I want to speak up about influenza and the current outbreak in the US.  There are lots of places to get information.  But it seems there isn’t a great summary that combines the approaches. It can be confusing. It’s kind of a big deal,  especially if you’re the one missing a week or two of work, or worse, can’t breathe well and end up in the hospital, or even worse, the Intensive Care Unit because it starts a cascade of immune events that makes you that sick, or even worse than that: death. 

While my family and I were immunized in late November, I have friends here in Austin who are calling around frantically to find the vaccine and it’s hard to find.  I also have people that are asking what they can do to prevent the flu.  Some of the immune-boosting items in natural pharmacies are sold out.  What to do?  What to buy? We can’t control a lot in life, and there are no guarantees but there are some things to mitigate the risks.  So, here is my primary care, integrative approach to Influenza Prevention:

Influenza is a virus.  It is a respiratory virus and for a great review with reliable information, check out the CDC site.  It usually comes on suddenly and is accompanied by fever, body aches and cough.  But not everyone will get a fever or all the symptoms.  Fortunately most don’t get the complications either and are sick from 2 days to 2 weeks. A lot of people tend to call a GI or diarrhea illness the flu.  But Influenza A and B (the strains out there now) are respiratory and symptoms manifest in the respiratory tract.  Those with asthma, or smokers, or other chronic illness, or very young or older, are more susceptible.  Yet, we all can be infected.

For some of you this is a no-brainer and for some it is a non-negotiable as you don’t “believe” in the concept of the immunization.  For the record, I “believe” in the influenza vaccine as a seat-belt per se for your immune system. There is amazing research supporting it.  It takes two weeks in general for the full effects of the immune system to kick in after getting the shot. You need it each year for the different strains.  But get it now if you haven’t already.  I would like to talk you all into the flu vaccine.  But if you have such strong feelings or past experience and you know your body and believe deeply that it will have a negative effect on you, then I respect that and you can too.  (See the Imagine  statements below…)  There are also some people who should not be vaccinated such as those less than 6 months old, with a history of severe reaction to the shot, and those currently moderately ill.

 There are a few supplements that I would recommend for optimizing your immune function.  My basic recommendation of Omega 3’s and vitamin D certainly are important here as well.  They help your body be more resilient to infectious insult.  But in addition, I recommend Elderberry  (aka sambucus)  as research shows it has antiviral and immune priming effects.  For those who want more details, it inhibits hemagluttanin activity and the replication of Influenza A and B in some research studies.  If it is started within 48 hours of influenza symptoms,  it has been shown to reduce symptoms and duration similar to Tamiflu and Relenza.  Another great OTC natural product is Umcka, or generic is Pelargonium.  It  stimulates the release of cytokines and helps immune function.  If  you have the flu or cough, Eucalyptus tincture  might help reduce the cough.  Probiotics may also be helpful in prevention.

 Move your body and circulate your blood so the virus doesn’t have a chance to settle in. Research shows it can help. And drink plenty of water to allow your cells to do their jobs.  And get enough sleep.  If you get run down, you are a better host for the influenza virus.  Exercise common sense!

The mind-body connection is key in so much of health, and here is no exception.  There’s a research study that showed that people who meditated after getting their flu vaccines generated more antibodies than those who didn’t.  You have amazing power in your mind to make yourself sicker or healthier.  Tap into that in a positive way!

There are various ways you can be in contact with the influenza virus.  If you feel sick, THINK of others and don’t expose them, stay home.  Wash your hands. Old fashioned soap and water is the best, and only if not possible then use the hand gel.  Influenza is an airborne virus that can stay alive on surfaces for up to eight hours.  Use common sense and a little caution this time of year.  You don’t have to be paranoid, but think before you touch your face, mouth, eyes after being anywhere if you haven’t washed your hands.  Try not to sit next to someone who is coughing.

So, there you go, my LIVE IT Health, Integrative Approach to Influenza Prevention.  Take care of yourself and use the tools at your disposal to stay healthy or return to health as soon as possible.