By Dr Ayesha Qureshi
More and more cases of influenza are emerging across the country and infectious disease experts are warning the worst is yet to come. The past year the flu vaccine had low effectiveness rates and although this year’s vaccine may be a closer match it still won’t offer full immunity against influenza. “Experts believe the flu shot is a much closer genetic match to the H3N2 strain in circulation, which should bring up protection rates. However, Dr. Skowronski (an epidemiology lead for influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control) cautioned that it still won’t offer full immunity against influenza. Flu viruses are constantly mutating and changing, so even though a vaccine protects against the H3N2 strain, that doesn’t mean it will be very effective against the virus in circulation, she said.”
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I am often asked what are some ways that can help prevent the flu:
Here are my tips:
- Strengthen your immune system: A strong immune system can help fight off many pathogens. There are many factors that can influence immunity: healthy eating, 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 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 helpful. High sugar consumption in children and adolescence can be associated with weakened immunity and chronic colds as well as increased risk of dental cavities, hyperactivity and increased risk of obesity and diabetes later on in life. Supplementation and herbs can also help strengthen your immune system. Low vitamin D levels for example have been linked with low immunity and limited sun exposure and dark pigmented skin can also put you at risk of vitamin D deficiency! There are a number of botanical herbs that are immune stimulating and strengthening. These include Astragalus, Codonopsis and Echinacea. These herbs are often used more preventatively than during an active infection. Be sure to discuss with your health practitioner if these herbs are right for you and if they can help strengthen your immune response.
- Wash your hands frequently to decrease spread of germs! During the winter months, more time is spent indoors which increases the risk of spreading germs from person to person. Don’t forget to moisturize, dry hands are common during the winter!
- Hygiene: Change your bed sheets, pillow cases and toothbrush often! Especially if you have been sick and are fighting an infection, it is important to wash bed sheets, pillow cases and blankets right after and replace your toothbrush. Sometimes viruses and bacteria can survive in respiratory droplets or other bodily secretions and by ensuring good hygiene it may help preventing a recurring cold and flu!
- Dress warmly and keep warm: Layer up, drink soups and herbal teas and take warm baths! Soups made of bone broth are rich in amino acids, collagen and gelatine. Honey lemon tea and ginger-cinnamon tea are warming with nutritive value! Also make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids and are hydrating with water – it will help flush out toxins! A nice warm bath with lavender essential oils and epsom salt can be relaxing and help you de-stress after a long cold day!