In preparation for flu season, conventional methods of dealing with the virus are beginning to hit the market. The most notable and one of the most controversial is the flu vaccine. Every year, a new vaccine is formulated with 3 strains of flu viruses that researchers have determined are to be the most prevalent. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of 6 receive a flu shot, but especially the elderly, those with chronic illnesses, and those with a weakened immune system.
But is the flu vaccine really right for your family? The CDC says the vaccine doesn’t work in every case. In fact, there are two factors that determine its effectiveness. First, a person’s state of health is a factor. Those with healthy immune systems will respond better to the vaccine. Second, its effectiveness is also determined by what strains of the virus are included in the formulation. The flu vaccine targets only the three most prevalent strains of flu but there are actually many other types of viruses that circulate during flu season that can bring on similar symptoms. So depending on how healthy you are and what viruses circulate in your area, the CDC states, “It’s possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed.” In addition, very few studies have been conducted of the safety of flu vaccines as new formulas are developed. In fact, there are disturbing reports of adverse effects of flu vaccines, especially for pregnant women. Also, very few longitudinal studies have been conducted to determine the long-term effect of vaccine use. Essentially, the fact is that our public health policy has embraced a form of flu prevention that they cannot guarantee is safe or effective.
That’s why Naturopathic Medicine focuses on strengthening the body’s immune system as a standard flu prevention method. Naturopathic Doctors know that boosting a person’s health is the single most effective way to prevent disease in the body. Not only is it safe to enhance the body’s immunity, but it is an effective method for preventing infection from ALL the viruses that circulate during flu season, not just the three most common. That’s why, unlike the the advocates of flu vaccines, Naturopathic Doctors can guarantee that immune-boosting preventive medicine is both safe and effective for every member of your family. There are also no negative side effects, and the positive side effects include having more energy and feeling better in general.
Whatever you decide to do for your family, everyone can benefit from the following tips to fight the flu naturally:
1. Basic Hygiene. Wash hands frequently, especially after visiting public places. Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing.
2. Get More Sleep. Not getting proper rest can put unnecessary stress on the body and lower immunity. Get at least 8 hours of high-quality sleep each night, and rest more when you feel under the weather. Sleep is when your body repairs itself.
3. Increase Vitamin C. Eat foods such as kiwi, grapes, strawberries, and oranges to give your body an antioxidant and immune boost.
4. Increase Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps maintain the health and integrity of the mucous membranes, so foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and kale can also help stave off the flu.
5. Drink Herbal Tea. Herbal teas such as red clover, echinacea, lemon and honey, or other commercially available cold/flu formulas can help fortify the body’s immune system. Also, green tea is high in antioxidants and can help strengthen T-cells (the body’s primary defense against infections).
6. Increase Vitamin E. It can help boost immunity and enables T-cells to fight infection. E rich foods include almonds, sunflower seeds, butter and egg yolks.
7. Supplement Vitamin D. Japanese researchers have shown that school aged children taking 1200 IU of Vitamin D per day had a 42% lower risk of contracting the flu than children taking a placebo. Vitamin D has increasingly been shown to be one of the most effective ways to prevent illness.
8. Homeopathic Flu Vaccines. A homeopathic flu vaccine is similar to conventional vaccines, only without the harmful additives, preservatives, and side effects. Homeopathic flu (Influenzinum) uses infinitesimal doses of flu strains to stimulate your body’s vital force to offer protection from invading pathogens.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2013. Vaccine Effectiveness – How Well Does the Flu Vaccine Work?. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2013. Who Should Get Vaccinated Against Influenza. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
Dearing, S. 2010. Medical Reviews Conclude Influenza Immunizations Ineffective. Digital Journal. Retrieved 25 October 2010.
Alan Casseis. 2012. Eminence vs. Evidence.
England, C. 2010. Thousands of USA Pregnant Women Miscarry After The H1N1 Vaccine. American Chronicle. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
Urashima, M., Segawa, T., Okazaki, M., Kurihara, M., Wada, Y., and Ida, H. 2010. Randomized Trial Of Vitamin D Supplementation To Prevent Seasonal Influenza In Schoolchildren. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 91(5) 1255-60.
SWEETEN UP WITHOUT RUINING YOUR HEALTH
Along with the cooler days and longer nights of fall comes the season of sweet temptation: Halloween goodies, apple cider, hot chocolate, candy canes and peanut brittle. It is easy to overindulge. That’s why it is important to understand some of the effects sugar has on the body and how to sweeten up without hurting your health.
Not All Sugar is Equal
The truth is that not all sugar is equal – not in nutritional content nor in the way our body processes it. You see, our body needs glucose to function. This simple sugar literally fuels our cells and is the main source of energy for the brain. However, the sugar we consume on a daily basis in the processed foods we eat and drink is not glucose (also called dextrose on food labels). It is fructose or a fructose/glucose mix.
Fructose is bad for the body because 100% of what you consume is metabolized by the liver instead of being used for energy. Instead, it gets packaged up and stored as fat for later use. The process of metabolizing sugar also produces metabolic waste and puts stress on the body’s liver and pancreas, and creates unhealthy fluctuating blood sugar levels. Excessive sugar also takes an incredible toll on the body’s immune system, making us more susceptible to illness such as winter ailments like colds and flus.
In the last 100 years, our consumption of sugar each year has doubled. One of the driving forces behind this increased consumption is that sugar is now hidden in most of the processed foods we eat from salad dressing to pretzels. Even infant formula has added sugar equal to about one can of soda. We may be cutting out sweets and desserts, but unless we are looking at the food label of everything we put in our mouth, we may still be on a high sugar diet.
So What Should You Eat?
There are many choices for sweetening up your life such as agave, stevia, honey, and molasses. Which one is right for you? First, avoid agave even though it is marketed as a “good” sugar. Agave is actually highly processed and contains 80% fructose with little nutritional value. Raw honey is about 50% fructose, but is a better choice than agave because of its additional nutritional value. Stevia is another good choice because it tends to affect blood sugar little, if at all. However, it is important to get pure stevia from reputable sources. Brands like Truvia, actually mix Stevia with sugar alcohols. And finally, molasses is about 40% fructose. Yet, like raw honey, molasses contains so many additional nutrients, that it is one of the world’s healthiest foods.
As with any sugar, everything needs to be consumed in moderation. Extra sugar of any kind is very damaging to the body.
What About Fruit, It Has Fructose?
Fructose literally means “fruit sugar”. If that is the case, should we avoid eating fruits? The answer is that fruits have many other health benefits that make them essential for good health. They contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes and water. If given a choice between an apple or a candy bar, the apple will benefit your body in a way the candy bar never could. Fruits that have low fructose include: lemons, limes, cranberries, passion fruit, prunes, apricots, dates, cantaloupe, blueberries and raspberries, among others.
As you head into the holiday season, here are five easy tips to help you sweeten your life without hurting your health.
1. Moderate sugar intake, especially during cold and flu season.
2. Look at food labels and avoid things with corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn sugars, fructose, etc.
3. For proper food combining, eat fruit away from balanced meals full of protein and fiber.
4. Replace regular sugar with substitutes like stevia, molasses, and raw honey.
5. Replace candies and sweets with fresh, organic fruits.
Fructose: This Addictive Commonly Used Food Feeds Cancer Cells, Triggers Weight Gain, and Promotes Premature Aging. 2012. Mercola.com.
Sugar: the Bitter Truth. University of California TV.
This Common Food Ingredient Can Really Mess Up Your Metabolism. 2010. Mercola.com.
Blackstrap Molasses is made from sugar cane by crushing or mashing the plant to extract its sugar. Then it is boiled three times to help crystallize the sugars so they may be extracted. What is left is a sweet black syrup filled with a high concentration of minerals and some vitamins. It is slightly less sweet than most refined sugars and has a richer flavor. Molasses is very high in manganese, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin B6 and Selenium. It helps replenish iron, a key factor in energy production that helps you combat fatigue. In addition, iron helps you replenish calcium levels, a critical nutrient in bone health. Also, unlike some other sugars, molasses is usually a non-allergenic food. Add molasses to smoothies for added sweetness and rich flavor. Its high mineral content can help the body absorb nutrients in fresh fruits and veggies. It can also be used to make salad dressings, added to baked goods, or makes a tasty marinade.
Sometimes during the food manufacturing process, sulphur dioxide is used. This is a common ingredient in acid rain and not one that has health benefits for the body. That’s why it is recommended that you use organic unsulphured blackstrap molasses.
Serves one, 16oz
- 3/4 cup organic almond or hazelnut milk
- 1/4 cup organic rolled oats
- 4 ice cubes
- 1 large banana, cut in chunks and frozen
- 1 tbsp blackstrap molasses (unsulphured)
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Chopped pecans, for garnish
In a small bowl, combine the organic almond or hazelnut milk and rolled oats, stir to combine. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight, allowing oats to absorb milk. Transfer milk-oat mixture to blender. Add ice, frozen banana chunks, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla. Blend until smooth. Garnish with chopped pecans, if desired, and serve immediately.
Recipe and picture are compliments of ModernAlternativeKitchen.com
Zinc is an immune-boosting nutrient. In fact, over two hundred enzymes in our body require this mineral to function, which is far more than any other nutrient in our diet. Zinc deficiency can lead to impaired wound healing, increased susceptibility to colds and flu, and decreased sense of taste and smell. Zinc has also been shown to help maintain healthy skin and reduce the incidence of prostate enlargement. Zinc is extremely important during cold and flu season because many immune cells require zinc for optimal function. To increase zinc in your diet, try eating more Crimini mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms and spinach. Other good sources include asparagus, chard, maple syrup, green peas, oats, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, miso and spelt.
Marz, Russell B. 1999. Medical Nutrition from Marz: A Textbook In Clinical Nutrition. Portland, Oregon: Omni-Press.
STEVIA (Stevia rebaudiana)
Sweeten up this holiday season with Stevia, a South American native plant that can be used as a sweetener that does not cause a rise in blood sugar or suppress the immune system. Because there are many different varieties of Stevia plants and many different ways of processing the herb, it can be trial and error finding the brand of Stevia that best suits your family. Make sure to try different preparations such as liquid extracts, powered preparations or even glycerites. It is important to note that Stevia is sweeter than sugar, so read the instructions carefully when replacing sugar in recipes. Some brands, such as Truvia, combine Stevia with sugar alcohols. Ask your Naturopathic Doctor about using a brand that is the purest form of Stevia with the least amount of added chemicals as possible.
Here are some Stevia resources to help you make the switch:
Curi R, Alvarez M, Bazotte RB, Botion LM, Godoy JL, Bracht A (1986). “Effect of Stevia rebaudiana On Glucose Tolerance In Normal Adult Humans”. Braz. J. Med. Biol. Res. 19 (6): 771–4.
Hydrotherapy or “water cure” refers to the therapeutic use of water to stimulate the body’s healing force. The process involves applying hot wet towels to the chest and abdomen and wrapping the person in warm blankets. After the skin has warmed, the warm towel is replaced with a cold one. The application of warmth soothes and relaxes the tissues and organs, and the cold then stimulates a rush of blood flow to the area. The increased blood flow and circulation helps stimulate the immune system and detoxify the body. The application of hot and cold water to the body stimulates digestion, circulation, the immune system and brings relief from pain. It also helps to detoxify metals, pesticides and herbicides, and other toxic buildup from improper diet and lifestyle. In a clinical setting, a mild electrical stimulation is applied to the organs of detoxification to further enhance the healing process. While constitutional hydrotherapy can be done by yourself at home, for maximum benefit it should be performed by a knowledgeable practitioner. However, other forms of hydrotherapy can easily be utilized at home on different areas of the body to successfully treat various conditions. Full baths, foot baths, sitz baths, steam inhalations, hot compresses, saunas and douches can all provide healthful benefits to various conditions.
Boyle, Wade, and Andre Saine. 1988. Lectures In Naturopathic Hydrotherapy. East Palestine, Ohio: Buckeye Naturopathic Press.