What to Do When You Have The Flu?

According to the CDC between 5% and 20% of the U.S. population comes down with the flu each year. If you’re one of them, let me share with you the strategies that I recommend to my family and friends to strengthen your immune function and minimize the effects of the flu virus. Home remedies for flu are highly effective.

Using flu vaccines to prevent the flu and/or using antiviral medications to fight the flu is appropriate in some situations. But, that’s outside the scope of nutrition practice, and I suggest that you talk with your physician to decide if either of these strategies will be useful in your unique case. Fortunately, whether or not you choose to vaccinate yourself against the flu or take antiviral medication, you can still use these supportive strategies to prevent and recover from the effects of the flu more easily.

How The Flu Virus Works

First, understand that viruses must use our cellular machinery to replicate. The flu virus can not survive without hijacking your cells and using them to reproduce and spread. Plus, the symptoms that you feel from the flu are primarily related to the fact that when the virus overtakes your cells, you will feel fatigued from the biochemical “fight,” and experience inflammation from activation of the immune response. While activation of the immune response is key to fighting the virus, excessive inflammation is counterproductive to your healing because the immune response will actually be less precise. And, when your mitochondria are overwhelmed, you’ll feel like you’ve run out of energy.

Build Resilience

Creating an anti-inflammatory environment in your body, supporting your immune system, supporting your mitochondria – which allow you to maintain the energy you need to fight the virus, and using strategies that limit the virus’ ability to reproduce is how you can resist or more quickly recover from the flu.

In addition to using home remedies for flu, don’t forget that good hygiene, such as hand washing, is essential to limiting your exposure to the flu (and other viral infections.)

Create An Anti-inflammatory Environment in Your Body

Avoid sugar, gluten, dairy, and other inflammatory foods ideally 90% of the time all year round, but especially during “flu season.” If you or your kids get the flu, avoid these three inflammatory foods for three weeks to speed and ease the recovery.

Eat 8-10 servings of vegetables daily, and 1-2 servings of fruit such as berries, green apples, or citrus. Eating more fruits and vegetables has been shown specifically in pregnancy to lower the risk of respiratory infections.

Enjoy high quality proteins like grass-fed, organic, and/or wild caught fish, poultry and meats, beans, and healthy fats including avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds.

Do eat soup, your grandmother was right. This recipe works great for fighting the flu too!

Use antiinflammatory herbs and spices in your cooking.  My favorites are turmeric, garlic, ginger, oregano, and rosemary.

One of the most powerful home remedies for flu is to mince 2 cloves of garlic twice daily at the first signs of a cold, flu, or other illness and chug it in a few ounces of orange juice (so you and your kids can tolerate the taste.)  You can also blend the garlic cloves in a high speed blender with the orange juice or in a green smoothie to mask the taste.

  • Dose: 2 cloves of garlic, minced or blended, twice daily for 3-5 days.

Drink 40-60 ounces of water or herbal tea daily, plus drink additional water if you feel thirsty. Add an electrolyte powder (1 serving daily) to improve hydration.

Have 1-3 bowel movements daily. Each bowel movement should be the consistency of a yellow banana, and about 12 inches long.

Shut off all blue light devices (like laptops, televisions, and cell phones) by 9pm or earlier.

Create a bedtime routine, such as taking a warm bath, drinking camomile tea, or reading light fiction, as a way to wind down to sleep by 10pm.

Spend at least 30 minutes daily outside in daylight without sunglasses.

Supplements with Direct Antiviral Activity

Licorice. I prefer to take this as a tea. My favorite licorice teas are, Aveda Comfort Tea and Rishi Turmeric Ginger Tea.

Be cautious. Excessive use of licorice can increase blood pressure and lower testosterone level. However, by just drinking licorice tea, you’re unlikely to get excessive doses of licorice.

Zinc. 50mg per day for a few days during an acute infection, or 10-20mg daily for prevention (if dosing above 20mg daily add 2-4mg of copper.)

Using up to 3-4 lozenges per day, or taking up to 50mg of zinc in capsule form is helpful during the acute phase of your symptoms.

Melissa officinalis. Otherwise known as lemon balm, Melissa officianalis has directly antiviral benefits. I like it in the On Guard essential oil form to support overall immune health.

In fact, I practically bathe our family in On Guard essential oil to prevent or minimize flu and similar viruses. It works diffused, in soap, and even in toothpaste.

Selenium. Dose at a high dose 600-800mcg (MICROGRAMS!) per day for up to 3 days during the acute phase. A maintenance or preventive dose is 200mcg per day. (One Brazil nut per day provides about 200mcg per day.)

Home remedies for flu that work by making it hard for the virus to reproduce.

As I mentioned earlier, the flu virus must use our cellular machinery to replicate, and one way that this is done is by hijacking NFkB. NFkB is modulated by a variety of nutrients, foods, and herbs. So, while not all nutrients that suppress NFkB have been studied with the flu virus specifically, they can all be helpful because sometimes having one virus can actually trigger the activity of other suppressed viruses. Additionally, most of these nutrients, foods, and herbs have antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties as well. Here are a few of the most evidence based and clinically effective in my practice.

N-acetyl-cysteine. This is a key amino acid to take between meals that is a precursor to your “master antioxidant” (glutathione), and will modulate NFkB. Take 500mg, three times daily for acute symptoms for a few days, then reduce to 500mg, twice daily as a maintenance dose.

Other nutrients that inhibit NFkB and have been studied to reduce the severity of or complications from the flu, at least in cell culture or animal studies are:

Immune Support

In addition to anti-viral and anti-replication strategies, it’s helpful to support overall immune system resilience. One of the best ways to do so is with medicinal mushrooms like astragalus, shiitake, and maitake. One of my kids LOVES mushrooms, but the other HATES them. So, I use Immunoberry Liquid in addition to the culinary mushrooms I can get my kids to eat.

Finally, let’s not discount the role of Vitamin D. While it’s controversial whether vitamin D prevents or treats the flu, some researchers have gone as far as to suggest mandatory vitamin D supplementation to prevent the flu.  It’s best to take a D3/K2 supplement to prevent calcification of the arteries. For the acute phase use 10,000IU daily, and as a maintenance dose use 2000IU – 5000IU daily. (*Don’t use vitamin D supplementation without talking to your physician if you have granuloma disease/ hypercalcemia, or are on Hydralazine or high blood pressure, or Procainamide for arrhythmia.)

The great news is that you now have a full toolbox of evidence-based, clinically effective, and simple home remedies for flu at your disposal. Build your resilience to prevent the flu, and if you should get the flu use these strategies to minimize it’s ability to take you down!

References:

Dai J, Gu L, Su Y, Wang Q, Zhao Y, Chen X, Deng H, Li W, Wang G, & Li K. (2018) Inhibition of curcumin on influenza A virus infection and influenzal pneumonia via oxidative stress, TLR2/4, p38/JNK MAPK and NF-κB pathways. Int Immunopharmacol, 54, 177-187. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2017.11.009.

Goldstein MR, Mascitelli L, & Pezzetta F. (2010) Pandemic influenza A (H1N1): mandatory vitamin D supplementation? Med Hypotheses, 74(4), 756. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2009.11.006.

Gruber-Bzura B. M. (2018). Vitamin D and Influenza-Prevention or Therapy?. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(8), 2419. doi:10.3390/ijms19082419

Li, L., & Werler, M. M. (2009). Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of upper respiratory tract infection in pregnant women. Public health nutrition, 13(2), 276-82.

Shimizu T, Hino A, Tsutsumi A, Park YK, Watanabe W, & Kurokawa M. (2008) Anti-influenza virus activity of propolis in vitro and its efficacy against influenza infection in mice. Antivir Chem Chemother, 19(1), 7-13.

Song JM, Lee KH, & Seong BL. (2005) Antiviral effect of catechins in green tea on influenza virus. Antiviral Res, 68(2),66-74

 

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