I asked integrative physician Alexa Fleckenstein, M.D., how to protect ourselves from swine flu, and what to do if we get it. Here is her response: NOTE: Advice on this blog in no way replaces consultation with a physician. Always consult with your doctor before following online advice.
“So far, I think we are dealing with an epidemic that has not the makings of the pandemic of 1918/19 where young people died in droves, often within the first 24 hours. Still, the elderly and immune-incompetent patients might be at risk. The causes of death in influenza are of two different origins: Older people die of the virus and its consequences like pneumonia; their weakened immune systems cannot fight the virus anymore. Young people succumb to an overreaction of their still-exuberant immune systems. We call this a cytokine storm, usually within the first two days.
“If you get seriously sick, consult a physician. Officials recommend Tamiflu (oseltamivir, a neuraminidase inhibitor) but there are no good studies for the swine flu and Tamiflu. Against regular influenza A and B, Tamiflu’s performance has been rather disappointing – especially in the elderly, who would be prime targets for the drug. In addition, a tendency to suicide has been reported with Tamiflu in Japan – so bad that its use is discouraged in young people under 19. Furthermore, in case of an epidemic, Tamiflu might be in short supply.
“So, let’s look into some simple natural remedies – this is what I do for myself and my family:
The Three P’s: Prepare, Protect, Pull through.
Prepare: This website is all about owning your good health. If you have used the Five Health Essentials (water, movement, food, herbs, order) you should be in good shape to start with. If not – it is never too late to start cold showers and get plenty of sleep.
For those may be new to the topic, here is a summary of the Health Essentials:
- End every warm shower or bath with a cold shower. This increases immunity.
- Drink enough fluid, hot or warm water — about seven glasses per day; more if you exercise. Herbal teas are good; juices are not.
- Eat as healthily as you can with vegetables (cooked and raw), mushrooms (never raw!) fruit, nuts, whole grains, legumes (beans, lentils, garbanzos) and fish. Cut down on meats and buy organically whenever possible. Stop eating processed, artificial, canned, micro-waved and fried food. Avoid sugars, white starches and dairy altogether. Only with healthy fare is your immune system able to fight the invaders.
- Exercise moderately. Excess is as detrimental as laziness. If you are still a couch potato, now it is time to change your ways. Start with two minutes a day on any machine that is gathering dust in your basement. Or make it a habit to go for a walk every day for 10 minutes (You may do more — but not less).
- Expose yourself to light daily. Light (not direct sun) is beneficial for your immune system. Against direct sun, wear sunglasses, a hat and long-sleeved garb.
- Get enough sleep. We come down with a cold if we are run down. Don’t set your body up for a catastrophe: Go to bed between 9.30 and 10.30 pm. The body repairs itself during about two hours the time around midnight — if you are asleep then, that is.
- Take tonic herbs like astragalus, ashwaganda and Eleuthero to strengthen your immune system. Rotate them.
- If you are not eating mushrooms often, take a mushroom supplement (shiitake, reishi, maitake — either one is good alone or in combination).
“Protect yourself during an outbreak: Continue your good work from the ‘Prepare’ section and:
- Avoid crowds, public transportation and all unnecessary contact with people. Whenever you meet people, wear a surgical mask or a light cotton cloth over nose and mouth, sprinkled with a drop of essential oil like eucalyptus, oregano, myrrh. Or smear a pea-sized glob of Vick’s on it.
- Don’t hug, kiss or shake hands
- Avoid touching public doorknobs or surfaces with your ungloved hands
- Wear gloves in public; wash them often. Wash hands often with soap and water
- Gargle frequently (hourly) with a mouthwash or a tea made from sage. I like 1 drop of tea tree oil in a glass of lukewarm water.
- Rinse your nose frequently (hourly) with saltwater: 1/4 teaspoon of sugarless salt in one glass of lukewarm water. Snuff the water up from your hand; use a dropper on little children.
- Spice up your food with herbs and spices because they kill microbes (the plants developed the strong-tasting compounds to protect themselves against the invasion of bacteria, viruses and fungi). Pregnant women and little children should go easy on herbs and spices.
- Take a teaspoon of raw honey after exposure. Not for children under two years because of the danger of botulism.
- Nibble on cloves of fresh garlic throughout the day, especially when you are out and about. Use garlic (fresh or dried) freely in your cooking. Same with onions.
- Use an Echinacea throat spray every hour, or swish three drops of Echinacea in your mouth (contraindicated in autoimmune disease).
- Chew on juniper berry. Add one berry every day, up to five, then take one away again every day. This is the formula: 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1. Not recommended in kidney disease.
- Sleep a lot, do meditation, be quiet and do something that lifts your heart – like making music, painting, gardening. Find your center.
“Pull through: If you become infected, go to your doctor and ask about the following suggestions: Continue most of the measures from Prepare and Protect — but stop all exercise. Now is time for bed rest.
- With the first symptoms take the Chinese preparation Yin Qiao (later it is no longer useful ) (three tablets four times a day). After you feel improvement, take one tablet three times a day for another week
- Avoid all contact with others to not spread the disease.
- Continue taking garlic, Echinacea and honey. Add of these herbs (whatever you have at hand: Andrographis paniculata (or any combination preparation that contains it – like GAIA’s Qick Defense), GSE (grape seed extract), ginger (fresh and dried — avoid preparations with sugar), elderberry, licorice (not longer than a week).
- Herbal teas to relieve your symptoms: linden, elderberry flowers (both induce sweating), sage, green or black tea, thyme, ginger, rose hips, mullein, lemon balm, peppermint in all combinations.
-Steam inhalations three times a day with chamomile, thyme, eucalyptus or Vick’s help congestion of sinus and lungs. Horsetail can be added to decrease swelling in your nose.
- Chicken soup and hot lemon are still beneficial.
- Take fish oil (several capsules a day — contraindicated if you take anticoagulants like coumadin). This is the one thing most important in young people as it might be able to douse a raging cytokine storm. Alternatively, or in addition: the anti-inflammatory medication Zyflamend.
- Ginkgo biloba will start repair damaged cells
- Ginseng will help flu symptoms — but do not take it if you tend to have high blood pressure or a racing heart.
- At least twice a day, have somebody wash you down with cold water (non-dripping face cloth), especially chest and back area to make you take in really deep breaths (prevention of pneumonia)
- Against cough: Gan Mao Dan Chinese pills (20 per day in divided doses), or make a tea of peppermint, honeysuckle, ginger, cloves and horehound.
- Other herbs that have been found beneficial in colds and flu: bayberry, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), calendula, goldenseal, Oregon grape.
By no means are these all possibilities. But they give you some ideas and some peace of mind in case of an epidemic. Don’t become a victim – work with the three P’s!”
Alexa Fleckenstein, M.D.