By Dr Ayesha Qureshi
The flu has been in full swing this winter, affecting thousands of people across Canada and the US. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has called this year’s flu an epidemic due to its widespread occurrence. Influenza, the virus that causes the flu, can exist in multiple strains and is “predictably unpredictable” each flu season. This year there are three major strains; H1N1, H3N2 and a B strain. The majority of flu cases in Canada are of the H3N2 strain, a strain that is prone to mutation. This is particularly problematic because this year’s vaccine is not an exact match for the H3N2 and B strains, resulting in higher flu incidences and risk of complications. The flu can be very debilitating, causing symptoms of high fever, body aches, fatigue, headache, runny nose, congestion, cough and more. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets in the air and can be passed around from person to person.
A dangerous strain in addition to a less effective vaccine has resulted in a more serious and rough flu season! As a Naturopathic Doctor, I am often asked what can I do to prevent the flu naturally during flu season.
Here are my recommendations:
- Strengthen your immune system: A strong immune system can help fight off many infections. There are many factors that can influence immunity: diet, sleep and stress can play a role in your immune response. Ensuring each of these aspects is optimal can help your body fight off an infection. Naturopathic medicine can help with nutritional counselling, improving sleep quality and reducing stress. A healthy diet is one that is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins and essential fatty acids which all play an important role in a healthy immune system. Reducing the sugar load is also important: high sugar consumption in children and adolescence can be associated with weakened immunity, chronic colds as well as increased risk of dental cavities, hyperactivity and increased risk of obesity and diabetes later on in life. Vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and iron all play an important role in the immune system. There are also a number of botanical herbs that are immune stimulating and strengthening which can be a beneficial part of prevention. These include Astragalus, Codonopsis, Elderberry and Echinacea. Be sure to check in with your healthcare practitioner on dosages and to see if these herbs and supplementations are right for you.
- Wash your hands frequently to decrease the spread of germs! During the winter months, more time is spent indoors which increases the risk of spreading germs. Influenza can be spread from person-to-person, so if you know someone that may have the flu, try to keep distance or wear a mask.
- Hygiene: Change your bed sheets, pillow cases and toothbrush often. Sometimes viruses and bacteria can survive in respiratory droplets or other bodily secretions and by ensuring good hygiene it may help preventing a recurring infection.
- Keep warm: Layer up, drink soups and herbal teas and take warm baths. Soups made of bone broth re rich in amino acids, collagen and gelatine, all of which are important for a healthy immune system. Honey lemon tea and ginger-cinnamon tea are warming with nutritive value. They can also be helpful in relieving sore throat. Soaking in a warm bath after a long day can help you destress and relax.
- Aromatherapy and steam inhalation: If your congested, consider using eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils in your diffuser, humidifier or in a steam bath. It can help you breath better and sleep better.
- And don’t forget to hydrate: Be sure to drink plenty of fluids-it can help flush out toxins!
Many naturopathic treatments can be beneficial in strengthening the immune system. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor and find out what you can do to keep you and your family healthy amid cold and flu season.
Dr. Ayesha Qureshi, ND
Triloka Health and Psychology Clinic
Muscle and Joint Clinic