How to Treat Flu (Influenza) Naturally

flu influenza

How to Treat Flu (Influenza) Naturally

Both the common cold and the flu are caused by viruses, so what seems like a cold at first may develop into a full-fledged attack of flu. However, while a cold may allow you to function more or less normally, the flu can make you feel like you've been marched over by a division of soldiers. And it gets even more complicated because the flu sometimes sneaks up on you and doesn't produce any symptoms at first, but if you don't take care of yourself, you could end up with viral pneumonia.

The flu and the common cold can start out pretty much the same: a sore throat, congested breathing, runny nose. Coughing is a very common symptom of the flu, though. A cough is brief and dry and occurs in spasms. There may also be a pain in the chest. Eyes will be red and watery, and the face will be flushed. If the fever goes up over 101℉ (38.3℃) and is accompanied by chills, headache, muscle and backaches and extreme tiredness, you've been captured by the flu. Consider yourself a prisoner of war and take it easy. Wait out the fighting still taking place inside your body between the flu viruses and your body's defenses by drinking lots of fluids, staying in bed, and eating the best food you can. Chances are that the flu infection will run its course in a few days and you'll feel good as new afterward. However, don't get out and act like it just yet, because you're not quite home free.

While you're down and out with the flu and your defenses have their hands full, pneumonia-causing bacteria sometimes sneak in. And flu viruses can also cause pneumonia. Either form of pneumonia can be the second half of a one-two punch that can land you in the hospital, or at least at the doctor's surgery for a few weeks' supply of antibiotics.

So stay at home a number of days and nurse yourself through. Is this the time to bring out the cold pills? No. Keep focused on the principle that comfort is the best medicine, even though that comfort is going to be more difficult to achieve now than it was in the very first days of your flu.

Grandma's Comforts

Hal Z. Bennett, author of a book called Cold Comfort — Everybody's Guide to Self-Treatment of Colds and Flu (1979), describes some traditional, commonsense ways of dealing with the flu.

Cosying Up Take a very hot bath, as hot as you can stand, and then snuggle up in a nice warm bed. Remain there the whole day and through that night, even if doing so means you're neglecting your family. Read a good book or write letters to special friends who are far away. Drink lots of fluids.

For a scratchy or a sore throat, try :

Hot lemon tea Cut up two whole lemons and add to a pot of boiling water. Let steep for ten minutes. Drink with a tablespoon of honey to the cup.

For a scratchy throat with nasal or sinus congestion, there is :

Hot ginger milk Heat, but do not boil, a pan of milk. To this, add two or three slices of fresh ginger. If fresh isn't available, use ¼—¾ teaspoon of ground ginger. Serve hot with honey to taste.

Or try this :

Vinegar and honey Mix equal parts (one tablespoon each) of apple cider vinegar and honey in hot water to relieve nasal congestion and aches. Can also be used to gargle.

Some cures were potent indeed :

Herbs Herbalists today base most of their remedies on age-old recipes handed down from one generation to another. Teas such as chamomile, rosehip and peppermint are used by many people to relieve symptoms of the common cold and flu. Teas of cayenne (red pepper) are said to be excellent for relieving a cough.

Cod-liver oil and garlic A remedy for a cold or flu, which most of us probably prefer to forget, is that dose of cod-liver oil two or three times a day. Or how about swallowing some garlic?

Why old remedies work

Many traditional remedies have survived from generation to generation for the simple reason that they work. Sometimes the remedies are effective because, like the doctor prescribing pills, one feels better doing something, rather than sulking around waiting for nature to take its course. However, there is often a physiological basis for the traditional remedies, and one researcher found it intriguing to attempt to trace what some of these might be.

The physiological basis for the first remedy mentioned here 'cozying up' is in some ways the most obvious. The main ingredient here is warmth. We know that heat increases the body's production of natural substances to reduce the viruses' ability to reproduce (See also FEVER). Moreover, it speeds up the body's metabolic rate, creating an active, rather than a sluggish, system for cleaning away dead cells and creating new ones to replace those damaged by the viruses. And by raising your body temperature, you make a less inviting environment for the viruses. In addition, the warmth relaxes you. This absence of stress, we know, is particularly therapeutic — not only because it opens tiny capillaries throughout your body, thus increasing the flow of blood to areas of infection, but also because it keeps down your production of the hormone cortisol, which can reduce antibody production.

Similarly, relaxation is important in that part of the remedy which suggests writing letters to friends who are far away. During such an activity, you can daydream about pleasurable times you spent with those friends in the past, and this open, relaxed mental state, similar to some meditative states, has a definite beneficial healing effect.

Finally, drinking plenty of liquids is important in maintaining a healthy fluid level in your body. With your body temperature raised, you use up a lot more moisture than usual, and it is essential to maintain that fluid level at all times. The hot lemon tea and the ginger and the vinegar and honey recipes probably help relieve a scratchy or a sore throat in two ways: first, they stimulate blood flow to the mucosal tissue of your throat; and second, they may help change the alkaline environment of your throat to a healthier acid level. Of course, lemon, ginger, and vinegar also have the effect of relieving congestion, probably by stimulating those cells in the mucosal tissue of both the nasal passages and throat, which produce fluids to thin thickened mucus.

Fending off the flu

There are ways to keep from falling victim to the flu. Good nutrition can help put a barrier between you and the flu come winter.

In the three winter months of November, December and January, we as a nation spend more time huddled together for warmth in the home, at pubs, and on public transport than in the other nine months combined. In addition, we eat far fewer fresh vegetables and fruit and, during the holiday period, we overeat, drink too much, stay up late and go out visiting and shopping far more than at other times of the year.

Coincidentally — or maybe not so coincidentally — this is also the time of the year when cold and flu viruses decide to go on their annual rampage.

Why winter ushers in the flu season, no one really knows. Flu researchers at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia suspect that the holidays bring an 'increased chance of transmission'. People crowd together at parties and in shops. Students come home from college and university, possibly bringing strange viruses along with their dirty laundry and radical ideas.

Researchers know that the flu follows a fairly regular cycle, but they don't think that flu rates automatically rise as the temperature drops. One theory has it that migrating birds, such as the mallard duck and the arctic tern, unwittingly carry flu bugs from continent to continent. (Flu viruses are believed to have originated among birds, which have developed an immunity to them.) Most puzzling of all, the flu virus itself constantly changes in subtle ways and constantly forces our immune system to adapt by producing new kinds of antibodies. Some say the flu will always be with us.

Faced with this dilemma, there are at least three routes you can take. You can stock up on cold capsules and cough syrup. You can wait for a new vaccine to be developed. Or you can try the nutritional approach and shore up your resistance against whatever strange new strain of flu virus that nature decides to throw at us this year. The best way to do that is to make sure you have an ample supply of the vitamins and minerals that play a necessary role in maintaining a strong immune response.

'Nutrition is important here,' wrote a Scottish bacteriologist in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (May 1980), 'because an immune response which is not supplied with the necessary building blocks, energy or catalysts will clearly be incapable of its maximum efficiency. '

Vitamin C

One nutrient that stands between you and the flu is, of course, vitamin C. Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling is the best-known advocate of this vitamin, but other researchers have also spoken out about the beneficial effect of large doses of vitamin C on the immune system.

Benjamin V. Siegel, professor of pathology at the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center, has been studying vitamin C for several years. In experiments with mice, Dr. Siegel, and his assistant Brian Leibovitz found that a lack of vitamin C depresses the activity of natural immunity police called T-cells (white blood cells that seek and destroy viruses and cancer cells), and that supplements of vitamin C enhance it. Vitamin C also appeared to intensify the ability of white blood cells to rush to the scene of an infection, swallow foreign particles whole and kill bacteria.

The most exciting news, Dr. Siegel says, is that vitamin C seems to stimulate the production of interferon, the natural antiviral protein produced by cells under attack. In mouse tissue cultures, he reports, the amount of interferon doubled in the presence of vitamin C. 'I take it myself, it doesn't seem to do any harm. And it seems to be doing a lot for the animals. '

The question of whether vitamin C can actually boost resistance above normal or is simply a necessary ingredient of the body's normal immune response has also been investigated. Is vitamin C the icing on the cake, so to speak, or is it part of the cake itself?

According to Richard S. Panush, a researcher at the University of Florida College of Medicine, vitamin C is the icing. Dr. Panush, working with Jeffrey C. Delafuente of St Louis University, found that vitamin C 'significantly augmented' the action of one type of human white blood cell in a test-tube experiment. They achieved their best results when they added fresh vitamin C to their cell cultures every day. The longer the cells were exposed to the vitamin, the better the immunological response (International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, vol. 50, no. 1, 1980).

In a previous experiment, the two men found that supplements of 1—3 g of vitamin C per day 'significantly enhanced' the white blood cell response of volunteers, as compared to a group given a placebo (Clinical Research, April 1979).


Another nutrient vital to the immune system is zinc. This mineral is a critical ingredient of our defenses.

'When even marginal amounts of the necessary complement of dietary zinc are missing, ' says Pamela J. Fraker, an immunologist at Michigan State University, 'the immune response quickly deteriorates. ' The Scottish bacteriologist we quoted earlier adds, 'Nutritional deprivation of zinc in mice leads within 28 days to severe deficiencies of cell-mediated (T-cell) immunity. In man, zinc deficiency leads to T-cell failure and probably to a predisposition to infection. '

How exactly does zinc work for you? Zinc apparently helps in the division of white blood cells and strengthens cell membranes. There is also evidence that the body needs zinc for wound healing and for the formation of collagen, the fibrous protein that is the chief constituent of connective tissue (Archives of Disease in Childhood, December 1979). A group of researchers at the University of California has shown that mice whose mothers were deprived of zinc during their pregnancy have severely under-developed spleens and thymuses. Both of those organs play important roles in immunity (Journal of Nutrition, April 1980).

The B vitamins

There is also some evidence that the B vitamins are needed for a fully or chartered immune response. In a paper delivered at an American Chemical Society convention in Houston, Texas, researchers from the Massachusetts institute of Technology reported that a folic-acid deficiency hindered white blood cells from multiplying and was, in general, associated with an increased susceptibility to infection in humans and animals. Also, unborn laboratory animals that received low levels of methionine (an amino acid) and choline (a B-vitamin-like nutrient) while in the womb suffered from an impaired resistance to certain kinds of infections later in life.

At the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, biochemist A. E. Axelrod has shown that without the B vitamins folic acid, pyridoxine (B6) and pantothenic acid, laboratory animals cannot produce the antibodies required to defend against invading micro-organisms such as the flu virus. The B vitamins also seemed to contribute to the 'anamnestic response' — the body's ability to remember invaders and be prepared to attack them if they appear a second time. However, Dr. Axelrod cautioned that he worked only with animals and only with extreme deficiencies, and he couldn't assume that the same would be true in humans.

Vitamins A and E

These may also take part in the immune response. Researchers at Colorado State University observed a great increase in the resistance to infection of mice and chickens after their diets were supplemented with vitamin E. The vitamin apparently stimulates the production of antibodies by the glands and invigorates the action of phagocytes, a type of white blood cell that engulfs foreign material in the bloodstream (Federation Proceedings, June 1979).

As for vitamin A, researchers in Thailand recently found that animals deficient in vitamin A have fewer antibodies in the secretions of their mucous membranes — in the nose, for example. Certain changes in these membranes, resulting from the shortage of vitamin A, allow micro-organisms to colonize or penetrate them more easily and find their way into the body. Ordinarily, the membranes would trap these organisms and expel them (Clinical and Experimental Immunology, April 1980).

So if you'd rather not get into cold capsules or cough syrup in a big way, and you can't wait for the vaccine, the best thing — and maybe the only thing — you can do is to make sure you're protected by all the nutrients you need for a strong immune response.
How to Treat Flu (Influenza) Naturally How to Treat Flu (Influenza) Naturally Reviewed by Healthy Kite on 9/04/2016 Rating: 5

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