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13 Ways to Fight the Flu

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 by | 0 views

1.       Sleep More   Sleep and immunity are closely linked.  Mammals who sleep the most have the highest levels of disease fighting white blood cells. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (09/2002) found that the effectiveness of the flu vaccine is decreased by sleep deprivation. It also found that immunity can be recovered when sleep is caught up.  During sleep interluekin-1, an immune boosting substance is released, so fewer hours of sleep can affect the immune system strength. A recent study of adults 153 adults found that those who slept less than 7 hours per night were 3  times more likely to catch cold when exposed to the virus.  For children , though no studies document this, most experts agree that they need at least 10 hours per night of sleep to remain healthy.

Penelope Bryant,  a researcher at Royal Children's Hospital, Australia, notes that "there is increasing evidence that sleep deprivation has detrimental effects on the immune response, indicating that sleep should be considered a vital part of the immune system and that there is a reciprocal relationship between sleep and immunity."

2.       Mother Love Soup  Yes, the old wives tale is true, chicken soup is a cure-all for colds and flu.  First published in the medical journal Chest in 2000, Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center conducted laboratory tests to determine why chicken soup might help colds. Using blood samples from volunteers, he showed that the soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection.   Two other studies looked at the benefit of the hot steamy soup on the nasal passages and found that chicken soup did indeed do a better job than hot water in relieving congestion.  For vegetarians, a soy based Miso broth with shitake mushrooms , garlic and onions may offer similar benefits.  Fermented foods like Miso are known for their probiotic action which helps promote friendly bacteria in the mucus membranes and the gut and shitake mushrooms are especially high in infection fighting  beta-glucans.  Garlic and onions also found in homemade chicken soup have long been believed to be infection fighters.

3.       Sunshine Every Day   We are blessed here in San Diego to have abundant sunshine the year round. New studies have shown that Vitamin "D3" deficiency causes not only susceptibility to infection but may contribute to many other diseases as well. The healthy child needs 400IU of Vitamin "D3" daily.  He is able to produce this quantity of vitamin "D3" when his bare skin receives at least 10 minutes of full sun daily.  In 2005, a UCLA journal article described how Vitamin "D3" boosts cathelicidin in white blood cells. This set Dr. John Cannell, a forensic  psychiatrist  off on the exploration of Vitamin "D3" and the immune system.  One of those studies  by UCSD researcher, Gallo found that cathelicidin, targets infectious microbes, punches a hole in their external skin and kills them. Researcher Cannell looked at over 100 studies that show vitamin "D3" deficiency may underlie a vulnerability to infections.  In Dr Cannell's  2006  paper  on epidemic flu and vitamin D, he writes  that ,"Vitamin D acts as an immune system modulator, preventing excessive expression of inflammatory cytokines and increasing the ` oxidative burst ' potential of macrophages. Perhaps most importantly, it dramatically stimulates the expression of potent anti-microbial peptides, which exist in neutrophils, monocytes, natural killer cells, and in epithelial cells lining the respiratory tract where they play a major role in protecting the lung from infection. Vitamin "D3" deficiency is thought to be widespread in winter for those who are not exposed to sufficient sunshine, have poor eating habits and in darker skinned children.  Fortified cow's milk and soy products as well as orange juice can provide the nutritional intake needs of children.  Fish is another good source of vitamin "D3".

4.       Nose Washes and Neti Pots   Keeping the nasal passages clean by washing them out with warm salt water can decrease the number of viruses trying to take hold and by reducing the number and strength of the viruses, the immune system has a better chance to fight the virus.   There are a variety of ways to do this.  For younger, children the bulb syringe can be used and older ones can be taught to use a Neti pot.  If your child, won't try either of these, the natural saline nasal sprays can also be effective.  And there's research to suggest it works. In one small, study at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. David Rabago recruited two groups of sinus sufferers. Half were trained to use nasal irrigation daily. The others didn't use it all. "The group that used the irrigation improved a lot" compared to the group that didn't, Rabago says. On average, their symptoms of congestion and head pain improved about 30-40 percent.  Steamy showers can provide another ways to clear the nasal passages, especially for babies and toddlers.  Steam up the bathroom and let them play!

5.       Gargle Daily   Gargling is another way to cut down on the number of viruses as they try to enter your body and cause illness.  Gargling works by washing the cold or flu viruses into the sink or to the  stomach where the acid will kill them. A small Japanese study showed that there was some benefit when gargling with plain water.  Other health care providers promote gargling with just about anything from plain water, warm salt water, hot lemonade, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide mouthwash, antiseptic mouthwash or kid friendly flavorful mouth wash.   You and your child can choose which suits them the best as it is most likely the mechanical action of the gargling not the solution.   Gargling can greatly benefit the child at the first signs of sore throat, one common 1st symptom of the flu.

6.       Drink Water   The mucus membranes in the mouth and nose are the first line of defense for flu viruses and when they are fat and plump with fluid they are better able to fight off viruses than dry and cracked  tissues can. Like gargling, frequent drinks of water can also flush viruses down to the stomach where they cannot survive.  So frequent drinking can be a preventative itself.  But many health care practitioner's believe that staying well hydrated can also help systemic immunities that fight off infection.  One of the dangerous side effects from the flu in children is  dehydration caused by high fever, lack of intake, vomiting and diarrhea.   Dehydration is likely when the child drinks very little, urinates small amounts of dark  odiferous urine and is acting lethargic.   This can make headaches, discomfort and fever worse.  If your child is unable to drink because of nausea and vomiting try ice cubes, fruit popsicles, slushy made from frozen Gatorade, jello or broth in tiny amounts.  Be sure to consult with your pediatrician.

7.       Wash Hands   How does frequent  hand washing protect your child?  Well influenza is a disease shared by droplets.  This means that when someone coughs or sneezes, droplets fly out of their mouth and nose and land on people and objects around them. Unless the child  has covered their nose/mouth with a tissue and thrown it a way, those droplets will land on the table or the keyboard or on another child's arm and lie in wait for up to 48 hours.   Even when children in a crowded classroom, use a tissue or cough into the elbow, it is likely that droplets of the virus land in the room or on other children.   If your healthy child touches a table or a key board or a baseball bat that has the virus on it and then touches their nose or mouth , the virus may start to multiply.   It is not possible to prevent children from touching the world around them, but more frequent hand washing and cleansing with alcohol based solutions can cut down on the number of viruses that make it to a port of entry.

8.       Tea Time   Teas can fight off flu viruses in so many ways.  The warm fluids washing the virus into the stomach as well as the hydration provided by tea and the steam bath for the nasal passages are all benefits of tea drinking.  Medicinal properties of herbal teas like elderberry,  have been documented in Europe.  An  Israeli drug (Sambucol) that contains elderberry is active against various strains of viruses. In a clinical trial testing Sambucol, twenty percent of flu sufferers who used it showed significant relief of fever, muscle aches and other symptoms within 24 hours, and another 73 percent felt better after the second day. In three days, 90 percent were reported completely cured. In a similar group that received an inactive treatment (a placebo), only 26 percent were improved in two days, and it took most of them six days to feel well again.  Other teas that may fight viruses included ginger, peppermint, chamomile, hibiscus and lemon.  There are teas formulated for specific symptoms like Traditional Medicinal  brand Throat Coat with Slippery Elm.  They also make an Echinacea tea. Echinacea has been a traditional favorite for colds and flu. Double blind studies in Germany have shown that infections with flu-like symptoms clear more rapidly when taking Echinacea. Echinacea appears to work by stimulating the immune system.  Even small children can enjoy a warm spot of tea in a sippy cup.  Honey can be added to tea drunk by children over 1 year as it has natural anti-viral properties.  Stevia, a natural sugar substitute can be tried as it has been in use for 1,600 years in South America, Japan, China, and Brazil, among a dozen other countries have approved it for use in foods, while here in the U.S. the FDA has only approved Stevia as a supplement. It is a sugar free, calorie free, natural  sweetener and only a drop is needed.

9.       Eat Colorful   In general white food has fewer nutrients  and in the case of white sugar or white flour almost no nutrients.  In order for children to have strong immune systems they need to be eating every color of the rainbow.  Blue berries, dark green spinach, orange sweet potatoes, red tomatoes, dark brown bread  etc.  Almost every colorful food represents one of the many anti-viral properties that food can provide.  Studies have shown that when toddlers are offered a wide variety of healthy foods and when they are allowed to help themselves, they may focus on one food at a time but ultimately will eat a balanced diet over the course of the month. It is very important to cultivate a taste for healthy food while children are young.  Breastfeeding is an advantage for a budding gourmet, because the mother's diet changes the taste of the milk so the child develops a love of different flavors not only sugary milk.  And of course, the antibodies and protective substances provided by the colostrum and the breast milk will protect a child from flu, upper respiratory and ear infections in the first years of life until they develop their own immunities.

10.    Live Green   Help your child avoid harmful chemicals in the environment and in their food.  Try to buy organic produce whenever possible.  Use a water filter or pure water.  Buy green cleaning products. Limit the amount of  fish  high in mercury.  Avoid lead and smoke exposure. There are a variety of green safe non-toxic cleaning  solutions including plain old vinegar and water that can be used to wipe down tables, door knobs and other surfaces that might be contaminated with viruses.  The fewer the environmental pollutants that the child's body has to deal with the stronger their immune system will be.

11.    Stress Less   Children and their immune systems' are very susceptible to stress but they are much less likely to verbalize their feelings.  Instead of saying that they feel worried about a school assignment they may develop a stomach ache, eat a whole box of cookies or break a siblings toy.  It is our responsibility as parents to interpret their behavior, acknowledge it, help them name it and help them find healthy ways to relieve their stress.  Children learn how to deal with their stressors by copying their parents, which means we need to practice what we preach.  Is everyone cranky and hungry and fighting, instead of a quick drive thru meal , try cooking a healthier meal together.  It can be as simple as homemade pizza or pasta using a jar of tomato sauce, turkey sausage, and whole wheat crust or pasta. Maybe a beach walk , a pillow fight or read aloud. Family meals, family meetings and family exercise outings are all ways to model healthy habits and give everyone an opportunity to express themselves and be listened to.

12.    Hug, Touch and Massage   All humans need to be touched.  Infants who are not touched enough fail to thrive and simply do not grow.  The power of love and affection is of paramount importance when it comes to promoting a strong immune system.  Hugs and kisses of all sorts are important but you can really boost the immune system by giving your child a massage or simply doing some healing touch work. You do not need to be a trained masseuse but you need  to a peaceful quiet environment and some uninterrupted time for your child.  Lavender oil makes for a lovely relaxing touch. Massage therapy is known to relax skeletal muscle, increase blood and lymph circulation, and reduce anxiety. Within the last five years, researchers have begun investigating its effect on immune function in several small studies. A study, reported in Psychosomatic Medicine, found that a one-hour massage increased white blood cell count and natural killer cell activity for students who were anxious about an upcoming exam.  Try this on your anxious or upset child and see amazing benefits.

13.    Integrative Medicine   It is important to cultivate a belief in the innate ability of the body to heal itself. With so much fear and the constant barrage of negativity about the current pandemic of H1N1,  it is easy to forget that our children are strong vital healthy little beings that have great resilience when it comes to fighting off disease.  The immune system is the body's natural way of doing this.  It is important to have faith and to teach our children to have faith that their body's can heal on their own. Help your child visualize the fight.  When we are too quick to medicate with an antibiotic or an anti-viral, we do not give the body a chance to create its own stronger and more lasting antibodies.  While flu vaccines are relatively safe, they do not confer immediate nor lasting immunity  and may need 2 injections 3 weeks apart to provide significant protection. There is a whole world of complementary medicine in addition to or instead of medication and vaccines, to assist your child in staying well.  There are benefits to both Western medicine and complementary  preventative and curative care that include osteopathy, chiropractic, homeopathy, acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, nutrition and fitness regimens and many others. All can be safe and effective ways to keep the body balanced , strong and healthy.  All can help your child prevent disease and infection. They all can be integrated into a best of both worlds care plan for your child.

                                                                                                                                                                                By Vicki Wolfrum RN, CNM, IBCLC

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