October 25, 2009

said the flea to the fly, let's flee the flu

I've been studying up on flu prevention.  It's not just that I'd like my loved ones to avoid suffering through it; I also have the added motivation of recently learning that cancer survivors are having a particularly rough time with H1N1.  Theoretically, this is because our immune systems are already worn down from all the time they've spent trying to fight cancer cells.

So yes, I'm doing my homework and taking notes.  I figure some of you would be interested, and at any rate it's good to have it all gathered in one spot, so here's my whole Fie On Flu File.  (If you have other helpful info, please do share!) 

This is gathered from various sources, and I guess this is where I'm supposed to type in the "I am not a doctor and this is not to be construed as medical advice" bit.  But all of you know that already, so let's just be sensible creatures and proceed, shall we?  Very well, then. 

I'll start with information various people have reported receiving from their personal health practitioners.

First, the basics:
  • Take Vitamin D3.  And get a little sunshine every day for good measure.  D3 works wonders for the immune system, and besides that it makes you good-looking and cheerful and keeps your bones happy, not to mention how dramatically it lessens your chance of getting cancer.  Crazy good stuff. (Incidentally, my oncologist says never rely on milk and dairy for D3 -- that's just not happening.) 
  • Take Vitamin C.  It aids cell renewal and is rocket fuel for immune function.
  • Sleep.  The immune system does its heavy-duty search and destroy missions while you're snoozing.  If your alarm wakes you up every morning, go to bed 15 minutes earlier every night until you are waking before your alarm goes off.  Then you will be getting enough sleep for your immune system to do its work.
  • Wash your hands with soap.  Do not rely heavily on hand sanitizers, as they sometimes take ten full minutes to effectively kill the germs on your hands, and even at that they only kill a percentage.  (They are also toxic and potentially lethal to small children, which was discovered when kids in schools began licking the "booze ooze" off their hands for the alcohol high.) 
  • Keep your hands off your face and out of your mouth.
  • If you start coming down sick, GO TO BED and STAY THERE.  Apparently some H1N1 patients who've tried to medicate their symptoms and keep moving, and those who get out of bed too soon, have stayed down with this flu for as long as five months.  Those who go straight to bed and stay there usually recover in about five days.

Now for the nitty gritty specifics. 

The flu virus enters your body through your nostrils or your mouth.  From what I've read, at this point the flu is so widespread that we're probably not asking IF you're going to get the tiny swineys in your nose and mouth at this point, but rather WHEN.  So the question now is how well your body will work at suppressing proliferation of the virus once it finds you. 

Therefore, all the following tips are things various health practitioners have recommended for reducing proliferation:
  • Drink hot liquids often, preferably morning and evening, and whenever you've been in public.  Hot liquids wash the virus off the throat membranes and down into the digestive tract, where acids will knock it out.  So drink coffee or (preferably) hot tea off and on during the day, particularly first thing in the morning and before retiring. 
  • Pediatricians suggest feeding children hot soups daily.  (My note: We've been having some homemade soup with lunch and dinner almost daily.  A cup of chicken broth is sufficient when you don't have time to chop and stir, but do avoid processed soups that include monosodium glutamate, like most Campbell's varieties.  Very bad for you and taxing to the immune system.  I just make a big pot of something yummy about twice a week and we eat a cup of it here and there.) 
  • Here's the biggie:  Warm salt water, and lots of it.  (Amazing that here we are in the 21st century being told by doctors to do exactly what Grandma said a century ago!)  Reportedly, warm salt water swabbed in the nostrils with a cotton swab, followed by a good gargling session, does about the same thing before you get the flu as Tamiflu does after you get it.  It's recommended that you gargle and swab once or twice a day.  If you're handy with a Neti pot, go for it (but don't overdo it because then you run the risk of stripping your sinus membranes; the limit I've read is once every 2-3 days).
  • Elderberry syrup daily.  I buy this at Whole Foods.  Viruses hate this stuff.
  • Drink plenty of water daily, because your body needs to flush the nasty toxins out continually, and also because if you catch the flu you'll have a vital edge on dehydration.  Divide your weight in half, and that's about how many ounces you need per day.
Now for some things I've personally found effective for staring down viruses:
  • Avoid sugar.  Sugar consumption immediately reduces the immune system to a fraction of its usual power for as long as three hours.
  • Eat the "superfoods."  Enzymes are miracle workers.  My great grandfather drove a streetcar through one of the most deadly flu outbreaks in history and never got sick; he attributed it to eating a slice of raw onion every day.  Laugh if you want, but recent research (which I came across when studying cancer-fighting nutrition) backs Grandpa's claims.  Same for raw apples -- they have enzymes that kill cooties.  We try to eat them every day all fall and winter.  Put garlic in something every day.  
  • While we're on the subject, let me toss this out:  if your kids aren't too keen on veggies, by all means get an immersion blender.  Puree soups, whip winter squashes and root veggies into creamy mountains of wonder, smash up beans for burritos, make hummus, power shakes, fresh applesauce... et cetera, ad infinitum.  Amazing how much good stuff you can sneak into your creeped-out kids if it looks all creamy and smooth and non-threatening.  I adore my immersion blender.
  • Hit the apple cider vinegar bottle.   This has kept me from getting sick whenever my kids were sick for over twenty years.  I would swear by it if I were a swearing woman.  The theory is that vinegar alters your pH to a level that viruses don't care for. The minute someone in my household starts feeling bad, I get some apple cider vinegar in my system pronto so I can stay well and keep taking care of everybody.  I make my kids do it, too, no arguing allowed.  How to do it:  As soon as you get that first creepy feeling in your muscles or the first slight chill,  put a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in enough water to dilute it so you can get it down. I use about 3-4 ounces of water.  It's not horrible, but don't entertain delusions that you're going to like it.  Stir in some honey if you can't stand it plain.  I just toss it back fast so my taste buds don't have much contact with it.  Drink this twice a day.  It's SO worth it.
  • Lime juice is a miracle worker on angry throat tissues.  My doctor taught me this trick.  She said there's an enzyme that only occurs in limes that can work wonders overnight when your throat is sore or you've lost your voice.  How to do it:  Get completely ready for bed -- brush your teeth and drink your last sip of water for the night.  Squeeze the juice of a whole lime into a glass and drink it straight.  Go straight to bed.  You want the lime juice enzymes to sit on your throat and vocal chords all night.  Most likely, you'll wake up feeling much improved.  Lime juice has never failed me yet.
  • Sleep warm.  If you're cold at night, your body is using precious energy to stay warm.  It needs all that energy to fuel your immunity engines and renew your cells.  There's research out there somewhere that indicates that most people sleep deeper in lightweight socks, because body heat leaves the feet at night.  Worth a try.
  • Disinfect your car steering wheel and door handles daily, along with the doorknobs, light switches, and toilet handles in your house.
  • Wash all your household pillowcases frequently, daily during fevers, preferably in hot water with some color-safe bleach to kill germs.  Again, reducing proliferation is what we're after.
  • Teach your kids to sneeze and cough into their elbows, NOT their hands.  (Can you even believe some of us were taught back in the dark ages to cover our mouths with our hands?  Ick!  What were they thinking?)  And also teach your kids to keep their hands out of their mouths and noses.  Double ick.
  • Brush your teeth several times a day to reduce proliferation.  (I'm so hopelessly hooked on Tom's Of Maine's delicious Cinnamon-Clove toothpaste that this one is easy for me.  Yum.) 

Hope you find some of  this helpful!  If you know other tricks, please share it in the comments!  (I'm pretty sure leaving comments boosts your immune system.  That's my story, anyway.)

Maybe we should pray for all the swine flu cooties to return to a herd of pigs that will then go all crazy and jump into the ocean or something.  Hey, stranger things have happened.

* * * * *

I gleaned all of this information from many sources, but I would like to tip my hat to my friend and brilliant herbalist Shonda Parker for her excellent advice on H1N1 and all sorts of other ailments besides.


Sebastian said...

A couple tested-by-me-but-unsubstantiated-by-research symptom relief ideas.
Sip chicken broth from bullion cubes. I think that it is the high salt content, but I've had this work wonders on both a horrible sore throat and a stuffed up nose.
Another one is to drink strong tea with honey and lemon. I think there is a benefit from both the antiseptic properties of the honey and the acid in the lemon. I find it is more relieving than herbal tea.

Cindy Marsch said...

Lynn, I just love your blog. Your "voice" is so witty and pleasant, and I'd love to have you drop by for a visit sometime . . . :-)

Lynn Bruce said...

SEBASTIAN -- Thanks! Hot bouillion from cubes makes a lot of sense -- I guess with all that salt, it's essentially the same concept as gargling combined with the throat washing aspect of drinking hot liquids. Quite efficient. On my grocery list now. And by the way, I visited your blog -- so interesting! Love all your photos of life in Japan!

CINDY M -- Aww, shucks. Thanks. That means a lot coming from you. (I'm having to work a little at calling you "Cindy" -- you've been referred to as "Mrs. Marsch" around here ever since my girls took your online writing courses some years ago!) And I would dearly love to be able to just drop in on you for a visit sometime. How fun!

Natalie M. said...

Lynn, this is fantastic. Having it collected in one place eases my head of that ironically, swimmingly flu-ish feeling which takes effect while one surfs the net looking for aforementioned swine flu advice.

Is it allowable to email a link to this to essentially anyone I've ever met?


Dawn Camp said...

The one horrible time that I had bronchitis, I was told to drink hot water with 2 Tbsp. of honey and 2 Tbsp. of lemon. I could literally feel the congestion in my chest breaking up. I could also feel in when I took a hot bath and the hot water covered my chest.

Great post!

Unknown said...

Wonderful advice!!! and thank you!

Kate said...

I have to put in my plug for Mr. Netti, as my voice teacher calls the Netipot. :) A couple of weeks ago I had a very bad sinus infection (as in, it hurt horribly to bend over, look to the side at all, etc...) By the time my doctor's appointment came around, it was gone. I just used Mr. Netti, took mucinex, and drank lots of water and juice. I know this isn't flu-related but it's a good way to avoid antibiotics!

Purring Piggy said...

Great advice! Thanks for sharing it all in one place! Have you watched the video on sneezing? It is SO funny...we all laugh hysterically at the guy demonstrating the positions! Check it out here:

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynn - I was wondering if you or any of your readers had done research on the naturopathic flu remedy "oscillococcinum". I have had people tell me it really works to limit the seasonal flu symptoms but does it help with swine flu? Just wondering. Thank you for your sharing - you are creative, witty and an excellent communicator. Blessings, Shirley

Donna-Jean Breckenridge said...

This is excellent, Lynn! Thank you so much.

gabrielletx said...

I just got over what I'm 90.47% sure was swine flu. What a great and helpful post!!!