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Natural Solutions for Preventing the Flu

Natural Solutions for Preventing the Flu

Posted December 4th, 2009
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Natural Solutions for Preventing the Flu

Over the last few months, the news has been inundated with stories of the H1N1 Flu. This mutated influenza virus has become a global pandemic and the Ontario government has been frantically trying tomake a vaccine available to the public. Even this vaccine is not without controversy, however, and allthis media craze has left people wondering what to think!?

Fear not, there is good news. From the perspective of Naturopathic Medicine, the flu vaccine is not theonly preventative option available. When it comes to any contractible illness, your immune system is your first line of defence against invading viruses and bacteria. There are many natural ways to helpboost your immune system, so that it is functioning optimally, should the occasion arise that you come into contact with the flu virus.

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

This type of medicine focuses on treating the root cause of any illness, rather than only palliating symptoms. Licensed Naturopathic Doctors are regulated in Ontario and usenatural means of treatment including: acupuncture, clinical nutrition (including supplements), botanicals/herbs, homeopathy, and lifestyle counselling. A holistic approach is fundamental in thepractice of naturopathic medicine.

So how can we prevent the flu naturally?
Of course, there are the basics:

  1. Wash hands thoroughly and often, and/or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  2. Keep surfaces and items disinfected.
  3. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve (not your hand)

These all aim to decrease the likelihood of hand to mouth transmission of the virus.

Here are some more tips:

  1. Vitamin C – don’t underestimate it! 500 mg/day is a generally safe maintenance dose during flu season. Depending on your individual health status, amounts of vitamin C can be increased significantly during acute illness. See your naturopath for appropriate acutedosing.
  2. Vitamin D – 1000IU/day. (400IU/day for children) This vitamin is a great immune systemsupporter, and chronic low levels are often associated with increased illness rates. It is true that our bodies can synthesize our own vitamin D from being in direct sunlight; however, at this time of year, our particular climate does not allow for adequate UV rays of the spectrum necessary for this automatic synthesis in our bodies. Therefore, it’s good to supplement with vitamin D for at least the fall and winters months of the year.
  3. Zinc – is also important for proper immune function. Zinc lozenges are an easy form to find.
  4. Sleep! This is your body’s natural way to refresh and rejuvenate, so make sure you aregetting enough. Contrary to what most adults think, the average adult still needs 8 hours of sleep per night. Further, studies have shown that the quality of sleep you get in the twohours before midnight, are far superior to the hours after midnight. Therefore, in terms of quality of sleep, you’re better off sleeping from 10pm-6am, than from 12am-8am, even though the total amount of hours is equal. Note: See your naturopath if you have insomnia or chronic sleep trouble – there are various natural treatment options to deal with thesehealth conditions.
  5. Stress management is also vitally important to staying healthy. Whether you get a massage, take a bubble bath, read a book, get acupuncture treatments, or meditate – it’s not about pampering yourself, it’s about living a balanced lifestyle. Many people live with their nervous systems in “sympathetic over-drive”. Their constant adrenaline rushes (andcoffee!) keep them going for work or school. Then, as soon as vacation time comes, they“crash” and get sick. That is why it is so important to make the time to de-stress on a dailybasis – in turn, you will be supporting your immune system.
  6. There are also many herbs such as Astragalus, and Echinacea; and mushrooms such as Ganoderma and Reishi, that are all beneficial for the immune system. It is best to consult with your naturopath before starting any herbal treatments to ensure that they will be completely safe for you. There are also several homeopathic preparations that are great forprevention and treatment of flu symptoms – Boiron, Heel, and Pascoe all have various remedies and some have even proven to be more effective than Tamiflu in clinic trial.Again, see your naturopath to find out which combinations will be best suited to your individual needs.

The media craze surrounding the H1N1 flu (or any flu for that matter) need not cause fear oruncertainty. The bottom line is that our immune systems are designed to fight illnesses like this, and thevast majority of cases have still been mild. If we take advantage of the natural ways that we can support own immune systems, and help it function optimally, then any contact with the flu virus can be effectively overcome.

Dr. Ruth Shuster, ND is a licensed naturopathic doctor in Burlington and Mississauga. For more information, visit: www.ruthshuster.com or email: info@ruthshuster.com

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