Every year, I advise my patients to protect themselves against colds and flu. The best defense against these illnesses is a strong immune system. Here’s how to protect yourself this winter...
As many of you know, I don’t recommend the flu vaccine for healthy people, although I do suggest that some people consider getting the flu vaccine (see below). Instead, I recommend a powerful protocol for flu prevention that my patients, my family and I all follow. Begin this protocol now—and continue it through April. (All of these products can be found at health-food stores and online.)
The protocol includes...
Influenzinum. I have recommended this homeopathic remedy on its own for more than 15 years. The manufacturers of Influenzinum reformulate it annually based on the flu viruses expected to predominate that year. One French survey found that 90% of 453 people who took Influenzinum did not get the flu.
Dosage: Follow label instructions. Adults and children (age six and older) should take one dose (three pellets of a 9C potency) dissolved under the tongue once weekly for six weeks, beginning at the start of flu season. (For infants starting as young as one day old, crush one pellet and place on the tongue.) Influenzinum is available at health-food stores and online. It is made by several manufacturers including Boiron.
Vitamin D. Many studies show an association between low levels of vitamin D and respiratory tract infections. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that only 10% of school-age children who took vitamin D got the flu, compared with 18% who took a placebo.
Dosage: Adults and children age 13 and older should take 2,000 international units (IU) daily, then increase to 5,000 IU during peak flu months (January through March). This is higher than the dose I typically recommend, which is 1,000 IU to 2,000 IU, but these higher doses of vitamin D are safe. Infants and children up to age 12 should take 1,000 IU daily, then increase to 2,000 IU during peak flu months, though for infants, check with a pediatrician before increasing the dose to 2,000 IU.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC). This antioxidant helps prevent flu and reduces severity of symptoms if infection occurs. A landmark Italian study found that only 25% of older people who were injected with flu virus after taking NAC for six months experienced flu symptoms, versus 79% who took a placebo.
Dosage: Adults and children age 13 and older should take 1,000 milligrams (mg) daily. Children ages six to 12 can take 500 mg daily. At the first sign of flu symptoms, increase to 4,000 mg daily for adults and 1,500 mg daily for children, and continue until symptoms subside. Higher doses, such as 4,000 mg, may cause digestive upset. Reduce the dose if needed.
Colds can be hard to distinguish from flu. Colds come on slowly with symptoms affecting the chest, neck and head. Flu comes on quickly with more intense symptoms, including bodywide aches and pains, high fever and often digestive complaints.
Even if you follow my immune-boosting flu-prevention protocol, there’s always a small chance that you will catch a cold. Take one or both of the herbal remedies below at the first sign of a cold until symptoms are gone. There are no side effects, except as noted—and you can safely take more than one of these remedies at the same time. For dosing information for adults and children, follow label instructions.
Pelargonium sidoides. The focus of more than 20 clinical studies, this South African plant has been found to be effective in relieving cold symptoms, sinusitis, sore throat and bronchitis. It is available in many forms, including syrup, powder and chewable tablet. Brand to try: Nature’s Way Umcka ColdCare or Umcka Cold+Flu (www.NaturesWay.com).
COLD–FX. This remedy contains Panax quinquefolius (North American ginseng) extract, which is used in Chinese medicine to increase energy. Studies show that COLD-FX can strengthen the immune system to beat the common cold. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that healthy adults who took COLD-FX had 25% fewer colds per person than those in the placebo group. COLD-FX is available online and at health-food stores.
I have concerns about flu vaccines—mainly because we don’t know the long-term impact of using them and some studies show that they are not very effective. Should you get a vaccine, make sure to get the mercury-free version.
Source: Mark A. Stengler, NMD, is a naturopathic medical doctor and leading authority on the practice of alternative and integrated medicine. Dr. Stengler is author of the Health Revelations newsletter, author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies (Bottom Line Books), founder and medical director of the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine in Encinitas, California, and adjunct associate clinical professor at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. http://MarkStengler.com