borders closing, schools shutting their doors, and hospitals denying non patient visits to children under 16.
It does make sense to stay out of the way of the virus. In many cultures, gauze face masks are worn out of courtesy when a person suspects they are contagious and need to be out and about. Others wear the masks in crowded contained spaces such as subways or airplanes. Given that we don’t tend to do that, we can still protect ourselves to some degree. Not sharing telephones, pens, silverware and personal items with others is one good idea. And frequent hand washing and not touching hands to face is an effective way to avoid contact.
The H1N1 virus enters the body through the nose, mouth, and throat. Gargling with salt water twice a day, and using your neti pot or saline nasal spray to rinse your nasal cavities can prevent the virus from settling in and proliferating in your body. Drinking plenty of water or herbal tea has a synergistic effect, rinsing the virus away into the stomach, where it cannot survive.
You can do a number of things to ensure that any virus that makes it past the avoidance and initial defenses does not thrive in your body. Optimal levels of vitamin D are protective against the flu. Ideally, as part of your wellness plan, you will have had your 25 hydroxy vitamin D levels checked, and will be taking an appropriate dose of vitamin D3. If not, you can safely take 2000 IU vitamin D3 daily as a kind of insurance policy.
Blood sugar control is essential to immune protection as sugar acidifies the body, promotes the growth of unfriendly organisms, and incapacitates white blood cells. Children get sick at Halloween, not because they’re out in the cold with other children, but because their immune systems are suppressed by the Halloween candy. So stay away from those sugar treats!
Exercise oxygenates the blood and supports the immune system. Exercise in fresh air gives the added benefit of stabilizing your body’s electromagnetic field through contact with the earth, and vitalizing you through the healing rays of the sun. Exercise with intentional breathwork directs healing energy through the energy meridians in your body.
Beyond these lifestyle techniques, there are combination homeopathics which are used for flu prevention and flu treatment; botanical remedies which strengthen the immune system; and nutrtitional and glandular support to optimize all body systems. If you are low in B12, folic acid, or iron, you will be more prone to infection, and will stay sick longer. If your thyroid function is not optimal, the same will be true. If you are uncertain about your nutritional status or your immune functioning in general, it is wise to consult a trusted health practitioner to formulate an individualized plan to support yourself through the flu season and beyond.