In an earlier post I highlighted some recent research that showed chicken soup actually may be beneficial in combating the flu infection. Click here to read more. In this article I highlight my tried and tested anti-flu strategy that I employ as soon as the earliest signs of the flu are present. Read on to see how you can cut the duration of your flu and even stop it from becoming full blown.
1) Early ID is key: The earlier we can identify that we are coming down with an influenza infection the better the chance we can fight it off or even stop it from becoming an full blown infection. Unlike other illnesses, the flu starts with a characteristic “prodromal” or early stage. The key symptoms to look for are muscle aches, especially in the neck, back and legs. These aches are actually a normal response by the body to breakdown our muscle tissue to increase amino acid availability for our immune system to make more white blood cells. Other early signs are headaches, fatigue, nausea and fever (not all necessarily together). As soon as you feel these symptoms initiate your anti-flu protocol. We will discuss this in the following points.
2) Get your rest: The sooner you rest and sleep the better outcome you will have during the flu. If you get to bed early enough, you can often abort the flu and stop it from progressing into the full-blown stage. This is not the time to be a hero, crawl under the covers and try to sleep because your immune system is most active during this time.
3) Drink liquids: This is where the chicken soup comes in as a great anti-flu remedy. It is a great fluid because it provides protein for your immune system to function, carnosine to combat the virus, electrolytes to keep you balanced (especially if vomiting) and hydration to maintain cellular function. Herbal teas are also great options. Two of my favorites are licorice and chamomile because they have soothing, anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea effects.
4) Don’t suppress your fever: One of the most common mistakes people make when they get sick and find our they have a fever is that is take an acetaminophen (Tylenol). Our culture is generally too quick to suppress a modest fever with medication due to the (overblown) fear of getting a seizure. This danger is only a reality in very high temperatures (greater than 104 degrees F). When is doubt, please consult your healthcare provider. Unfortunately, suppressing a fever is actually working against the body’s defense system since our own immune cells actually stimulate the fever because they become more powerful at higher temperatures. Using anti-fever medication can actually prolong the illness and preventing your immune system from successfully clearing the infection.
5) Homeopathic medicine to the rescue: One of my most trusted anti-flu remedies is a homeopathic medicine called Oscillococcinum. Various homeopathic remedies have been used for decades as potent treatments from all stages of viral infections. They had one of the highest success rates of disease resolution in the Spanish flu outbreak during the early 1900’s. Oscillococcinum (also available as Mucococcinum in a similar product) is a remedy specifically used in the early stages of the flu and can often stop the flu from progressing in to the full-blow stages. There are number of studies and reviews that have found Oscillococcinum to be effective for early stage influenza infection (1). Other remedies can be used very effectively for other, more progressed stages. Consult a Naturopathic doctor to find out which one is best suited from you and your symptom picture.
6) Power up on herbs: If all else fails, I turn to herbal medicine to help resolve the flu. There are number of herbs with research supporting their anti-viral activity. My 2 favourites are Echinacea and Andrographis. See my article on Immune boosting remedies for more information on these herbs and other strategies They both have studies supporting their ability to boost immune cell function and cut the duration of the cold and flu. A great child friendly herbal remedy is syrup made from elderberry fruit. Research shows that it cuts the duration of the flu and tastes great so children love it. Find it at your local health food store in a product called Sambucol®.
No one likes getting the flu but if it does happen don’t hesitate to employ some of your grandma’s wisdom. The chicken soup that seems to cure everything may actually have some scientific merit in helping you get over an infection. To see my "souped-up" chicken soup recipe click here. It contains all the flavour of grandma’s recipe with a few tweaks to improve its immune boosting power. At the earliest signs or symptoms start your anti-flu protocol so you can prevent the progression, cut the duration and get back to doing what you need to do. For more information on how to boost your immune system please see my article on how to keep your immune system is tip-top shape.
(1) Vickers AJ, Smith C. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. ) Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Jul 19;(3):CD001957
1/25/2013 12:56:24 pm
I saw that the paper you cited related to a homeopathic remedy was in the Cochrane database. Naturally, anyone that has read a few clinical studies might be interested to see the specifics.
Dr Paul Hrkal
1/26/2013 11:46:31 pm
Thanks for the comment. I was aware of the retraction of the cochrane review. My goal was to show there is a body of evidence on this specific homeopathic remedy. This is very rare for any homeopathic remedies. Despite the retraction, the studies included in the cochrane review do have some positive results for this remedy in reducing the duration of the flu. Cochrane reviews are usually ultra conservative and I am not surprised that it was retracted later.
1/27/2013 09:18:02 am
Thanks for the reply, and apologies about the previous post's typos, as I'm on a mobile device.
Dr Paul Hrkal
1/30/2013 10:48:32 pm
I understand your hesitations about homeopathy since it defies some of the principles that are prevalent in modern, conventional medicine and physics. I will be the first one to admit that RCTs have a difficult time assessing homeopathy. The way that I explain it to people is that it works on an energetic, quantum level rather than a micro or macro level as most other medicines function. Similarly to acupuncture, certain points in the body carry a greater energetic potential. Some people explain this through nervous endings or piezoelectric conduction but traditional acupuncture has energetic roots. We have a lot easier time grasping this because there is a visible physical component.
2/4/2013 10:25:38 pm
Hello Mr. Hrkal
Dr Paul Hrkal
2/5/2013 02:05:15 am
Thanks for the comments.
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