As summer comes to an end and flu season starts, Dr. Doni Wilson advises on natural approaches to protecting yourself against those nasty winter viruses.
Autumn is here and that means cold and flu season has started. This means we’re all more likely to get exposed to viruses that can make us feel awful for a week or more, and make us susceptible to bacterial infections as well. Meanwhile, while taking antibiotics and steroids (which are commonly prescribed for these infections) can help in the short term, they can lead to more health issues later on. So anything you can do to help you fight off infections without the need for antibiotics or steroids, the better it will be for your long-term health. I’d like to help you accomplish that goal.
Here are the 5 steps to help you fight cold and flu naturally – starting with prevention.
Step 1: Boost Your Immune System
As a naturopathic doctor, my belief is that the best thing you can do to help yourself stay well and avoid catching viruses in the first place is get your immune system working as well as possible. This will enable your body to fight off infections for you.
This process can take time – anywhere from a few weeks to several months – so you may as well get started now. If I had to give you an overall strategy based on the research and my experience, it would involve the four most important daily “CARE” activities:
Exercise at your own speed
These are the four key elements of healing and the more you do them, the better you’ll be able to fight off any type of infection. For help with getting started, check out the 7 and 21 day Stress Remedy Programs I have designed to help you. If you’d like to individualize your plan, then a one-on-one consultation is best so we can test for your food sensitivities to find out which foods you should avoid, and test your cortisol and neurotransmitter levels to find out exactly how stress has affected your health.
Step 2: Know What to Expect
When patients come in and tell me they keep catching colds or other infections and want to know what they can do, I tell them six things (at least):
- Your state of mind matters. As miserable as it can be to feel under the weather with all the aches, fever, chills, congestion, and headaches that go with it – if you can keep your goal in mind, to recover by supporting your body to fight off the infection – the more likely it is that you’ll recover faster.
- A fever of about 99 to 102 Fahrenheit is probably a good sign. Your body creates a fever in order to fight off the infection. So, if you take products that reduce your fever, you may actually be extending the length of time that you are ill. Instead, stay hydrated and rest to help your body’s natural healing process. If ever a fever is over 102 for a child or over 104 for a teen/adult, then you need more medical attention to determine the cause.
- Your body can learn how to fight off infections without antibiotics. The first time you fight off a cold, flu, or other respiratory infection without the help of antibiotics, it’s going to take a concerted effort, especially if you just recently stopped eating gluten. Once you have successfully fought off an infection naturally, and the longer you avoid gluten and reduce your sugar intake, the easier it will be next time and the time after that.
- Start immune support right away when you think you may have been exposed, before and after travel (where you’ll definitely be exposed), and/or as soon as you have an inkling that you might be sick. The longer you wait to start supporting your body, the longer the infection will last.
- Take your doses frequently. Herbs and nutrients will wear off or be used up within about 3-4 hours, so you’ll get the most out of them if you take them every four hours or so.*
- If you catch a cold or flu, have a fever or a cough, and you’re not feeling better even after taking all these steps, then it is important you seek professional medical attention right away.
Step 3: Follow My “Fight Off a Virus Quick” Instructions
If, despite of following the first two steps, you do succumb to a virus, these three things will help you recover as quickly as possible:
- Drop all sugar, alcohol, dairy, and gluten. They all deplete your immune system, which you need functioning as well as possible to fight off the virus.
- Cancel any plans and head home for a hot shower or bath, to gargle salt water, and to take the supplements* listed below. Then it’s off to bed for as much rest as possible.
- Bundle up, stay warm, keep hydrated, and take your doses frequently.
Step 4: Start Taking Supplements Right Away
I recommend stocking up on these supplements so you have them to hand and can start taking them as soon as you notice you’ve caught a virus:
An all-in-one nutrient and herbal combo product that I’ve counted on for over 15 years to help me and my patients fight off infections. Recently reformulated, there are minor differences in this tried and true product containing vitamin A, C, zinc, echinacea, bio-flavonoids, and garlic. Take 1 or 2 capsules every 4 to 6 hours through the day (up to 8 per day in divided doses). You can also take 1 or 2 capsules prior to a flight or for prevention.
A natural bioflavonoid-based anti-histamine, which helps both with allergies and congestion associated with colds. Take 1 or 2 capsules every 4 to 6 hours through the day (up to 8 per day in divided doses).
The most comprehensive homeopathic remedy for fending off cold and flu viruses is reformulated each year to make it specific to the current virus strain. For prevention, you can take 10-20 drops once per week. For when you’re actually sick, you can take it multiple times per day.
Mushroom extracts are known to provide immense support to the immune system, in particular to help it fight off viruses. Take one capsule once or twice daily – both for prevention and when you get sick. There is also a mushroom extract in a throat spray form that can be useful as well (log in to your account at DrDoniStore.com to find these).
Vital for calcium absorption, we get vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. Considering that light exposure is lower in the fall and winter, it is probably a good idea to supplement our intake at this time of year (unless you live near the equator). Vitamin D also supports immune function. 5000 iu per day is a standard dose, but it is better to have your vitamin D levels tested in your blood to know where you stand and how much you need to take every day. The optimal blood level of 25 OH vitamin D is 70.
As long as you are not pregnant or don’t have liver disease, then taking vitamin A can make all the difference when it comes to fighting off infections. I suggest you take between 10,000 iu and 25,000 iu per day. If you work with me directly, I may guide you to take a higher dose for a short period of time in order to address the infection effectively.
“Probiotics” refers to supplements containing bacteria that are good for your gut. Read about probiotics here. Keeping the healthy bacteria in proper balance helps your body fight off viruses. In general, you can choose a formula that contains Lactobacillus and Bifido bacteria to support your immune system. However if you have IBS, SIBO, histamine intolerance or any other digestive issue, talk to your health practitioner or make an appointment with me to discuss which product will suits your specific requirements. Read more about how gut health influences your overall health and immune system here.
Additional Immune Support and Notes
You may also consider these other supplements, all of which support immune function and help you fight off infections:
For children, or if you can’t take capsules, I recommend Respiguard liquid and Immune Glycerite liquid, plus you could also add Liposomal Vitamin C, Berry Well Immune, and arabinogalatan (ARA6) powder.
During pregnancy it is important that you consult with your naturopathic doctor or midwife. Research has not been done on all natural products during pregnancy, but there are some that are considered okay to use for short periods of time (for a week while recovering from a cold for example). Homeopathic Triple Flu Defense is okay to use. Rest, hydration, and salt water gargling are also all good options.
Of course, if you are allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients in these products, or if the ingredients are contraindicated based on a medical condition, don’t take them – we can always find alternatives.
Step 5: What to Do if it Becomes Bacterial
If you notice green or yellow phlegm when you blow your nose or cough it means bacteria have become part of the infection. Now it’s good time to see your health practitioner, so that you can devise a plan to address your specific situation.
In my practice, two supplements I commonly recommend for a bacterial infection are:
- BerberCap or Berberine-500 comes from a plant and is highly anti-bacterial. You need to start taking this at the lowest dose and start increasing it bit by bit to determine the effective dose for you.
- Argentyn 23 is a nano-particle form of silver that is known to safely and effectively boost immune function and fend off viral and bacterial infections. It can be taken orally or as a nasal spray for sinus infections.
But again, seek help from a professional at this point. If you don’t have a practitioner, I can meet with you individually to support you through fighting off the bacteria using nutrients and herbs and working to address the underlying reason why you are susceptible to infections in the first place. Find out more about scheduling an appointment here.
It’s Time to Put Yourself First
The best way to fight off an infection is to focus on yourself – at least for a little while. Many of my patients resist this, which we can all understand. We’re busy, with demands from our families and our jobs. But making a concerted effort to give your body the best food, nutrients, herbs, hydration, and sleep gives it a chance to help you recover.
If you’re not seeing progress, it means we need to up our game a bit or to investigate whether there is something we are missing. So if you are not getting better, schedule an appointment with your naturopathic doctor or at urgent care right away.
Are You Ready to Fight Infections Naturally?
Do you think that we can make a commitment to try decreasing the use of antibiotics this fall and winter? I’d love to give it a try because I believe it is possible. What about you? The better you get at fighting off infections naturally, the more confident you’ll feel in your body – and the better prepared you’ll be for exposure to viruses and bacteria in the future.
Let me know how you feel about it – and remember to go at your own pace. What’s right for you is not necessarily what’s right for someone else. Just be logical, be optimistic, and be careful. Pay attention to what you body is telling you – and always seek help from a practitioner if you are not sure of something.
To find any of the products mentioned in this article (and more), go to DrDoniStore.com and search under the health concern for cold and flu. Also, look in the packages where you’ll find discounted rates for what I refer to as your “natural medicine cabinet.”
And – I’m running a special from Sept 28th thru Oct 15th! You can get 20% off anything in the cold/flu category at DrDoniStore.com.
Be sure to set up an account at DrDoniStore.com in order to access all products and if you’d like to set up an auto shipment so that your favorite products arrive on schedule without you having to do anything, and with a discount.
To stay in touch and receive my next article in your email box, feel free to sign up for my e-newsletter here. I’ll also send you a quick guide to recovering from stress for free.
28th September 2016
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.