With this recent outbreak of the coronavirus that originated in China, it’s important to, not only keep ourselves healthy in general, but to take some extra measures to bolster our immune systems. With strong immune systems, hopefully, we can prevent catching this and other viruses, or at least decrease the severity of the symptoms if we do become ill. General recommendations on maintaining our health and preventing illness have been given in the article Staying Healthy. Here are some reminders of good health practices during flu season:
First of all, we need to remember the basics of good hygiene. This may sound trite, but we all need to pay special attention to frequent handwashing with soap and water. Keep our hands away from our faces, especially our eyes. It’s probably a good idea to avoid crowds and public places more than usual. Preparing our own food at home is also a good idea. This ensures that we eat healthy (not fast or processed) food, and we know who prepared it. Sugar especially can have an adverse effect on our immune systems. It may be a challenge this time of year, but when possible, spend as much time as possible in the sunshine. Lack of sleep can lower our immune system so we need to get at least 8 hours. The hours between 10P and 2A are especially important for deep sleep. Stress can also adversely affect our health; therefore, practicing good stress management is important during the flu season. As an acupuncturist, I can vouch for Chinese Medicine which offers both acupuncture and Chinese herbs for stress reduction and immunity.
The following supplement suggestions are compiled from health sites and practitioners I follow online who are making recommendations, especially for this flu season. Since I am only recommending, not prescribing, I am not suggesting dosages, but I will say that dosages during an acute period of time are usually higher than those that are usually recommended for normal health maintenance. I would suggest that you purchase high-quality supplements that you may find in a trusted local health food store or a trusted practitioner’s online site. This is not a time or place to practice false economy.
These are the supplements I consider a foundation for the prevention of disease:
Since Dr. Linus Pauling’s research on the many benefits of Vitamin C, this vitamin has been used to enhance immunity. It can be taken in several forms, including IV Vitamin C. Taken orally the powdered form is considered the best absorbed. Too much oral Vitamin C can cause diarrhea. Some practitioners will recommend that increasing doses of Vitamin C be taken until stools start to become soft, ie. “bowel tolerance.”
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin called the “Sunshine Vitamin” because it is produced in our skin in response to sunlight. It actually functions more like a hormone. I consider Vitamin D2 (derived from plants) and Vitamin D3 (derived from animals) to be very important supplements for many reasons, not only for our bone density, but also for building/maintaining a strong immune system by working with the white blood cells and inhibiting viruses. Because it is fat-soluble, it stays in the body longer than water-soluble vitamins. It’s important to be aware of your level of Vitamin D. If you have not had your levels checked, this is a simple blood test that I’m sure your doctor would be happy to order.
Vitamin A is another fat-soluble vitamin that helps build a healthy immune system. It works with the white blood cells to be more active and efficient.
Zinc is a mineral that is known to play a central role in the immune system. It helps strengthen the barrier of the skin. It also helps regulate the white blood cells, including the natural killer cells. It functions as an antioxidant and helps keep the cell membranes strong as well.
Magnesium and selenium can also strengthen the immune system against viruses.
These are some supplements I consider helpful to take if someone has been exposed to a person who is ill or if they begin to have cold or flu symptoms themselves. These are not meant to be taken on a long term basis:
Oregano is known for its anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties to treat cold and flu symptoms. It can be used as an herbal supplement, tincture, essential oil, or soft gel.
L Lysine is an amino acid that has anti-viral properties. It has been shown to stop or slow down viruses.
Black elderberry liquid extract is one of the oldest and most commonly used medicinal plants in the world. It was known by the Egyptians and is still used as a folk medicine in Europe and by the Native Americans to reduce and shorten the symptoms of influenza. Elderberries are small black berries on the elderberry tree, which is considered poisonous except for the cooked berries. They are usually found in a syrup form but can also be made into jam and wine.
Echinacea ( coneflower ) is an herb that is said to be anti-inflammatory and a fighter against influenza.
Olive Leaf Extract, another herb, has antioxidant, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Oscillococcinum is a popular homeopathic remedy used for flu.
Tea tree oil, eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender are some commonly used essential oils for colds and flu.
There are a number of Chinese herbal formulas you can get from your acupuncturist or herbalist. They may include some excellent herbs, such as Isatis, Lonicera flower, Forsythia, Platycoden, Wild Chrysanthemum, Citrus Peel, Xanthium, and Andrographis. All of these herbs can help fight microbes, build the immune system, detoxify the body, and ease the symptoms of colds and flu. Two patent formulas that can be found in shops in the China Towns of large cities are Gan Mao Ling and Yin Qiao.
Of course, we know to get rest, drink fluids, eat lightly, eg. fruits, vegetables, broths. This is not a time to try to live up to life’s demands, for our own sake as well as the benefit of those around us.
Below are resources for more information and suggested dosages on these supplements:
- Dr. Peter Osborne
- Web MD
- Pub Med