Dr. Sokolova Shares 9 Natural Tips to Stay Healthy During the Cold and Flu Season
On Jan 26, the New York Times reported that this cold season has been the worst flu season in nearly a decade. This statement was based on records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which compared existing data to the data of the 2014-2015 flu season. At that time, it was documented that 34 million Americans fell ill with the flu. Among them, 710,000 were admitted to the hospital and tragically 56,000 people have already died.
This year, it is the seasonal H3N2 flu virus that has swept the nation. Seasonal flu occurs every year during the cold season of fall and winter. This season it represents a form of influenza A, or so called, “Ausie flu,” which been around for almost 50 years. H3N2 hits people harder than other seasonal flu strains, because H3 virus is more virulent, and it is hard to prevent it with existing flu vaccines. Seasonal flu virus strikes people with a weak immune system. Among all categories, children and elderly people are the most vulnerable to flu viruses. This season even those ranging from 50 to 65 years old have been hard hit.
So, what can we do naturally, to help prevent and to aid in recovery from the flu?
1) Get more sleep. Lack of sleep suppresses the immune system. It makes us more vulnerable to flu viruses. A good night's sleep stimulates an immune response from natural killer (NK) cells to combat viruses. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep during winter nights.
2) Drink plenty of fluids, especially, warm and hot teas. Even an extra glass of water with freshly squeezed lemon can assist in the elimination of toxins from the body as well as strengthening the immune system. I am especially fond of hot green tea with lemon and raw honey. I also like to sip hot cinnamon and ginger tea, which I carry with me in a thermos jar. Drinking the tea and breathing in the steam, saturated with antimicrobials and mucus thinners, assists the mucosal lining of the nose.
3) Warm up in a infrared sauna. Sauna treatment assists in boosting the immune system which, in turn, helps to combat viruses. And do not forget that sauna sessions help to eliminate extra toxins from the body, so, sweat it out! I have a Swedish wooden sauna in my basement, which I use every time I feel a cold coming on. I also recommend that my patients without access to a sauna, schedule an infrared sauna session in our office.
4) Sanitize your office space and your home. Clean everything that gets touched by others with an essential oil solution placed on a cloth or on a paper towel. The following essential oils are good virus disinfectants: rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, as well as many others. When patients start to cough or sneeze, I recommend essential oil sprays. In our office, we carry a few good essential oil combinations just to help the germs fly away. I carry a little bottle with lavender oil on the go to use as a personal hand sanitizer.
5) Allow fresh air flow into your house regularly. In a relatively short time, the concentration of infectious droplets inside the house will be decreased. Be sure to open a window for natural ventilation for 5-10 minutes a few times per day and before sleep. (Caution: Please, do not forget to keep your children away from an opened window!)
6) Use lozenges with colloidal silver if your throat feels scratchy. You may simply start with Swiss Ricola lozenges, which are found in many stores. Personally, I prefer lozenges with colloidal silver. Once, when I ran out of my colloidal silver lozenges, I simply sprayed colloidal silver on the Ricola brand. It worked wonderfully! I recommend keeping a small bottle of colloidal silver at home. And remember, children always love sweet lozenges, just be sure to spray colloidal silver on them.
7) Take more vitamin C. Please be aware that inexpensive vitamin C tablets are usually full of fillers, binders, coatings, artificial colors, and artificial flavorings. I use a good brand-name vitamin C mixed with bioflavonoids when I feel I may be coming down with a cold or another virus. Be aware that vitamin C may cause stool loosening, so you have to find your bowel tolerance. If, for example, your bowel tolerance is 3,000 mg daily, take a little less than that in divided doses over the day. Please be sure to take Vitamin C throughout your cold and continue to take it for 1-2 days after you are well.
8) Elderberry is a potent remedy for Influenza Viruses A and B. According to some studies, elderberries show significant benefits against cold and flu viruses, preventing the outbreaks or shortening the duration of existing cold and flu diseases. Researchers have discovered that people who ingested elderberry syrup, had higher levels of antibodies against flu viruses. You may order fresh elderberries from online farm market places, (like http://www.agrilicious.org/local/elderberry-herb), or you may buy dried elderberries from Amazon. You can make elderberry syrup at home; basic elderberry syrup recipes can be found online. Adults: take 0.5 - 1 Tbsp. for virus prevention and, if ill, take 0.5 - 1 Tbsp every 2 hours for virus treatment until symptoms disappear. If you do not have a local source of berries or you cannot make your own remedy, you may purchase elderberry-containing formulations online. Please, be aware that the dosage for children is less than that for adults (please consult with your health care practitioner).
9) “Take specific probiotics”. We all know about friendly gut microbes and how beneficial they are for our digestion, absorption of vital nutrients, and for our immunity. Many people take probiotics to improve gut flora, general health and the immune system, but not many people know what particular microbes may increase your tolerance to cold and flu symptoms. Recent research has shown that Streptococcus salivarius is especially good for throat issues (pharyngeal infections). The 2016 study concluded that the number of episodes of streptococcal pharyngotonsillitis, tracheitis, viral pharyngitis, rhinitis, flu, acute otitis media, enteritis, and stomatitis showed a 90% reduction of pharyngeal disease in treated children. Look for probiotic formulas that contain strains of Strep salivarius.
Many Naturopathic doctors use Western types of nutrient formulations for cold and flu treatment with great success. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has time-tested formulas for the cold and flu as well. In my practice, it always amazes me how fast TCM formulas work. But do not take TCM formulas on your own! Even if you exhibit the same flu symptoms as someone else in your family or someone else that you know – the same TCM may not be indicated for you! Recommendations vary with the individual patient’s status. If you have any questions regarding your cold season health concerns, please call our office to schedule a 15-minute consultation with me. Remember, “forewarned is forearmed.” So, be prepared for the cold season!
Dr. Elena Sokolova practices naturopathic medicine at Whole-Body Medicine in Fairfield, CT. Prior to obtaining her naturopathic degree in the United States, Dr. Sokolova was a primary care physician at the St. Petersburg Hospital in the former Soviet Union and went on to become Chief Medical Consultant in holistic medicine for “Enrich-International”. She brings her knowledge of Chinese medicine, botanical medicine, homeopathy, abdominal manual therapy and other healing modalities to offer natural approaches to women’s health issues. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Sokolova please contact Whole-Body Medicine at 203-371-8258 ext. 2
- 1. Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus Nigra L.) during an outbreak of Influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med. 1995;1(4):361–9.
2. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of Influenza A and B virus infections.” J Int Med Res. 2004;32(2):132-40.
3. Roschek Jr. B, Fink RC, McMichael MD, et al. Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro. Phytochemistry. 2009;70(10):1255-61. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2009.06.003.