Preparing Yourself for the Flu Naturally
Each winter the influenza virus wreaks havoc on our ability to work and play. Symptoms of the flu include fever, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, runny nose, cough and stomach symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes a flu virus can come on slowly or it can hit suddenly without much notice. Each year this leads people to wonder how they can prevent themselves and their family from getting the flu. Naturopathic prevention and treatment of the flu virus includes vitamins and minerals, botanical medicine and lifestyle recommendations.
Vitamins and Minerals:
Vitamin C– Vitamin C can greatly enhance the immune system’s ability to fight infections of many kinds. In controlled trials Vitamin C has been shown to aid in the prevention of influenza, as well as shortening the duration and reducing the severity of infections already contracted.
Zinc- Zinc plays an important role in maintaining healthy immune function. Low levels of zinc are associated with a decrease in T cell function, a vital white blood cell that helps fight infections.
Vitamin A– Vitamin A is also associated with T cell function, making it a vital component of a healthy immune system. Vitamin A maintains the integrity of mucus membranes, which are at the front line of our defenses against viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections.
Elderberry- Research demonstrates that elderberry extract has particular immune-modulating and antioxidant properties that neutralize the activity of viruses so they can no longer enter the cell and replicate. The berries also contain vitamins A and C, and the flavonoids quercetin, anthocyanin and rutin, all of which boost immune function.
Larch arbinogalactans– Larch arabinogalactans are polysaccharides derived from the wood of the Western larch tree. These polysaccharides stimulate the immune system to fend off infections. Larch arabinogalactans have been studied and shown effective in adults, as well as children, which makes it a great choice for keeping the whole family healthy through the flu season.
Echinacea– Echinacea also has the immune stimulating polysaccharides that give it an important role in naturopathic antiviral treatments. These polysaccharides naturally enhance the body’s resistance to infection.
Lifestyle tips for the prevention and treatment of the flu:
Sleep– Maintaining a balanced sleep routine is one way to keep our immune system healthy. Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to rejuvenate for the next day. Consistent inadequate sleep lowers the body’s defenses needed for fighting viral infections.
Stress– While stress is a part of everyday life; excessive stress can decrease immune function and make it easier to come down with the flu. Establishing stress management techniques like deep breathing, exercise, yoga or meditation can help ensure that every day stress won’t leave you vulnerable to the flu.
Diet- A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and quality proteins is a foundation for a healthy immune system. Studies have shown that eating a sugary snack or meal can depress the immune system for several hours, creating a window of time during which it is easier to get the flu. Avoiding excessive sugar can keep the immune system working at the level needed to fend off viral infections, like the flu.
Most over-the-counter medications only treat the symptoms of the cold or flu virus. Naturopathic treatments include nutritional supplementation, lifestyle recommendations and immune-stimulating and antiviral botanicals that can support the body’s natural defenses. Talk to your naturopathic doctor today about the best choices to keep you and your family healthy through flu season.
“As a rule,” said Holmes, “the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify.”
—From The Red-Headed League by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Dr. James Watson, friend and associate of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, is baffled by the peculiar circumstances involved in the mystery of The Red-Headed League. Holmes, however, immediately recognizes that these unusual characteristics are a blessing in disguise and that it is truly the commonplace which is more difficult to solve.
Nowhere is this principle found to be more true than in the treatment of patients with colds using homeopathy. For in homeopathy, the commonplace features of a cold are of little value for they are the same from one patient to the next. What must be determined are the peculiar features which characterize this individual patient as unique. When these unique features of the patient are matched with the unique features of a remedy, good results will be obtained.
In conventional medicine, these unique features that separate one patient from another tend to be ignored. This is because in conventional medicine once a disease is diagnosed, it is treated directly with a uniform treatment that is more or less the same from one individual to the next. The individualizing symptoms are of little or no value and so are ignored.
Homeopathy takes a different approach and treats diseases indirectly by stimulating the body to heal itself. To do so requires obtaining clues as to how that individual’s immune system is responding to the disease process which it is trying to throw off. These clues are found by carefully observing the patient’s symptoms and, as Holmes explains above, finding those symptoms which are unique and thereby separate the patient from the commonplace.
Let’s take a look at a few of the common remedies which might be indicated for patients with colds. Some of the main characteristics of each remedy are presented below. To make your life a little easier in choosing a remedy, I suggest you always consider the following aspects when trying to help a patient suffering from a cold. Try to carefully observe the patient first, because if you are a good observer, much of this information can be obtained by asking very few questions.
Causation. What appears or seems to have brought on the cold? Even though colds are spread by viruses, the precipitating event that brought on the cold is often a clue to a remedy for that patient. Examples include exposure to wind, overwork, anger, getting chilled, etc.
Temperature. This refers not to what the thermometer reads, but to how the patient feels. Are they chilly or are they hot? Do they want to be covered all the way up, part way, or are they averse to covers and want the cool air blowing on them?
Mood. Is the patient desiring company and sympathy? Or are they irritable and want to be left alone? Or perhaps indifferent and dull? Or some combination of these?
Appetite and thirst. Is the patient hungry or thirsty? If so, for what? Do they want cold drinks or warm drinks? And how are they affected by what they take in?
Discharges. Are the patient’s eyes or nose runny? Is it thick or thin, clear or colored, profuse or scanty, obstinate or easily flowing, acrid or bland? Does it occur more at certain times of the day?
Modalities. This refers to things which improve or worsen symptoms. Is the sore throat better with anything? (Cold or warm drinks, food, warm applications, etc.) What makes the patient cough? (Lying down, walking, talking, cold air, warm air, etc.)
Remedies for colds
I tried to pick characteristics for the following remedies that I have found reliable and straightforward for patients with colds. There is much more that could be said about all these remedies and there are many more remedies that might be indicated in patients with colds, but this list is a good start.
Aconite: For colds with sudden, sometimes violent onset. The patient is often restless, anxious, and fearful. May be caused by exposure to cold dry winds. The patient may be hot and red with a burning thirst. Coughs tend to be dry, croupy, and painful.
Allium cepa: For colds with frequent, violent sneezing. The nasal discharge is profuse and usually burning. The eyes have a bland discharge. The cough is often associated with a tearing pain in the larynx.
Arsenicum album: For colds in which the patient is restless, anxious, often fastidious, and fault finding. There is often an unquenchable thirst for sips of cold water. Nose discharge tends to be thin, watery, and burning. Desires warmth and warm foods.
Belladonna: For colds with a sudden, violent onset. Patient is hot, red, and dry. Often the hands are cold, despite the hot skin elsewhere. Pupils are often dilated and the eyes have a sparkling quality. The patient is sensitive to light, noise, and jarring. Great thirst for cold water. Tonsillitis is common, especially on the right side.
Bryonia: For colds in which the patient and their symptoms are worse from any movement, they want to lie still and undisturbed. The patient tends to be irritable, dry, and want large amounts of water. The cough tends to be dry, hard, and painful with stitching pains. Constipation is common.
Chamomilla: For colds, especially in children, where the patient is cross, quarrelsome, and easily vexed. The child demands to be carried, asks for things and then throws them down. One cheek is often red and the other pale.
Dulcamara: For colds caused by becoming chilled while heated or from cold and wet.
Euphrasia: For colds in which the eyes have profuse, hot tears while the nose discharge is bland.
Gelsemium: For colds with a slow onset. The patient often feels tired, weak, and heavy. The head feels dull, heavy, and often enlarged. The patient is often dull and apathetic. Chills up and down the spine are common. Typically thirstless.
Hepar sulphuris: For colds in which the patient is very chilly, irritable, and touchy. The patient sweats easily. Pains, such as from a sore throat, tend to be sticking (like sharp splinters). Coughs from least uncovering. Discharges tend to be thick and yellow.
Kali bichromicum: For colds in which the discharges are thick, sticky, tough, and stringy. The cough feels raw under the sternum. Very common remedy for patients with sinusitis.
Natrum mur: For colds commencing with lots of sneezing and gushing of fluid. The patient is thirsty and desires salt.
Nux vomica: For colds in which the patient is angry, impatient, and oversensitive. Often caused by overwork and the use of stimulants in sedentary people. The patient is chilly and cannot stand to be uncovered. Often constipated with a “never complete” sensation.
Pulsatilla: For colds in which the patient feels emotional, tearful, and wants sympathy (although may be touchy). Discharges tend to be thick, colored, and bland. The patient is rarely thirsty. Although chilly, they desire cool, fresh air. Cough is worse lying down at night and better in the open air.
Dose. The sixth or thirtieth potencies are readily available in natural food stores. Repeat a dose (about three pellets) under the tongue every few hours; more frequently if needed and less as the patient responds.
As a cold progresses through various stages don’t be afraid to change remedies as indicated, occasionally every day or two. Sometimes the response of a patient is dramatic and the cold disappears quickly. At other times it is harder to know how much the remedy is helping. I recommend persisting even if you are not sure the remedy is helping because often the remedy is keeping the patient from getting more seriously ill.
By the way, the appearance of thick or green nasal discharges does not necessarily mean there is “infection” which requires antibiotics. In fact, it is common in some patients that every cold they get has thick green discharges. Most colds are viral, regardless of the character of the discharge, and antibiotics are not indicated in viral infections.
There are a number of excellent books on self care with homeopathy that discuss these remedies, and others, in more detail. I recommend that people have such a book and a kit of basic remedies in their home. This not only saves money, but you have what you need when you need it for a wide range of health problems.
Article written by Dr. Tim Dooley, MD, ND
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