By Drew Christensen, MD
This year’s flu season is shaping up to be a severe one. Already flu activity across the country is eclipsing last year’s flu season. In the first week of 2018 the number of hospitalizations related to the influenza virus were 22.7 per 100,000 people, up from 13.7 just the previous week, and it’s still on the rise. While experts think the flu is peaking right now, they also expect to see a lot more flu cases in the next few months.
Why is the flu so bad this year?
The flu is an influenza virus and it comes in many varieties. The most common are Influenza A and B, and these are what the flu vaccination is designed to prevent. Within those species, however, there are several different strains. This year 80% of cases involve the H3N2 strain, a particularly nasty strain that causes more complications, hospitalizations and deaths than other strains. The flu vaccine is also less effective with this particular strain. For every 10 people vaccinated, 7-8 will still get the flu.
Symptoms of the flu
The flu is a respiratory virus and can cause minor to severe illness. Usually, the symptoms consist of fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle and body aches, headaches, and fatigue. Occasionally, symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, though this is usually more common in children than adults. Those most at risk are babies, young children, pregnant women, those over the age of 65, and anyone with a compromised immune system or a chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma.
Flu symptoms will usually start to appear 1-4 days after exposure. When you contract the influenza virus, you can be contagious even before the symptoms manifest. Usually, you are contagious for 7 days after contracting the virus. Influenza virus can cause complications and can lead to bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and can be severe in people with chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma, diabetes, COPD and other conditions.
How to Flu-Proof yourself (and create health)
Can you really make yourself flu-proof? This is what our true objective should be. While I can’t guarantee that you’ll never get the flu, I can confidently say that if you’re focused on creating health instead of just treating the symptoms of the disease, you can avoid getting most viral illnesses, as well as most chronic conditions.
The human body has a remarkable ability to prevent illness and heal itself when it is nurtured with whole food and a healthy lifestyle and environment. At Living Health MD, we provide you with a nutrition and lifestyle plan for creating health based on your unique needs. Click here for more information about how we can help you.
The things you can do to prevent getting the flu are the same things you do to create health and enjoy vibrant health well into your 80’s, 90’s and even 100’s.
• Eat whole, nutrient-rich, fresh, organic food. I cannot overstate how critical this is! Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean meats, nuts & seeds, and legumes and your immune system will be strengthened immediately and continually. Eliminate refined sugar and processed foods. They are nutrient-poor and harmful.
• Get adequate, quality sleep. By this, I mean 7-8 hours a night, consistently. There are no exceptions — over 50 years of research bears this out. Everyone needs 7-8 hours to function at their best, and teenagers need 9-10!
• Stay well hydrated with clean, filtered water. I recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces daily to really help your body keep all systems flowing smoothly and move toxins out.(For example, if you weigh 140 lbs, drink 70 oz. of water per day) Other liquids, no matter how “healthy” they are purported to be, are not as good for you as water and are often loaded with sugar, chemicals and additives.
• Exercise regularly. Your body was meant to move, so get up and do something you enjoy that gets your heart rate up 3-5 times per week for 30 minutes or more.
• Find ways to relax and let go of stress. Breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, massage, a warm bath, and even going for a walk are all ways to combat the effects of stress in your life.
• Cultivate loving, rewarding relationships. Yes, good relationships are vital to your health and are a common characteristic of those with the best longevity.
• Get your Vitamin D level up to a therapeutic range. Vitamin D has been shown to be critical to optimum function of the immune system. Your Vitamin D level can be determined by a simple lab test. See us at Living Health MD or ask your doctor to have this tested.
Common sense ways to prevent the flu
• Avoid crowds and places where you know people are sick
• Don’t touch your eyes and nose
• Wash hands frequently
• Disinfect contaminated areas
• Stay home and keep children home if you or they are sick
What to do if you get the flu
Because influenza is a virus, and viruses generally have to run their course, medications to treat it are only marginally effective, and they often have side effects which can be as bad as the flu itself. Medications are most effective when taken as soon as you know you’ve been exposed, or at the first sign of symptoms. Even then, they may only reduce the severity of flu, not cure it.
Home remedies and food can also be effective, and they don’t have harmful side effects. I’ve listed some of the most helpful remedies below.
Healing Foods that boost the immune system
• Fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt
• Turmeric (with active ingredient curcumin)
• Bone Broth
• Cooked vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, carrots, brussels sprouts, etc.
(As always, consult your healthcare provider for dosage recommendations for vitamins, herbs
• Stay well hydrated with water and herbal teas such as ginger, cinnamon or turmeric
• Vitamins C, D and A
• Oregano Oil
• Gargle with salt water – soothes a sore throat
• Drink warm water with lemon, honey and cinnamon – helps prevent mucus buildup
• Run a humidifier – shrinks swelling in nasal passages, and makes it harder for flu viruses to survive
When you implement the good health practices listed above until they become habits, you’ll not only prevent illnesses year-round, but you’ll create vibrant, lasting health as well. If you would like more information on how to do this, sign up for a free 15-minute phone session with Dr. Drew Christensen here.