Swine Flu PreventionApril 27, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
There are few people who are not aware of the current public health concern surrounding the “Swine Flu”. Words like “pandemic” and “quarantine” are being bandied about in such a way that it could very well provoke anxiety and, even, panic. In particular, many citizens of Mexico and the United States are on edge right now because this threat is at our doorstep. But even those living in other parts of the world understand the potential of a highly infectious virus to spread beyond manmade borders.
I won’t cite figures and theoretical projections about the course of this most recent “crisis”. Instead, I’d like to focus on the positive side of things. As hard as it may be to believe, there is something constructive that can come out of situations such as this. There are proactive measures that can be taken to help support immune function and, possibly, improve the odds of avoiding any viral invaders you encounter on a daily basis.
Flu Symptoms at a Glance
|Fever||Fever is pretty rare with a cold.||Fever is usually present with the flu. A temperature of 101°F or higher for 3 to 4 days is associated with the flu.|
|Aches||Slight body aches and pains can be part of a cold.||Severe aches and pains are common with the flu.|
|Chills||Chills are uncommon with a cold.||Chills are fairly common in most flu cases. Chills and shivering are a normal reaction to a cold environment, but unexplained chills can also be a sign of the flu.|
|Tiredness||Tiredness is fairly mild with a cold.||Tiredness is moderate to severe with the flu. It’s normal to feel tired at the end of a long day or when yo don’t get adequate sleep, but unexplained tiredness can be a sign of the flu.|
|Sudden Symptoms||Cold symptoms are not sudden and develop over a few days.||The flu has a rapid onset with 3-6 hours. The flu hits hard and includes sudden symptoms like high fever, aches and pains.|
|Coughing||A hacking, productive (mucus producing) cough is often present with a cold.||A dry, nonproductive cough that does not produce mucus is usually present with the flu.|
|Sneezing||Sneezing is commonly present with a cold.||Sneezing is not as common, but can accompany the flu.|
|Stuffy or Runny Nose||A stuffy or runny nose usually accompanies a cold and typically resolves spontaneously within a week.||Stuffy or runny nose can be present with the flu.|
|Sore Throat||Sore throat is commonly present with a cold. A sore throat is pain and inflammation is in the throat that usually comes with a cold.||Sore throat is not as common, but can be present with the flu.|
|Chest Discomfort||Chest discomfort is mild to moderate with a cold.||Chest discomfort is often severe with the flu. Chest discomfort is pain or abnormal sensations that you feel anywhere along the front of your body between your neck and upper abdomen.|
|Headache||A headache is fairly uncommon with a cold.||A headache is very common with the flu, present in 80% of flu cases.|
The three best ways to protect yourself from this current threat and any that may follow are: 1) maintain a potent immune system; 2) use common sense measures to protect yourself; and 3) encourage the same in those around you (see the second image below).
There are many natural substances that help support immunity. Below, I’ve put together a list of several inexpensive options that are widely available and that also promote other aspects of good health. All of these measures are very safe and have what I call “side benefits” (as opposed to “side effects”).
- Don’t Panic: Stress suppresses your ability to fight infections (1,2). You can literally worry yourself sick or find a way to constructively process these very real feelings. Go for a walk with a friend. Practice deep breathing or guided imagery. Meditate. Get a massage. Watch funny movies – laugh! (1,2) You may not be able to control the viral realm of the world, but you can help your body and mind be strong in the face of any viral challenge.
- Don’t Comfort Yourself with Sugar: As tempting as it may be, try to avoid reaching for starchy and sugary snacks to soothe negative feelings. A famous study from 1973 indicates that consuming large amounts of carbohydrates and sugar can drastically lower the activity of neutrophils. Neutrophils account for about 50-70% of white blood cells and are the first responders when an infection is detected by the body. The effects of these unhealthy carbohydrates can last for over 5 hours.
- Sleep It Off: When in the midst of an illness the body often demands more sleep, simply because sleep helps strengthen the body’s defenses. The same is true when trying to stay well. The key is to get adequate sleep (usually between 7-9 hours) in a completely dark environment. Darkness is necessary in order for the brain to produce adequate/optimal levels of melatonin, which may be responsible for some of the immune-boosting effects of sleep. (1,2)
- Let the Sunshine In: There’s a growing body of evidence that vitamin D is imperative for optimal immune function. You can prime your body’s immune system by getting regular sun exposure. The key is to spend time in the sun during the morning and evening hours so as not to get a sunburn. Some experts recommend 15 minutes or more of “smart sun exposure” several times a week. Nutritional supplements can also be used to ensure a consistent and adequate supply of vitamin D.
- Know Your Berries: Black currant and black elderberry extracts (1,2) may help combat influenza. Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, an Israeli virologist, proposes that black elderberries may interfere with the flu virus’ ability to attach to healthy cells.
- Drink and Gargle with Tea: A study from September 2006 found that gargling with a green tea extract helped to prevent the incidence of influenza in a nursing home setting. Subjects gargled 3 times a day for 3 months with a green tea concentrate that was standardized for catechin and ECGC content. A 1997 study also found anti-influenza activity in patients who gargled with a black tea extract. Many other laboratory experiments suggest a role for tea in the prevention of flu-related illnesses and in supporting the immune system (1,2,3)
- Take Your Multi: There are many nutrients that are absolutely vital to ensure healthy immunity. The simplest way to nutritionally “cover your bases” is to take a high potency multivitamin/mineral. Ideally, this means taking a supplement that needs to be consumed 2-3 times a day with meals or snacks.
If we’re fortunate, this “Swine Flu” will come and go without serious consequence. But even if that’s the case, there may be similar challenges in the future. So, the most effective defense we have as individuals is to prepare the immune system for whatever challenges may come.
5/7/09 Update: A Probiotic That Fights the Flu
5/11/09 Update: H1N1 Swine Flu and Propolis
7/24/09 Update: Fish Oil and Swine Flu Risk
8/14/09 Update: Beta Glucan, Pomegranate and Tamiflu
9/01/09 Update: Andrographis Paniculata and Immune Support
10/07/09 Update: Elderberry Flu Protection
10/21/09 Update: Umcka for Upper Respiratory Infections
11/06/09 Update: Antioxidant Protection Against H1N1
11/13/09 Update: An H1N1 Success Story
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Nutritional Supplements