Natural Cold and Flu Fighters
The flu (influenza) is caused by a viral infection. The common cold can be caused by many different viruses and can cause stuffy nose, watery eyes and scratchy throat. If you become infected with the influenza virus you will likely develop a fever (usually greater than 100°F), cough, sore throat, muscle soreness, and fatigue.
The flu shot is a vaccine against the latest strains of influenza. However, there is no vaccine against the common cold. The flu shot protects the body by stimulating the production of antibodies in the body. These antibodies help your body fight off the flu when you are exposed to it. The flu viruses can change and become more virulent as they are passed from person to person around the globe. This shift and change is the reason that new strains of viruses are added to each year’s influenza vaccine. Annual vaccination is recommended by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) because immunity declines during the year after vaccination and because circulating strains of the influenza virus change from year to year.
In general, those persons with chronic health conditions (such as asthma and diabetes) may be at greater risk for developing complications from an influenza infection and may choose to receive a flu vaccine. In addition, those persons who live or work with the very young or very old may also want to consider obtaining a flu vaccine to protect these vulnerable populations.
Vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing the flu and are not helpful at preventing other viral infections. Some people are concerned that different additives in the flu vaccine such as thiomerosol (mercury) and aluminum may cause long term harm when injected yearly. For these reasons, many turn to natural medicine alternatives for prevention and treatment of viral infections. There are many herbs and nutrients that boost the body’s natural immune defenses. Some herbs have shown potent antiviral activity. For those who have cold and flu symptoms, the natural pharmacy can offer symptomatic relief of the sore throat, runny nose, and aching muscles that often accompany this seasonal illness. The following natural treatments are some of our favorite immune boosting and antiviral recommendations for the entire family.
- Elderberry: is a berry flavored medicine which has been shown to have antiviral effect against both Influenza A and B. It also has immune boosting properties and can be taken to prevent infection.
- Probiotics: strains of “friendly” bacteria found in the colon that increase antibody (your body’s immune defense against viruses) production and help prevent respiratory tract infections. In particular, studies show that children who take probiotics get fewer and less severe respiratory tract infections and are at lower risk of developing flu-like symptoms.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a hormone produced in the body when our skin is exposed to sunlight. This hormone is responsible for many functions in the body including priming the immune system against infections. Most people in the Pacific Northwest are deficient and it is recommended to take 2000 IU/day during the winter months.
- Viracid and Viracon: are two of our best-selling formulas that combines key nutrients such as vitamin A, C and zinc with herbs such as Echinacea and Astragalus to help maintain a healthy immune system and improve white blood cell function to fight infections.
- Pelargonium sidoides: A South African a homeopathic remedy used to treat cough, sore throat, congestion, sinusitis, and other respiratory tract infections. This homeopathic remedy can shorten the duration of upper respiratory tract infections and reduce the severity of symptoms.
- Esberitox®: A chewable tablet of powerful anti-viral herbs including Echinacea, Baptisia and Thuja offers immune support for both adults and children.
Although highly effective and potent these natural therapies should not be used in isolation. Naturopathic medicine promotes treating the whole body. Simple self-care such as adequate sleep, a low sugar diet and proper stress management are also important considerations for a healthy immune system. Frequent and recurring infections may be a sign of an underlying problem. At NaturoMedica we often find that those with environmental allergies, food allergies and/or sensitivities are more susceptible to frequent infections.
If you are getting more than your share of infections, it may be time to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians to start investigating the underlying cause rather than merely treating these cold and flu symptoms repeatedly.