7 Things to Take for Flu Prevention
Have you gotten the flu shot already? I have not. I never have.
You would think that’s obvious. I am a naturopathic doctor (ND), after all. And all NDs are anti-vaccine, right?
Wrong. I am only against unnecessary and excessive vaccination.
I have seen about six people who faithfully got the flu vaccine and still got a bad flu—I mean the type that put them out.
What is the flu?
The “flu” is short for the influenza virus. Technically speaking, one gets the flu anywhere between October and May. This time period is called the flu season.
Primetime for the flu in the U.S. is between November and March. If I had to say which month had the most cases, I’d say February.
What should you do?
Well, you may have already gotten the flu shot. The problem is that the vaccine is developed based on scientists’ prediction of which type of influenza virus (there are many) will be around during the next flu season. Therefore, you may still get the aches, fever, sore throat and drowsiness that come from the influenza virus.
Contrary to this (disappointing) Men’s Journal article, supplements do work for cold and flu prevention, if they are taken appropriately and are made by a company with good manufacturing practices.
Which supplements help?
You may think that Linus Pauling discovered vitamin C, but it was really Albert Szent-Györgyi who won the Nobel Prize for discovering it. Linus Pauling, another Nobel laureate, popularized the use of vitamin C for disease prevention and longevity. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties, regenerates glutathione, and might stimulate neutrophil and monocyte activity. One trial found that patients who took 8 g of vitamin C at the onset of symptoms had more “short colds” (lasting less than a day) than those who took 4 g.
Take 2 g of vitamin C 2-3 times a day during flu season (total of 4 to 6 g). Anything greater than 10 g can cause diarrhea. Also, it is best to take vitamin C with other antioxidants like alpha-lipoic acid and zinc, or with bioflavonoids. If taken with bioflavonoids, take a 2:1 ratio of vitamin C to bioflavonoids.
Note: sometimes you hear people say that vitamin C does not work to prevent colds and flus. Almost always, the people who say this are taking too low of a dose – usually about 500 mg (0.5g).
Garlic (Allium sativum)
The part of the garlic that does the protective magic is allicin. Allicin is released when garlic is chopped or chewed, but cooking deactivates it. Allicin has demonstrated antiviral properties in vitro against rhinovirus (common cold) and several other strains.
One study of 146 healthy adults compared a high-dose of allicin extract (180 mg daily) with placebo for 12 weeks during the winter months. The results were dramatic; the treatment group had 64% fewer colds.
Take 180 mg of allicin. Fresh garlic contains 5 to 9 mg per clove, and most extracts contain less than this. So, that’s about nine cloves of garlic. (The only side-effect reported in the trial was malodorous belching.)
Note: Garlic supplements should be discontinued prior to a surgical procedure due to their anti-coagulant (blood thinning) effects.
Zinc is an essential mineral essential to hundreds of biochemical pathways, and deficiency has long been associated with infection risk.
Take 15 to 30 mg a day. If you take more than 30 mg a day, you need about 2 mg of copper to avoid a copper deficiency.
Do not take more than 100mg of zinc in supplement form.
Supplementation with selenium can stimulate the immune system in many ways, like increasing the proliferation of activated T cells. Selenium deficiency is linked to the occurrence or disease progression of some viral infections.
I would recommend taking 200 μg (that’s micrograms) selenium per day to achieve noticeable immuno enhancing effects. Taking more than 800 μg per day is not recommended.
Astragalus is a botanical that seems to work mainly through antiviral properties and appears to have a beneficial influence on T-cell activity, which is an important immune modulator. A member of the pea family, this root can be stirred into soups to bolster your immune system during cold and flu season.
Take 2 to 6 grams of astragalus in capsule form daily.
You have seen this homeopathic remedy in health food stores and have wondered if it works, right? Or do you just wonder how to pronounce it?
As with any type of homeopathic medicine, oscillococcinum restores health by delivering a highly diluted dose of a substance that produces symptoms of the illness being treated. Here, that substance is extract of Muscovy duck heart and liver, identified by homeopaths as reservoirs of the influenza virus. A 1998 study from the British Homeopathic Journal gave either oscillococcinum or a placebo to 372 patients with the flu, finding that the remedy both lessened their symptoms and shortened the duration of sickness. I have no personal experience taking oscillococcinum (because I stay protected by upgrading my supplement regimen during flu season) but I know many who do and who live by it.
Take one or two tubes of oscillococcinum once or twice weekly for the flu.
Asian traditional doctors have understood the magic of mushrooms for centuries, using shiitake, reishi, maitake, and others to both prevent and treat a variety of ailments. Numerous studies have shown that certain friendly fungi can stimulate immune function. While many medicinal mushrooms are helpful, reishi mushrooms are my favorite as research has found that they have immunostimulant effects.
Have a Happy and Healthy flu season.
Geo Espinosa, N.D., L.Ac, C.N.S., is a renowned naturopathic doctor recognized as an authority in integrative management of male and urological conditions. Dr. Geo is the founder and director of the Integrative Urology Center at New York University Langone Medical Center (NYULMC), a center of excellence in research and integrative treatments for urological conditions.
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