The cold and flu season is upon us once again. The following is a ton of information designed to help you protect yourself from getting sick this winter – and what to do if your efforts fail.
General recommendations for preventing colds…
Help your immune system to function optimally by getting enough sleep, exercising (but not excessively), managing stress, eating an abundance of raw, colorful vegetables every day, keeping sugar to a low level, avoiding foods to which you are sensitive or allergic and testing for and correcting any underlying nutritional deficiencies.
To prevent a cold or the flu, fruits, vegetables and berries are especially critical
Studies suggest a pound of produce, including 1-2 pieces of fruit, per day so aim for 60-80% of your plate being veggies, with at least half of that raw, every day. For that reason, the 30 raw fruits, vegetables and berries and no sugar in Juice Plus+ capsules is a proven way to decrease colds and flus.
Several peer-reviewed published studies using Juice Plus+ capsules have looked at immune function and all found very beneficial effects. One study in particular, out of several, confirmed what I have seen repeatedly for the past ten years: that people who take Juice Plus+ have fewer and shorter, milder colds and flus in general. Vitamin C is the least of it! The synergy of thousands of phytonutrients working together is what we need for optimal health. The variety of produce in Juice Plus+, raw and whole, including the skin and seeds of 30 vine-ripened, colorful plant foods makes it very nutritionally dense as well as gentle and easy to absorb. So, do both; eat more fresh produce and take your Juice Plus+ green, red (Garden and Orchard Blends) and Vineyard Blends every day.
An adequate blood level of Vitamin D is essential (50-80 ng/mL is optimal) for immune health
Take 2,000-5,000 IU of D3 daily if you are not sure of your blood levels but, ideally, take what I have told you that you need based on your blood levels. If you have not had a recent (6 months, ideally or 12 months, maximum) blood test for vitamin D (25-OH Vitamin D), ask your regular doctor or call my office (or, there is now a home-use, finger stick Vitamin D test for all of you busy folks – and all of you needlephobic folks!).\
Beneficial bacteria in your gut are vital to a robust immune system.
Zinc is also key
Eat plenty of zinc and selenium rich foods such as Brazil and other nuts, pumpkin seeds, avocados and berries. Vegetarians and many others may need to supplement with zinc as flesh foods are a significant source of zinc. Zinc gets used up daily when detoxifying metals and other toxins, so you don’t want to run low. Blood levels are sometimes needed to see where you are.
Sugar paralyzes your immune cells for 4-6 hours
After the sugar equivalent of a can of soda, white blood cells temporarily stop moving and are unable to attack and destroy a microbe. Avoid refined sweets – and even fruit — especially if you feel like you are coming down with a bug.
Adequate hydration is critical to a well-functioning immune system
Drink lots of water. And wash your hands frequently. Your thoughts also affect your immune function. Your brain and your immune system are intimate and your brain believes everything you tell it; so please, talk nicely to yourself and others.
What to do if you get a cold…
Even when one is very healthy, eats kale by the pound and does everything else we all try to do, sometimes the bugs win. It’s not personal!! It happens to the best of us…sometimes your immune system is just overwhelmed by one or many bugs (viruses or bacteria) that you have never seen before and so you have poor existing immunity against the onslaught. You can catch anything from a cold virus to an influenza virus, as well as bacterial infections like strep throat or pneumonia.
Sometimes when you are sick with a virus, you are susceptible to a secondary bacterial infection (such as a cold becoming a sinus infection). Your very best chance at thwarting or shortening the course of any upper-respiratory tract infection, be it viral or bacterial, is to act at the very beginning, when you are first noticing small warning symptoms.
What to do when you first feel sick (if you have a scratchy throat, congested nose and head, body aches, fever…
- REST Go to bed if you can. Sleep MORE. Put a humidifier on in winter. Use essential oils.
- DRINK LOTS AND LOTS of water, tea, broth, diluted juice… Add protein powder, amino acids and collagen for extra benefits. Bone broth is not recommended because of the possibility of lead contamination.
- STEAM mustard packs, horseradish, wasabi…all help to clear out your sinuses but steam, salt water nose sprays and Neti pots are a lot gentler and work really well. Do salt water rinses frequently.
- FRUIT BLEND Start taking 1-3 extra Juice Plus+ capsules every FEW HOURS (the modern version of Vitamin C, JP+ contains more C plus all of the bioflavonoid family, which allows the C to work better).
- BERRY BLEND Take 2-4 per day to a maximum of 8 per day. (Bilberries, elderberries and other dark purple berries have anti-flu, anti-viral effects as well as potent antioxidants.)
- VEGETABLE BLEND Increase your daily green capsules by 2-4 per day, to a maximum of 8 per day also. Divided doses, with food including some fat, will maximize absorption.
- COLLOIDAL SILVER is effective against many microbes including the flu virus. It may help with a common cold, strep throat, MRSA and is being investigated against Lyme and anthrax. It is safe and, in my experience, very effective when taken as directed. Not all colloidal silvers are the same, though. The dosing schedule varies between brands — the best ones being ACS, Biotics and Designs For Health. Do not use silver products that are stronger than 10 ppm (parts per million). All require a loading dose, which is a double dose taken at the first sign of illness, followed by frequent small doses.
- MUCO COCCINUM If you have fever, body aches, headaches and other indications of flu (as opposed to just a minor head-cold for example), start taking this homeopathic remedy designed to help your system fight all the common influenza strains. Take one tablet, 3 times a day, away from food, under the tongue, as directed. This same remedy can be taken preventively, once every 2-4 weeks during flu season). Other homeopathic remedies are better suited for non-flu-like sinus or respiratory illnesses.
- GARLIC Peeled and raw, left out for 20+ minutes before ingesting…several cloves throughout the day OR high dose garlic concentrates (Allicillin, 2-3 caps a day in divided doses).
- LIPOSOMAL VITAMIN C nutrients delivered in liposomal form offer superior absorption and bioavailability.
MUCINEX is a safe OTC remedy that helps thin out mucus so it is easier to blow out or cough up; the less mucus you have, the better you feel — and more importantly, the less of a chance you have of catching a secondary bacterial infection. Mucinex 1200mg time-release tabs or plain Mucinex twice a day is smart if your head or chest is congested. Take with even more fluids (see above) for it to work.
Occasionally, a person may remain ill despite the above, or just cannot afford to be sick one day longer than necessary. There are several other remedies that may help you fight off infections including:
- Medicinal mushrooms — Immune support formula from JHS (hot water extracts) are the most effective.
- Olive Leaf extract, Glutathione
When to go to the doctor…
Warning signs of the flu and more serious illness include a rapid onset, fever over 102 with chills, body pain and/or severe headaches.
DO NOT ASSUME YOU KNOW WHAT AILS YOU IF YOU ARE NOT IMPROVING.
Go to the ER or get examined by your primary care doctor if:
- You are short of breath at all, even just a little…
- You have a severe sore throat that lasts for more than 3 days (need to exclude strep)
- You have a persistent fever, or a fever over 103F or a rash along with a fever…
- You are getting worse, not better, after the first several days of an illness.
Get help and get seen if you are more than the “ho-hum, been here before” level of sick.
In addition to a careful history, you need an examination of your vital signs, ears, nose, throat, lungs and heart, and need assessment of your overall state, perhaps blood tests or a chest x-ray are indicated to evaluate the possibility of a serious bacterial infection that may require antibiotics.
A note about fluid and fevers and aches and pains:
Your immune system creates many of the symptoms we experience when we are ill with an infection. They serve a purpose but when they get out of control, they can hurt us. The tools the immune system uses to help you fight infections from all microbes (fever, mucus…) require vast amounts of water so dehydration is a real threat and will hinder your ability to heal.
A fever is produced by your immune system as part of inflammation; it can kill both viruses and bacteria. The body handles a rise in temperature much better than microbes do, but there is a limit both for comfort and safety. Try to let a low-grade fever to run its course; do not treat it with medications unless it goes to or above 102.5 or is making you so miserable you can’t rest or sleep. Then use Tylenol (acetominophen), not ibuprofen.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is much safer than the NSAIDs like Advil or Motrin, as a rule.
Tylenol requires amino acids (protein) and antioxidants to be safe, so it becomes unsafe if fasting (never a good idea) and in the significantly malnourished, or if taken at higher than recommended doses. It is otherwise the safest pain and fever-reducing pharmaceutical available. If always taken with a dose of NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) or glutathione, and with all of the suggestions above including high doses of Juice Plus+, you will mitigate any potential liver harm.
NSAIDs can erode the lining of the GI tract at any dose and, over time, can contribute to blood pressure problems and intestinal hyperpermeability. There are more potential side effects from NSAIDs like Advil than with Tylenol; but there are times when only NSAIDs work for the symptoms at hand and, so, they should be considered for very short-term use only.
Inflammatone, quercetin, curcumin, turmeric, Arthrobens and Baxaprim are all safer solutions for pain. Avoid anti-histamines like Benadryl, especially in winter as they dry out mucus, making it thick and hard to excrete. Better to keep it thin and drain it out.
Taking antibiotics for cold or flu…
As antibiotics do nothing for viruses, and their inappropriate use causes resistance and at times, serious side effects, it is important to only take them when it is clearly necessary. And not even all bacterial infections need antibiotics, but everyone is different. It is equally important to be grateful we have them for those cases of serious infections.
If you are prescribed antibiotics, make sure to take the entire course unless you discussed it with me or another doctor, please! Never take old, expired antibiotics as they can cause serious problems including kidney failure.
During antibiotic (ATB) treatment – the ideal probiotic is Saccharomyces boulardii, a yeast that eats yeast. Take it twice a day, away from food. This is not appropriate to take for more than 2-3 months, as it can become a pest itself. Then, after you have finished your antibiotics, take a PROBIOTIC with beneficial bacteria, such as the Lactobaccillus and Bifido species, at high doses, 30-100 billion a day, with food, for two months at least.
Dr. Tamara Sachs
With over 30 years in the medical field, Dr. Sachs is a pioneer of Functional Medicine and Integrative Care. She has toured the world and spoken to over 500 audiences about the benefits of detox, wellness and nutrition-based health. Her experience is available to help YOU hit your wellness goals.
With credible, scientific and leading-edge information, and everything from resources to recipes, Dr. Sachs will empower you to take control of your life and your health.