We’re losing the war on influenza. We wait too long before taking preventive measures.
Every year, we face an epidemic or a more serious worldwide pandemic. Epidemics are the flu that comes around each year, while pandemics are less frequent but more harmful global infections. Thomas Frieden, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has said that vaccination is the best defense against the yearly flu.
Figure. Effectiveness of Seasonal Flu Vaccines from the 2004-2018 Flu Seasons
One of the problems with the vaccine is that some seasons it works and others it clearly doesn’t. In the past 15 years, efficacy ranges from 10-60%. Only one year in 15 shows 60%, with the average being about 35%. So what if you are not one of the lucky 35%?
How can you stop the flu? First, strengthen your immune system before flu season so it’s strong enough to be protective. This is
a slow and steady process. Ideally you begin this 2-3 months prior to the flu season. Then you need to increase your intake of friendly bacteria to keep pathogenic bacteria in check. And finally, you need to have herbs and other nutrients on hand to take at the first sign of a cold or flu like a sore throat, slight fever, or runny nose. If you wait even a day or two, they may not work. Why? These are natural solutions and they require you to hop on the natural train immediately - the nature of nature is slow and steady.
Instead of praying for a good vaccination season, all of us should be modifying our lifestyles now – before next year’s flu arrives. That means getting started now.
A Strong Immune System
Have you noticed that the majority of deaths from last year’s flu occurred in people who had other health problems? They either lacked a strong enough immune system or had not built up immunity to the current flu strains. Many people who had been exposed to viruses in the past had built up a natural immunity to this year’s strain and survived.
Immunity is the key factor, and scientists know this. This is why they continually adjust vaccines to match the current viral strain, since it constantly mutates. Here are a few key nutrients to consider that may enhance your immunity and help you avoid the flu. Choose one or more to integrate into your present lifestyle.
Stress, aging, a poor diet, insufficient sleep, and environmental pollutants can all turn probiotics (friendly) into pathogenic (harmful) bacteria. Because probiotics boost immunity, taking them can be extremely beneficial when fighting the flu. When I was a young acupuncturist, I worked at a well-known
horse-racing track. I was so impressed that the trainers gave these horses probiotics – every day. I
remember asking one of the trainers, why? He told me that if he gives the horses the probiotics every
day, they don’t get sick. He then told me that after a year of seeing this, he himself began taking the
very same probiotics and to his delight – no cold or flu that season for him. It's now 25 years later and
I still hear from Bob from time to time. He always tells me that every year he and his horses from October through March take probiotics.
There are thousands of species of bacteria that make up the 100 trillion microorganisms in our bodies. The handful of species in fermented foods and supplements is but a fraction. We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of probiotics that strengthen immunity. Some of the species that researchers have found in sound studies to significantly reduce respiratory infections associated with the flu are L. casei, L. rhamnosus, L. plantarum, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, B. bifidum, and B. breve. They’re not the only ones that regulate immunity, but they are some that we know work. For this reason, I suggest you take a number of these specific probiotic species morning and night to repopulate your body with immune-enhancing bacteria.
Most of these probiotics are found in Advanced Probiotic Formula by Advanced Bionutritionals. There are plenty of other formulas to choose from that are available in stores and the Internet. Just be sure to get one containing a variety of these species that have been tested and found beneficial for immune support. And lastly, it’s good to try several different ones and see which one your
body prefers – then continue to rotate and use the one your body likes four months of the year.
Sambucol: is a black elderberry-based botanical supplement found to be effective against 10 strains of influenza. In addition to its anti-viral properties, it activates a healthy immune system. One double-blind study showed that Sambucol shortened the duration of flu symptoms from two weeks to three-to-four days. It’s active against a number of bacterial infections and viruses, which makes it appropriate whether you are exposed to a cold or flu.
You can find an elderberry extract on the Internet or in health food stores. Just make sure you get one that says it’s a standardized extract. This means it will have the same activity bottle after bottle.
Honeysuckle: Have you ever stopped to smell a honeysuckle vine? If so, you may have been breathing in the solution to the influenza A viruses (IAV), which include Spanish flu and avian flu. The Chinese have been using honeysuckle in traditional medicine for years, often turning it into tea. Researchers at Nanjing University in China decided to see if there was any scientific benefit to this strategy.
According to their study, published in Cell Research, there is. They reported, “The results show that honeysuckle decoction has a broad-spectrum anti-viral activity.” Here's why.
Honeysuckle contains a molecule called MIR2911. The molecule survives being mashed up and boiled. We call that making tea — scientists call it a decoction. When mice drank this tea, the molecule moved into their plasma and lung tissue.
From there, it fought IAV by targeting two genes that flu viruses need to replicate, PB2 and NS1. It didn't matter whether the MIR2911 molecule came from an actual honeysuckle vine or if it was made synthetically. Either way, it kept the mice safe from H1N1, or swine flu.
While these results haven't been replicated in humans yet, they're still very exciting. Scientists have never found any natural product that can fight a virus directly. Since viruses mutate, it's very hard to develop a lasting effective treatment. But because MIR2911 fights so many different aspects of virus replication, it might work even if the viruses do mutate.
The team even found that MIR2911 “directly targets the Ebola virus.” This finding may be critical in the development of anti-Ebola drugs.
For now, we don't know for sure whether honeysuckle tea will be effective for humans. But it's definitely doing good things for mice. I expect we will hear about human studies soon. I can't wait to hear the results. Until then, feel free to drink some honeysuckle tea with your breakfast. Even if it doesn't cure the flu, it still tastes good! And I suspect its ability to fight viruses could help you stay healthy this winter.
Zinc: Your immune system needs sufficient zinc. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that seniors who were given 45 mg of zinc gluconate daily for one year had significantly fewer infections than the control group that were not given any zinc. We know from this and other studies that supplemental zinc can help prevent colds and flu. But not all forms are effective.
The best zinc for this purpose is found in zinc acetate lozenges. They allow the zinc to dissolve in the throat where it’s needed and have the strongest anti-viral effect.
Zinc acetate lozenges are hard to find. The only one I could find was developed by Frank Shallenberger, MD, editor of Second Opinion newsletter, and is available from Advanced Bionutritionals.
I have tried these lozenges on a number of people with excellent results. I suggest you have some on hand to take at the first sign of, or exposure to, a cold or flu.
Mushrooms: One of my favorite immune strengtheners, which has repeatedly saved me from colds and flu, are medicinal mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms are known to boost immunity, but few people realize that the common button mushroom does, as well. That said, MycoPhyto Complex, a supplement made from powdered medicinal mushrooms that have been grown on immune-enhancing Chinese herbs along with beta glucan, which stimulates your immune system, has out-performed all other mushroom products both in studies and with my patients. I take one capsule every day, and increase the amount at the first sign of a cold or flu to two capsules morning and night.
You can order Advanced Probiotic Formula, Zinc Lozenges, and MycoPhyto simply by visiting the
Advanced Bionutritionals website.
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Krawitz, C., M.A. Mraheil, M. Stein, C. Imirzalioglu, E. Domann, S. Pleschka, and T. Hain. “Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses.” BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 February 25;11:16. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-11-16.
Olmstead, Stephen, MD, et al. “Making Sense of Probiotics,” Klaire Labs Technical Summary.
Prasad, A.S1., F.W. Beck, B. Bao, J.T. Fitzgerald, D.C. Snell, J.D. Steinberg, and L.J. Cardozo. “Zinc supplementation decreases incidence of infections in the elderly: effect of zinc on generation of cytokines and oxidative stress,” Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 March;85(3):837-44.