Flu Update

You have probably heard that influenza (flu) infections are at very high or high rates across the country. The state of California, where I practice, is rated at very high. It is important to take action to optimize your immune system to be more resistant to infection.  Flu symptoms intensity varies depending on the person. Symptoms usually come on quickly. Common symptoms may include some or all of the following:

• Fever

• Chills

• Sore Throat

• Runny or Stuffy Nose

• Muscle or Body Aches

• Headaches

• Fatigue

• Digestive symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea

 

Conventional Approaches

Most people are aware of the conventional approach for addressing the flu is vaccination, the use of antiviral drugs for treatment, washing hands often, and avoiding people who are sick. You can discuss conventional flu prevention and treatment options with your healthcare provider.

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine has varied throughout history. According to the CDC website, the flu vaccine effectiveness was 35% for the 2021-2022 season.  The CDC expects flu vaccines to be effective for 2022-2023. Of course, time will tell how beneficial they are for current flu strains.

The class of antiviral medications used to prevent and treat the flu is known as neuraminidase inhibitors. As they block the viral enzymes (neuraminidase) so the viral replication is disrupted. The most common drug prescribed is Ostelamivir, also known as Tamiflu. This drug is given orally to patients two weeks or older with flu symptoms for no longer than 48 hours. Another anti-flu drug is Zanavamir, also known as Relenza, which is given by inhalation. It is not used for people with respiratory diseases such as asthma. The last antiviral drug is Peramivir, also known as Rapivab. It is given intravenously for uncomplicated flu in people 6 months or older. The second category of antiviral drugs includes endonuclease inhibitors which also interfere with viral replication but with a different mechanism of action. The one drug used in this category is Balovaxir marboxil, also known as Xofluza. This drug cannot be used by pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems, breastfeeding mothers, those with complicated illnesses, or hospitalized patients.

 

Natural Support

No matter what you decide, I recommend focusing on good nutrition, adequate sleep, stress reduction, and specific nutritional supplementation for optimal immune support.

Diet

Eat a diet rich in plant foods for antioxidants that support immunity. One good option is a Modified Mediterranean Diet. See Modified Mediterranean Diet Meal Planning | Americas Natural Doctor for two weeks of meal planning options. Make sure to restrict daily sugar intake to less than 25 grams daily.

Supplements

NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is an antioxidant that also boosts immunity. A study found that only 25 percent of older people injected with the flu virus experienced flu symptoms after taking NAC for six months, versus 79 percent who took a placebo. A preventative dose is 500 to 600 mg twice daily on an empty stomach. For patients that have the flu, I recommend taking double this dose.

Vitamin D

There is good research demonstrating that vitamin D reduces the risk of acute respiratory tract infections, including the flu.

This nutrient acts like a hormone in the body. It boosts your antiviral white blood cells, controlling inflammation, and increasing levels of two microbe-killing compounds, known as cathelicidins and defensins.

For most adults, I recommend 5,000 IU of vitamin D (combined with K2) daily with a meal for adults. For children and infants, a typical dose is 2,000 IU daily.

High Potency Multivitamin

There are several nutrients used by the immune system for healthy functioning. Taking a high-quality multivitamin and mineral formula is recommended in addition to a quality diet.

Medicinal Mushrooms

For my patients susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections, I recommend using immune-modulating mushroom extracts such as maitake and coriolus. I like to use this in a formula combined with the Chinese herb astragalus for long-term immune support.

Nasal Irrigation

Viruses often enter the body through the nasal cavity. Using nasal rinses daily, such as Xlear, may help to reduce viral and bacterial penetration of the sinus cavity.

Elderberry

One of the better-studied natural treatments for people with the flu is elderberry. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 60 Norwegian men and women between 18 and 54 years old found that 15 mL of standardized elderberry syrup four times per day for five days (starting within 48 hours of their influenza-like symptoms) relieved symptoms four days earlier on average. None of the patients reported any adverse events during the study. Elderberry also helps with coughing that accompanies the flu.

 

Dr. Mark Stengler NMD, MS, is a bestselling author in private practice in Encinitas, California, at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine. His newsletter, Dr. Stengler’s Health Breakthroughs, is available at www.americasnaturaldoctor.com. His clinic website is www.markstengler.com

 

References

Centers For Disease Control:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/antivirals/links.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/effectiveness-studies.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm

Martineau, Adrian R, David A Jolliffe, Richard L Hooper, Lauren Greenberg, John F Aloia, Peter Bergman, and Gal Dubnov-Raz et al. “Vitamin D Supplementation To Prevent Acute Respiratory Tract Infections: Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of Individual Participant Data”. BMJ, 2017, i6583. doi:10.1136/bmj.i6583.

Zakay-Rones, Z, E Thom, T Wollan, and J Wadstein. “Randomized Study Of The Efficacy And Safety Of Oral Elderberry Extract In The Treatment Of Influenza A And B Virus Infections”. Journal Of International Medical Research 32, no. 2 (2004): 132-140. doi:10.1177/147323000403200205.