How to Avoid the Flu

Flu Season Is Here

Boosting Immunity Safely

Several years ago, a 5-year old boy here in Eugene died of complications from the flu. The local newspaper reported on the story, along with the usual medical advice to go get the flu vaccine.

I met the mother of this boy on the one-year anniversary of his death. She worked for my mechanic and drove me from home to get my car. She seemed blue that day, and when I inquired, she told me the story. It was disturbing on many levels, including that her son had been vaccinated.

Vaccines are not overly effective to begin with and this year effectiveness is dismal. The CDC estimates 10% effectiveness, one of the lowest ever. Most would look at this as still something, some kind of protection. After all 10% off new shoes or a new smart phone is nothing to scoff at.

Or is it?

Some studies show annual vaccines suppress immunity, leaving us more vulnerable to all sorts of other illness, including the plethora of flu strains not in this year’s vaccine as well as flu-like illness.

Research shows annual vaccines can leave children less able to fight illness, including pandemics.

A Canadian study found getting the annual flu vaccine increased risk of getting the swine flu.
In 2008-09, people who were vaccinated had twice the risk of those who did not of succumbing to the swine pandemic.

At best, vaccines are effective against 10% of all circulating viruses. What about all the other viruses? You’re on your own.

This season’s flu is supposed to be even nastier than past year’s. But, let’s be clear, this 10% protection is inflated. Pharmaceutical companies use relative risk, a trick that inflates the benefit of a drug. It is difficult to find out the actual risk of catching the flu or how many are likely to avoid the flu with the vaccine.

The following are effective strategies you can take to stay well, even halt a cold or flu in its tracks. These strategies not only help you fight off all types of infections, they build health in other ways.

Eat Garlic: The pungent bite of garlic comes from Allicin, an antimicrobial agent. Studies show allicin helps us fight germs. Allicin can dramatically reduce frequency and duration of colds and flu.

Garlic can stop a flu or cold from taking hold if you jump on it. An elderly folklore-driven Romanian man I once knew told me the secret to his health (he was 90, vital and never got sick) was garlic. He claimed putting fresh raw garlic cloves in his house slippers always knocked out an impending cold or flu, overnight.

If you prefer not to step on it, you’re in luck. Most recommend the oral route. My favorite is garlicky pesto: parsley, cilantro, or arugula in winter. Or add minced garlic to soups, stews, and roasted veggies. The key seems to be to keep it fresh and raw.

Hate the taste of garlic? One study with 146 volunteers found a garlic supplement reduced risk of getting a cold by 63%; only 24 of the garlic-popping group caught a cold whereas 65 of the placebo group got sick. In those who did catch a cold, duration was 70% shorter.

Vitamin D. Some argue the flu is a vitamin D deficiency, hence the surge of flu in winter, when access to D-making sunlight ebbs. Vitamin D produces hundreds of antimicrobial proteins that kill bacteria and viruses, keeping our immune systems on task. A Time Magazine article cited a review of 25 cold and flu studies that showed those who took vitamin D supplements had less infections, and less cases of the flu. If you can’t take a tropical vacation this winter, consider a supplement of 1000 to 5000IU per day, or a high quality cod liver oil. Check your D levels before supplementing; too much has its own downside.

Vitamin A. This vitamin D partner not only boosts immunity, it helps maintain the integrity of our mucous membranes, our first defense against infection. Vitamin A (and vitamin K) work as a team with vitamin D. You need A with D to keep immunity up, plus vitamin k to keep arteries unplugged and bones strong. In nature, vitamin A is generally found four to five times higher than vitamin D. Researchers suggest this is a good ratio for optimum health. Food sources include grass fed butter, egg yolks, and liver. The superstar source for both D and A, is cod liver oil.

Shun sugar. For a full half hour after a sugary snack, your white blood cells’ ability to engulf foreign invaders is slashed by half. Your immune system remains weekend for even longer, rendering you more susceptible to a flu or flu-like infection. In addition to holiday cookies, soda, and fudge, sugar lurks in fruity yogurts, smoothies, bran muffins, breakfast cereals, BBQ sauce, and fruit juice.

Zinc-up: In addition to calming an overanxious mind and nourishing your thyroid, zinc keeps immunity strong. Oysters top the list of good sources, but beef and lamb are good sources.

Sleep in. Adequate sleep is vital to a strong immune system, not to mention a honed mind, tolerable mood, and prevention of obesity and diabetes. If you are challenged here, email me for specific sleep strategies or schedule a phone consult. I was once an insomniac.

Oscillococcinum is a preventive as well as early treatment for cold and flu. Two European double blind placebo-control studies found a significant reduction in severity and duration of flu symptoms with use of this remedy.

Influenzinum, also a homeopathic, was reported by French homeopaths to be highly effective as a flu preventive in 90% of cases treated over a 10-year period.

Influenzinum is an annual homeopathic preparation (much like a flu vaccine) that targets the most likely flu virus that season. My mentor Joette Calabrese recommends taking it as a preventive as follows: four doses a day once a week for three weeks, then four doses a day once a month. You can take additional doses if you still wind up with the flu.

Homeopathy can be one of the most effective and fast acting ways to thwart a cold or flu, but you need to select the right remedy for your situation.

If the flu takes hold this year, try this homeopathic protocol suggested by noted homeopath Joette Calabrese: Rhus tox 30 alternated every few hours with Bryonia 30.

If nothing happens after four doses, STOP. More is not better. Homeopathy is not like vitamins, you don’t keep on it. They give your body a push toward balance, so you need to stop after you’re heaed in the right direction.

And finally, be sure to follow the basic advice from medical authorities: wash hands with soap and water frequently (Antimicrobial soap not needed). Disinfect (white vinegar works as well as antibiotic soaps) phones, keyboards and other surfaces. Avoid crowds, and cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.

Cheers to a healthy holiday this year.


How to Avoid the Flu — 10 Comments

  1. Thank you Linda. I remember learning about this year’s ago from you. I have chosen not to get my girls the flu shot. I say with a very strong NO when the pediatrician asks us. I don’t vaccinate myself. Knock on wood, yes, but my girls have stayed extremely healthy and myself too. I do believe that the effectiveness of the flu vaccination is incredibly questionable. Thanks for spreading the word. And, providing all of the research that you do

    • You feed your family well, so the girls’ and your immunity are higher than most. Even if one of you did get the flu, my guess is it would be more mild and quick than for most. Sounds like the flu is sweeping California. Any talk in the schools of mandating the flu vaccine, or pressure to get it?

      • Hats off to you! I still remember how you said that there is a window after eating sugar where it weakens our immunity and I try to strategically plan when they have their special treats. No talk where we live of mandating flu vaccine. That would not be good!

  2. HI Linda!
    What would the Vit A dose be for adults? How about Vit D & A for kids?
    Thank you for keeping us healthy. Nick and I both appreciate this post!
    Happy, warmest of holidays!

    • Vitamin A and D are a team and should be balanced. So a good ratio range of A to D is between 4 and 8. Get your D checked every 6-12 months to determine the best dose for D, then balance your A. Naturally balanced cod liver oil provides this ratio. As a separate issue, vitamin A can be used as a sort of short term anti-biotic/anti-viral in high dose for ONE to TWO days and that’s it, and never if pregnant. 200,000IU for one or two days can often stamp out an emerging infection. It is used in adults at this dose, and has even been used in third world countries in kids suffering life-threatening infections. If your kids, and you, get your cod liver oil daily, you should not need this. (sorry this took so long, messages seemed to escape viewing)

  3. Linda,
    I love these alternatives to the flu shot! I see your recommended dosage for adults for Vit D, how about for kids-8,10,12? Also, what is your recommended dosage for both adults and kids for Vit A?

    Thank you for keeping our family so healthy!

    • Vitamin D dosage is individual. If kids get sunlight, they may not need to take it. If indoors and also always covered in sunscreen (not recommended) or it is winter, then a teaspoon of cod liver oil containing natural D and A is usually perfect for kids. Pastured butter, egg yolks and some liver products are a great help too. I think I covered your question on A. Get tested for your D level! An ideal blood level for D is 45-60ng/ml. For some people, 2000IU supplement does the job and for others it takes more. Vitamin D should be balanced with some vitamin A, preferably natural from fish liver oils. The ratio is something like 4 to 8 times the level A as D. Start with D, then calculate your A. I find by consuming liver (duck liver mousse is delicious!), pastured egg yolks and butter, it is fairly easy to get enough A.

  4. These immune boosting suggestions sound way better to me than a dose of who knows what being pumped into my blood stream! I wish the pharmaceutical industry was more honest. Until then, I’ll take your suggestions.

  5. Hi Linda.

    Thanks for this super helpful post!

    Question: What does the current research say about the optimal range for Vit D if we are checking it. Still in the 60 to 80 range? How much is too much?

    Also, for those of us tending toward a vegan or vegetarian diet to reverse arterial disease, what’s the best way to get an adequate amount of bioavailable Vit A? FIsh oil and Vit A supplements?

    Thanks for weighing in here.



    • You’re welcome. Optimal range for D is somewhat individual. Some people thrive at 45 ng/ml, some appear to need more. I now suggest a range of 45-60ng/ml. Too much D (again, individual) can disrupt magnesium balance. You need magnesium for calm, balanced moods, preventing tension, for heart health and to control blood sugar. A vegan diet contains no pre-formed vitamin A. Unless from fish liver, vitamin A supplements are synthetic and I do not recommend them.

      Researchers are finding heart attacks have more to do with inflammation and stress than clogged arteries. In fact the fat-clogged artery theory of heart disease has just about run its course. Studies show a diet rich in traditional animal fats can help reduce artery plaque. Sugar and vegetable oils, which are rich in inflammatory omega 6 fat, inflame arteries, which leadds to higher risk of thrombosis.

      I am finding greater success reversing plaque in my clients with individually targeted supplements and botanicals. Depending on the individual, I often find increasing butter, coconut oil and other traditional fats actually reduces artery plaque! It also changes cholesterol particles so they are lighter, less dense, and thus less harmful.

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