Some signals indicate that we could be heading into the worst flu season in years. Here’s how natural medicine can help.
Australia has experienced the worst flu season in five years, and US officials are preparing for it to be the same here, as the flu season in the Southern Hemisphere can predict what happens in the Northern Hemisphere. There are several natural medicines that can help shore up your immune system to prepare you for this potential onslaught.
Flu season in Australia began earlier than usual, which can be an indicator of a severe season; the longer the virus circulates, the more people it infects. Australia’s flu season has hit kids the hardest. Children ages 5 to 9 had the highest flu rates, but those under 4 as well as teenagers were also hit hard. Due to the COVID pandemic, many young kids have not had the flu over the last few years. Infectious disease experts say this will make them more susceptible to getting the virus and spreading it.
Conventional medicine’s answer to the flu is the flu vaccine. Public health experts guess what the prevailing strain of the virus will be and create a flu shot that protects against that strain. This is a difficult task, as evidenced by the sub-par efficacy of flu vaccines over the years: since the 2014-15 flu season, flu vaccine efficacy has not gone above 50 percent. Since the 2009-10 flu season, flu vaccine efficacy has averaged 42 percent.
We at ANH-USA have been beating the drum about vitamin D and its well-documented anti-viral capabilities for years. A 2017 study, which pooled data from 25 studies that included more than 10,000 participants, found that vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of respiratory infections (cold and flu) by 10 percent overall—and there are reasons to think this figure greatly understates the degree of protection. The protective effect of vitamin D was even more dramatic in those who were deficient. For the deficient, which about 40% of Americans are, the risk of infection was reduced by half with vitamin D supplementation. Note that over 90 percent of Americans have insufficient vitamin D. This builds upon earlier findings from a 2010 Japanese study which found that vitamin D supplementation was as effective as the vaccine at preventing colds and flu.
There’s reason to believe that vitamin D is even more protective than these numbers suggest. “Deficiency” and “insufficiency” for vitamin D are based on levels determined by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). This body of “experts” recommends that individuals aged 1-70 get 600 IU (15mcg) of vitamin D per day to achieve “normal” circulating blood levels of at least 20 ng/mL. Integrative health experts will tell you that these levels are simply ridiculous. They recommend achieving circulating blood levels as high as 80 ng/mL vitamin D.
This means that the study mentioned above shows that those who are deficient in vitamin D—likely most Americans, given how wrong NASEM is about how much vitamin D we really need—can reduce their risk of cold or flu by 50 percent. That is more effective than the flu vaccine usually is, and without the list of possible side effects such as: fever, headache, sore throat, fatigue, muscle pains, fainting, nausea, and more.
- Vitamin C fights infections and facilitates healing. It can help lessen symptoms and the severity of colds and flu. Humans are among the only mammals that can’t synthesize vitamin C on their own. When animals get sick, they boost synthesis of vitamin C by as much as 60-fold, underscoring the vitamin’s essentiality in responding to infection.
- N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is an antioxidant that suppresses cold and flu symptoms and reduces mucus accumulation. The flu depletes glutathione, and NAC can help restore it.
- Zinc deficiency predisposes us to infections; many chronically ill patients are zinc deficient. This mineral helps promote normal immune responses and proper wound healing.
- Selenium helps lessen the severity of illness and reduces the cytokine storm to support immunity.
Many Americans may be confused by media messages during the pandemic that incorrectly said that you can’t “boost” immunity to protect from infection. This is a bungled message: you can certainly make sure your body has the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy internal environment and to fight off invaders more effectively.