Autumn is upon us, along with football season, blessedly cooler temperatures, and the inevitable return of flu season. Although the exact reason for the seasonal nature of influenza is unknown, we do observe a tenfold increase in cases of influenza during this time. In the United States, the flu season is typically considered to be between October and May, peaking in February.
Influenza is a virus that is transmitted from person to person primarily via respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The incubation period is usually 2 days and can vary from 1 to 4 days. Typically, the virus is shed for 5-10 days, making someone “contagious” for that period of time. “Classic” flu symptoms include abrupt onset of fever, sore throat, nonproductive cough, muscle pain, and headache. In contrast, the common cold is characterized by a productive cough and congestion, with less severe body aches, fatigue, and no fever.
My first question to anyone who has fallen ill is: “What are you doing for yourself?”
Rest is paramount with any viral infection and my first recommendation. Adequate sleep and stress reduction are vitally important to the proper functioning of our immune system and nothing I can recommend will have a more positive impact on your speedy recovery.
Bone broth is an excellent source of amino acids and essential to life. This nutrient rich food is a particularly good when feeling under the weather because it keeps your immune cells where you need them, reducing many of the side effects of being ill. Bone broth is also a great source of glycine, which supports our detoxification process.
Baths can be surprisingly helpful for two reasons. The first ties in with rest – a bath is a great place to unplug from our day –to- day stressors. Further, a hot bath can help promote one of our greatest natural weapons against foreign invaders – fever! Fever that doesn’t exceed 104 degrees is an important part of our immune response. Just be sure to drink plenty of water to maintain proper hydration.
Elderberry is a great antiviral herb with research showing the fruit syrup speeding recovery in patients with influenza compared to placebo in two double-blind trials. Plus kids and adults love the taste.
So the next time you catch the flu, consider supporting your body’s own innate ability to heal instead of reaching for fever suppressors and antibiotics, which would not be helpful for a virus such as influenza anyway. Yours in health!
Dr. Brian Myers is a naturopathic primary care doctor with a focus on pediatric and family health at Live Well Clinic in La Quinta. For more information regarding how you can protect yourself from the flu, go to
www.livewellclinic.org or call 760-771-5970.