BY DEBBIE PAGE
This year’s flu season is on track to be one of the worst in decades, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. With the Centers for Disease Control now reporting widespread flu activity in North Carolina, many people are looking for ways to reduce their chances of catching the sometimes deadly virus.
The CDC estimates there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses, 55,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths from flu through the end of December. Thirty-nine children have died from flu through January 11.
Of course, getting a flu shot in the fall is an important preventative, and it’s not too late to get one since the flu season usually continues through March. However, folks can do other things to boost their chances of avoiding the nasty bugs going around.
Avoiding close contact with people who are sick is important, and keeping your distance from others to protect them from getting sick if you are. Stay home when you are sick.
Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing may prevent those around you from getting sick from flu and other serious respiratory illnesses such as RSV, whooping cough, and SARS.
Washing your hands often will offer protection from germs. Use an alcohol-based hand rub when you cannot wash. Also, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth since these offer openings for viruses to enter the body.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school, especially when someone is sick. Use those sanitizing wipes on store shopping carts to avoid viruses and germs.
Getting plenty of sleep, staying physically active, managing stress, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating nutritious food will also keep the body stronger to fight off any illness.
COLD OR FLU?
Valerie Mills, who holds a Bachelor of Nursing degree as well as Certified Natural Health Professional and Pastoral Medicine designations, recently presented an array of flu prevention tips in a presentation to patrons at the J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library.
People often mistake a cold for the flu. A cold usually last about a week and will have mild symptoms of runny nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, and mental fogginess. The flu can last several weeks and presents with a fever, congestion, cough, sore throat, and intense body aches and pain.
Mills noted that to get quickly healthy again when suffering an illness, a person has to be healthy in the first place. Strengthening the immune system is important in maintaining good health.
Mills said that a person’s immunity comes through having had a virus (like chicken pox), vaccinations, booster shots (like tetanus), and antibodies people receive from their mothers.
Three factors determine whether a person gets sick: the contact with a virus, the strength of the virus, and the strength of the person’s immune system.
A whopping 80 percent of the immune system cells are located in the gut, making taking a probiotic supplement important in strengthening it. Mills recommended probiotic products with at least 1 billion units of Bifido bacterium.
Symptoms of leaky gut include bloating, belching, cramps, tiredness after eating, general feeling of ill health, rashes, belly fat, and insomnia. When the junctions of the digestive system get loose, caused by inflammation, the controls on what passes through the lining of the small intestine do not work properly. These loose junctures can let substances leak into the bloodstream.
IMMUNE SYSTEM SUPPORTS
Mills suggests several immune system supports to prevent flu or lessen its severity. Exercise and stress reduction through meditation or yoga will help. Balancing blood sugar and eating whole, fresh, antioxidant and nutrient foods will also strengthen germ resistance.
Mills also suggests eating omega 3 fats found in cold water fish (such as salmon, tuna, and sardines), canola oil, soy products (such as soybean oil, tofu, and edamame), chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, some leafy greens (including kale, romaine, arugula, and spinach), and mungo, navy, and kidney beans.
Other foods important to add to an immune boosting diet are fresh organic fruits and vegetables, land and sea (seaweed) greens, algae, mushrooms, garlic, bell peppers, ginger, apple cider vinegar, and turmeric.
Mills suggests making fruit-free savory green smoothies or healthy soups with some of these ingredients to fight flu or cold illnesses.
She also advises eating foods high in zinc, selenium, manganese, Vitamin A, C and D, and sulfur-containing amino acids to get those immune boosting nutrients.
Mills also recommends reducing exposure to environmental toxins (cleaning chemicals, etc.) and dietary toxin exposure (pesticides, allergens).
According to natural medicine, people fighting illnesses should avoid sugar, trans fats, heated oils, MSG, food preservatives, processed grains, and artificial flavorings and food colorings that slow and damage the immune system.
Infections, allergens, low thyroid function, and cortisol (a body chemical increased when under stress) also negatively affect immunity.
HERBS FOR HEALING
To boost the immune system for short term illnesses like cold or flu, Mills suggesting adding immunostimulating herbal supplements, including garlic, wild indigo, boneset, spilanthes, usnea, myrrh, echinacea, and elderberry.
Mills suggests supplementing hourly with some of these herbal remedies at the first sign of illness, including throat tickles, sniffles, runny eyes, and low energy.
Drinking pure spring or well water (no chemicals added), avoiding sweets (which increase inflammation), and avoiding hard to digest foods that require more attention from the gut system will also help the body to heal.
Adding dried herbs such as coriander, parsley flakes, saffron, cloves, cayenne, rosemary, marjoram, tarragon, dill weed, and thyme to soups or meals will help naturally boost Vitamin C intake. Drinking organic or homemade bone broths, with the addition of some of these herbs, is also immune boosting.
Those interested in natural healing can follow and contact Mills on her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/drvalerieamills/.