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Natural Flu News You Can Use

January 11, 2013 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Flu season is in full swing once again. This past week, the nightly news has been inundated with stories warning of a particularly troublesome flu pattern that’s currently in effect and expected to continue in the days, weeks and months to come. The advice from many conventional doctors is to get vaccinated immediately and to seek medical assistance at the first sign of the flu. The latter suggestion typically involves the use of antiviral medications such as Relenza and Tamiflu. Alternative and complementary physicians often take a more holistic approach advocating such practices as supplementing with immune boosting herbs, mushrooms and nutrients. Dietary changes, including a reduction in refined carbohydrates and daily consumption of green tea, are frequently recommended by alt-med practitioners as well.

The decision about whether to get the flu vaccine and/or to use Relenza or Tamiflu is something that needs to be made in consultation with a trusted health care practitioner. In some instances, the pros may outweigh the cons. However, I will only point out that the advice disseminated in national print and television is often very one-sided. In that light, here are a few underreported quotes by respected physicians that you may also want to keep in mind:

  • Re: Tamiflu – “There are concerns on a number of fronts: the likely overstating of effectiveness and apparent under-reporting of potentially adverse effects”. Dr. Fiona Godlee, British Medical Journal editor-in-chief
  • Re: Vaccination – “We have overpromoted and overhyped this vaccine. It does not protect as promoted. It’s all a sales job. It’s all public relations.” Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy

No matter how you decide to protect yourself from influenza, I suggest that you add meditation to your overall approach. A recent study in the Annals of Family Medicine reports that daily meditation, in and of itself, reduces the incidence and severity of acute respiratory infection, including the flu. Previous research indicates that this may be due, in large part, to the strengthening of the immune system. Specifically, various forms of meditation have been found to “upregulate” the function of immune cells such as natural killer cells and phagocytes. Meditation’s importance in shielding against infection via the mucous membranes in the eyes, mouth and nose has likewise been established. This particular protection is a result of an increase in a substance known as sIgA (salivary secretory immunoglobin A) which plays a vital role in mucosal immune function. In addition, it’s important to note that meditation confers specific immune benefits in times of physical or psychological stress. This alone can be invaluable when reading or watching the sometimes distressing news about the prevalence and spread of the flu.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – WebMD: Does Tamiflu Work? Questions Continue (link)

Study 2 – Antivirals for Treatment of Influenza: A Systematic Review (link)

Study 3 – NY Times: Reassessing Flu Shots as the Season Draws Near(link)

Study 4 – Meditation or Exercise for Preventing Acute Respiratory Infection (link)

Study 5 – Pranic Meditation Affects Phagocyte Functions and Hormonal Levels (link)

Study 6 – Enhanced Psychosocial Well-Being Following Participation in (link)

Study 7 – Mucosal Immunity Modulated by Integrative Meditation in a Dose (link)

Study 8 – Effect of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction on Immune Function (link)

Study 9 – A Pilot Randomized Trial Assessing the Effects of Autogenic Training (link)

Study 10 – Meditation: A Modulator of the Immune Response to Physical Stress? (link)

Meditation Improves Immune Response to Upper Respiratory Infections

Source: J Altern Complement Med. 2010 May; 16(5): 531–538. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, General Health, Mental Health

5 Comments & Updates to “Natural Flu News You Can Use”

  1. JD Says:

    No flu shot here. Haven’t had one in since a kid. Haven’t tried meditation..only lots of praying 😉

  2. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    “Stoss Therapy” has always worked for me, provided the infection started with a sore throat and that I started the mega-dose immediately. http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/news-archive/2006/vitamin-d-atherosclerosis-and-influenza/

  3. JP Says:


    Prayer can be viewed as a form of meditation. It involves attentive thought and a quiet mind. Meditation comes in so many forms. 🙂

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Thank you for the valuable reminder, Iggy!

    Vitamin D plays an important role in natural influenza protection. Even conventional medicine is starting to come around to this idea:


    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 06/25/18:


    PLoS One. 2018 Jun 22;13(6):e0197778.

    Meditation or exercise for preventing acute respiratory infection (MEPARI-2): A randomized controlled trial.

    BACKGROUND: Practice of meditation or exercise may enhance health to protect against acute infectious illness.

    OBJECTIVE: To assess preventive effects of meditation and exercise on acute respiratory infection (ARI) illness.

    DESIGN: Randomized controlled prevention trial with three parallel groups.

    SETTING: Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

    PARTICIPANTS: Community-recruited adults who did not regularly exercise or meditate.

    METHODS: 1) 8-week behavioral training in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR); 2) matched 8-week training in moderate intensity sustained exercise (EX); or 3) observational waitlist control. Training classes occurred in September and October, with weekly ARI surveillance through May. Incidence, duration, and area-under-curve ARI global severity were measured using daily reports on the WURSS-24 during ARI illness. Viruses were identified multiplex PCR. Absenteeism, health care utilization, and psychosocial health self-report assessments were also employed.

    RESULTS: Of 413 participants randomized, 390 completed the trial. In the MBSR group, 74 experienced 112 ARI episodes with 1045 days of ARI illness. Among exercisers, 84 had 120 episodes totaling 1010 illness days. Eighty-two of the controls had 134 episodes with 1210 days of ARI illness. Mean global severity was 315 for MBSR (95% confidence interval 244, 386), 256 (193, 318) for EX, and 336 (268, 403) for controls. A prespecified multivariate zero-inflated regression model suggested reduced incidence for MBSR (p = 0.036) and lower global severity for EX (p = 0.042), compared to control, not quite attaining the p<0.025 prespecified cut-off for null hypothesis rejection. There were 73 ARI-related missed-work days and 22 ARI-related health care visits in the MBSR group, 82 days and 21 visits for exercisers, and 105 days and 24 visits among controls. Viruses were identified in 63 ARI episodes in the MBSR group, compared to 64 for EX and 72 for control. Statistically significant (p<0.05) improvements in general mental health, self-efficacy, mindful attention, sleep quality, perceived stress, and depressive symptoms were observed in the MBSR and/or EX groups, compared to control.

    CONCLUSIONS: Training in mindfulness meditation or exercise may help protect against ARI illness.

    LIMITATIONS: This trial was likely underpowered.

    Be well!


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