Prevent Winter Colds & Flu

Nutritional Prevention of Winter Colds and Flu

What can you do when cold and flu season rolls around?  Conventional medicine relies on antihistamines or decongestants to treat the symptoms but these drugs also block the self-healing action of the body and may actually lengthen the healing and recovery time.  Antibiotics are useless against these viral infections but are often prescribed anyway because patients often expect to take them and the conventional doctor has little else to offer for fighting viral infections.  They also disrupt the beneficial flora in the intestines, further weakening the immune system by allowing the overgrowth of yeast organisms.  This sets up a vicious cycle of recurrent infections and improper treatment. So, what’s the best way to protect yourself and your family?  Good nutrition, plenty of fluids, and adequate rest are the basics. It’s also important to avoid sugar and alcohol as these substances suppress your immune system’s ability to fight infection. Using the substitute sugar, Xylitol, has actually been shown to protect against sore throats and ear infections in children. Vitamins A and C are crucial to the immune system, as is the mineral, zinc.  Preventive levels of these nutrients include 10,000 to 20,000 units of Vitamin A (or beta carotene), 2000-4000 mg. of Vitamin C, and 15-30 mg. of zinc (along with a good multivitamin/mineral supplement, of course).

In fighting acute infection, these amounts may be doubled or more for short periods of time. Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Linus Pauling, demonstrated in a study involving over 800 people that 1000 mg. Vitamin C daily lessened the frequency of infections.  Taking 4000 mg daily at the onset of symptoms shortened the recovery time and allowed those patients to return to work significantly sooner than those who had not taken Vitamin C. Vitamin C can be taken in large amounts, even 1000 mg. every hour until symptoms begin to improve. The only potential side effects to these high doses are diarrhea and stomach upset. Zinc lozenges dissolved in the mouth have been documented to reduce the length and severity of upper respiratory infections, but they must be used immediately at the onset of symptoms.

For flu prevention, we recommend Mucoccinum, an effective homeopathic remedy taken once every two weeks throughout the season. Keep Oscillococcinum on hand at home also. It is a homeopathic remedy to reduce the severity and length of flu symptoms. It is best to take at the onset to be most effective.

Herbal immune stimulants are also helpful in boosting immune function. Echinacea and goldenseal have been widely used, however, lose effectiveness if used continuously. Therefore, they work better if two caps three to four times a day are taken at the onset of symptoms or only when exposed to an infection. Echinacea, however, stimulates the immune system in a non-specific manner. There are several nutraceutical herbal extracts have been proven to boost specific immune system functions, including T-cells and natural killer cell function, allowing the immune system to respond more quickly and specifically to foreign substances. We can help you select a formulation suited to your needs that can either be used on a daily basis, to can help maintain health and prevent infection, or at a higher dose to speed recovery from colds or flu.

We recommend that you keep these remedies at home as a “winter first aid kit”, so that you can nip getting sick right in the bud. These alternative therapies used in our integrated practice assist the body’s healing process and can often cut the duration of a cold in half, sometimes reducing it to only 24-48 hours. However, if you experience prolonged, severe symptoms or recurrent infections, call our office for an appointment. By addressing the underlying conditions and the possible reasons why you are so susceptible specifically and making individualized recommendations, we can help you to reduce the incidence of infection.

The supplement department at the Center for the Healing Arts was developed to allow patients and others easy access to the finest quality nutritional and herbal supplements that we have been able to find. Many are not available in drug stores or natural food stores. If it is not convenient for you to stop by our office, we are able to ship supplements directly to your home. Call us to stock up your “winter first aid kit.”