This information was originally assembled in response to a flu threat, but it is good advice for general protection and response to any infectious challenge. Also, remember that your immune system silently protects you every minute of every day by killing and cleaning up cells that start to divide and multiply out of control. Learn more about cancer .
Sleep – We repair and build strength when we sleep. Sleep deprivation is a stressor that lowers immunity.
Adequate water – Drinking plenty of water helps all systems run more efficiently and helps flush toxins. Adequate fluid intake also puts you in better shape to withstand the dehydration that often accompanies the symptoms of the flu.1 Learn more.
Diet – Real food such as vegetables build immune strength. Spices are also protective. It is well documented that sugar reduces immunity for hours. Learn more.
Good stomach acid level – Your stomach acid is your first line of defense against pathogens. So, for goodness sake don’t block production of it with drugs. (If you have heartburn or acid reflux, please read my book. 2 )
Colostrum is the supplement nature provides for newborn mammals of all kinds including humans. Infants need a lot of help since they’ve never been exposed to pathogens before and have no acquired immunity. It makes perfect sense to me to give our immune systems this kind of boost when exposed to a threat which might be any given day.
Vitamin D – This hormone-like vitamin is made by our skin but most of us do not get enough sun exposure, especially through the winter. (Hmmm…think it’s a coincidence that’s what is known as the “colds and flu season”?) Several experts say that if you take high doses (e.g. 50,000 units a day and even more for 3 days from the onset of symptoms) you can nip viral infections in the bud. (It has worked for me—e.g. when I started to feel bad after coming home tired after a trip where everyone around me on the plane was coughing…)
Good bacteria in the digestive tract are a crucial line of defense. They kill bad bugs and build strength by improving digestion and absorption of nutrients, detoxification and much more. Read about them under “Digestion” at this link.
Omega 3 fats like those in fish oil are renowned for their benefit to health of the heart, brain and eyes, but its benefit to the immune system has also been shown in a large number of studies. If you take Cod Liver Oil, you get the benefit of vitamin A and vitamin D at the same time. I chose Nordic Naturals as a sponsor for my show because I think they make the finest product and it is widely available.
OTHER VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Vitamin C – Seems everyone knows about this one but often they take too little. Most people can tolerate 500 mg buffered C per waking hour the first day. If you get a loose stool, back off.
Magnesium – Magnesium is critical to immune function and hundreds of other reactions in the body. As much as 70% of the population is low in magnesium. If you feel achy, soak in a warm Epsom salts bath. Not only is it soothing, you will also absorb magnesium through your skin. Topical magnesium spray is a good way to routinely get more without risking diarrhea.
Iodine – This mineral is used to sanitize surfaces in hospitals and was known as the universal medicine to treat infections before antibiotics were discovered. It is also important to the function of the thyroid gland which in turn helps the immune system protect us even from cancer. The Japanese safely tolerate a huge amount of iodine in sea vegetables they eat. Iodine was added to table salt to help with deficiency-induced goiter, but that iodine quickly evaporates in the box. We also don’t get as much iodine as we did years ago when it was an ingredient in bread. Even worse, today bromides are used in bread and fluoride is added to water—they compete with the little bit of iodine we do get. Hear Dr. Flechas talk about iodine. Iodoral is a high potency dietary supplement. (The liquid in your first aid kit is only safe for use on the skin.)
Zinc – Another mineral well known to improve immune function. It is hard to build up your body stores in a hurry with tablets when you see the flu in the news, but the zinc lozenges do seem to deliver the zinc quickly in a way that is helpful. Your health food store should have several choices—ask which one tastes best. (But don’t go to sleep with one in your mouth because you will have trouble getting rid of the metallic taste.)
Vitamin A – A is especially important for health of the mucous membranes where viruses and bacteria take up residence. We can make vitamin A from beta-carotene (e.g. in carrots) but only if all systems are working as they should. I make sure there is some real (not from carotene) vitamin A in my daily vitamins. (A level of 5,000 per day is probably enough and that is the upper limit if you are or even might be pregnant.)
Supplement plan – Read my recommendations .
Garlic – When the plague hit in the middle ages people protected themselves with garlic. Now there are many studies showing how aged garlic improves the immune system. Our sponsor Kyolic is the only source of aged garlic. I think the liquid is the most economical (aging takes away the garlic flavor and smell as well as creating new highly beneficial substances). It is available through another of our sponsors, RealFoodGrocery.com .
The common cold and many other respiratory infections are viral. Caution: too often antibiotics are mistakenly used in these situations and since they don’t fight viruses, the practice may only serve to weaken the patient. On the other hand, if you take an herbal or homeopathic antiviral and are wrong, you haven’t hurt anything.
Elderberry extract – Not only is this extract proven of benefit in overcoming viruses, it tastes yummy. I prefer Sambucol because it has the most research and history of use.
Olive leaf extract – This is a plant used for centuries because it relieved infectious disease symptoms. Modern science shows that one of the actions is against viruses. Read Dr. Ron Hoffman’s interesting write-up.
HOMEOPATHICS FOR COLDS AND FLU
Research has demonstrated that the natural medicine Oscillococcinum ® reduces the duration and severity of flu symptoms. It is easy to take and handy to have with you. Another favorite of mine is Engystol ® by Heel.
1Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis . Albert Sanchez, J. L. Reeser , H. S. Lau, P. Y. Yahiku, R. E. Willard, P. J. McMillan, S. Y. Cho, A. R. Magie, and U. D. Register. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 26, 1180-1184.