Colds and Flu
Prevention and Treatment
Colds and Flu Medical Considerations
Colds and Flu Discussion
Immune System Overview
Factors that Weaken Our Immune System
Immunity via Homeopathic Medicines
Influenza Virus Vaccination
Herbs to Enhance Immunity
Steps to take at First Sign of Illness
Colds and Flu
Cats Claw: Catís Claw (uncaria tomentosa) supports enhanced immune system function by augmenting white blood cell activity. Catís Claw is grown in the highlands of the Peruvian Rainforest. The inner bark is harvested in an ecologically sound manner so the plant is not destroyed. This herb has been used traditionally for intestinal health and to fight viral infections.
Goldenseal Root (Hydrastis): This herb has a long history of use as an antibiotic and anti-microbial, and has enjoyed recent popularity as an adjunct to Echinacea for support during colds and flu. The root is the potent, medically effective part of the plant. (The leaves are less potent.)
Echinacea: Echinacea can "kick-start" exhausted immune systems that are sluggish and under-reactive for fighting infections. Echinacea has shown to enhance the immune system by supporting and activating thymus gland activity for action against virus infections. It has shown to sweep dead cells and other debris through the channels of the lymphatic system, and dispatches white blood cells to fight infection. It maximizes the power of the lymph nodes to filter broken-down material within the body. The production of lymphocytes and macrophages is escalated when Echinacea is added to the system. Echinacea is best used only when needed for assistance in fighting cold viruses, flu viruses, and other infections where immune system support is needed. If used on a regular basis the body will become too used to echinacea and therefore some of Echinaceaís effectiveness will be lost during the times when it is needed the most.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is the single most cost effective antioxidant (dollar-to-dollar amount for antioxidant properties), than all other available antioxidants. Vitamin C performs many vital functions within the body. It increases the strength and integrity of connective tissue including the inside of your blood veins, producing significant positive effects upon the cardiovascular system. Vit C supports the immune system, fights viruses and some bacteria, functions as an important antioxidant and enhances adrenal gland function. Vitamin C was first discovered because of unresolved scurvy when sailors were out on the seas. Scurvy is the breakdown of small capillaries, or small blood vessels. Additional Vitamin C is needed during times of stress.
Multi-Vitamins: High quality multi-vitamin / mineral formulas are needed to add the necessary "co-factors" needed for enzymatic pathways. Organic chemistry studies (a requirement for medical school students), demonstrates that all enzymatic, energy, and virtually all biological pathways in the human body, need many nutrients, or co-factors, to properly complete each pathway. Shortages of needed nutrients results in dysfunction of the organs for which those pathways could not be completed properly.
Homeopathic Oscillococcinum: Stimulates the bodyís own defenses against colds and flu.
Oscillococcinum Supportive Information.
Olive Leaf: Contains anti-microbial natural plant chemicals active against viruses, bacteria, and yeast.
Colds and Flu Discussion
The key to prevention is maintaining a healthy immune system.
1. Strengthening your body's general immunity via immune system support.
2. Broad spectrum immunity via homeopathic prophylaxis. (Preventative Medicine) IE: Oscillococcinum.
3. Specific (but limited) immunity against specific fluís. IE: The Flu Shot.
Colds are generally acquired seasonally. They tend to occur when the weather changes from warm to cold. Presently we believe colds to be caused by a virus. The old school of thought was that the body was making different kinds of germs (bacterias and viruses), for a purpose: to help balance the body. We recognize the cold by several common features: Runny nose, scratchy throat, low grade fever, swollen lymph glands, feeling of tiredness. Colds left to their own usually run about a 2-week course. They can be complicated by lower respiratory infections and bacterial infections. Studies seem to indicate that people who don't have colds or flu tend to be more prone to get cancer. The cold virus is seen as an opportunity for the body to use several systems to detoxify itself, IE to drain toxic waste. "Over the counter" cold medications tend to suppress cold symptoms, to make people more comfortable. They do not however, assist the body in the work that it is trying to do. The medications may lower the fever which would make somebody more comfortable but when you consider that the body's immune system works with high fever to increase the number of white blood cells, you hurt your body's ability to heal itself. Naturopathically speaking, you would want to keep an eye on a fever and not let it get dangerously high. Some people say not to let it get over 103, some say 104. Long-term fevers can be dangerous, however if left to run their course they are usually quite safe if monitored by the family physician! There are several things that can be done during a cold that would be beneficial: Eat lightly, drink plenty of fluids, rest, don't continue to push yourself, and don't eat sugar. Sugar tends to slow down the ability of the body's immune system to function and fight disease. There are several vitamins that have been reported to have beneficial effects on the immune system: Vitamins such as Zinc, Vitamin A and of course, Vitamin C. While there are no antibiotics or specific therapies for treating colds or viral illnesses in modern medicine, Nature has provided us with different immune stimulating herbs. Most health food stores carry them and most of them are non-toxic, although they should not be taken by pregnant or lactating women without first discussing it with their physician. People should familiarize themselves with different herbs before taking them. Some of these herbs are Echinacea, Hydrastis, Licorice, and Astragalus. If you are getting colds too frequently you should have your Healthcare Professional assess you for what may be running you down. There may be a drain on your immune system. Diet and lifestyle analysis can help in situations such as these, as well as assessing other environmental factors.
Immune System Overview
The immune system is a network of specialized organs and cells whose purpose is to block harmful substances from entering the body and to seek out and destroy those that do invade. It is analogous to a computerized war machine.
An antigen is a foreign agent with the capacity to stimulate an immune response in the body. Examples of antigens are: Bacteria, viruses, fungus, dust, chemicals, pollens and even proteins from undigested foods. In other words, the things that make us sick. Antigens trigger an immune response.
White Blood Cell components of the Immune System Response:
1. Basic White Blood Cells (WBCs)
2. B-cells: B Lymphocytes are specialized WBCs that attack antigens. B-cells originate from the Lymph nodes, Spleen, and Bone marrow.
3. T-cells: T Lymphocytes are specialized WBCs for cell-mediated immunity, and are extremely important in combating infections caused by viruses, yeast, parasites, development of cancer, and allergies. T-cells originate from the Thymus gland.
4. Helper T-cells bolster the activity of B-cells.
5. Suppressor T-cells shut off the immune reaction.
6. Killer T-cells destroy antigens.
7. Macrophages: Giant scavenger cells that clean up the debris.
Organs (body parts) of the Immune System Response:
1. Lymph nodes: Filters that trap antigens.
2. Thymus gland: Makes T-cells
3. Spleen: A blood purifier
4. Bone marrow: Source of B-cells
5. Tonsils, Appendix, and Peyer's patches (oval elevated patches of closely packed lymph follicles on the mucosa of the small intestines).
Suppression of fever is believed to counteract a major defense mechanism and prolong the infection. In general, fever should not be suppressed unless dangerously high (equal to or greater than 104 F) or prolonged. Tepid baths and showers can help. Therefore, when treatments with natural medicines are undertaken, greater discomfort may result do to immune enhancing effects. However the infection is generally shorter lived.
The Thymus Gland is the major gland of our immune system. It is Composed of 2 soft pinkish-gray lobes lying like a bib just below the thyroid gland and above the heart.
Assuring optimal Thymus Gland activity:
1. Prevention of Thymic involution (shrinkage).
2. Nutrients to act as cofactors for Thymic hormones.
3. Stimulation of Thymus Gland activity.
Prevention of Thymic involution:
Maximum growth of the Thymus gland occurs shortly after birth. After puberty the Thymus gland begins to shrink. Suspected causes of Thymus Gland shrinkage are: Extreme susceptibility to free radical and oxidative damage caused by stress, radiation, infection, and chronic illness.
I. STRESS: The term "stress induced illness" is not a misnomer. Studies show that physical, emotional, or mental stresses, personality types and attitude, are causative factors in many diseases. Reactions to stress is very individual, therefore there is a wide variety of stress induced illnesses.
Stress causes increases of adrenal gland hormones (corticosteroids and catecholamines). These hormones can inhibit WBCs and cause the thymus gland to shrink, thereby causing a decrease in immune system function. The level of immune suppression is usually proportional to the level of stress.
Stress also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which is the fight or flight response. Our immune system works better under the parasympathetic nervous system.
Antioxidant vitamins and mineral can prevent the effect of stress on the thymus.
Vitamin C and Vitamin E
Selenium and Zinc
Vitamin A prevents and reverses stress-induced Thymic involution and can actually promote Thymus growth. Vitamin A also demonstrates potent antiviral activity.
B Vitamins help us better deal with stress, or reduce our stress load. In effect they help any energy production become more efficient.
Clinical experience shows in certain cases, injections of Vit C and or Vit B may be warranted, because injections have a more thorough absorption and appear to be longer lasting than oral supplementation.
II. Cofactor Nutrients to Thymus Gland: Zinc, B6, C
1. Zinc: Zinc is especially important in the elderly, and is very effective in restoring depressed cell mediated immunity. However Zinc absorption in the elderly is marginal at best. Even an adequate oral dietary intake does not mean adequate levels of zinc absorption. Absorption seems to be dependant upon adequate Picolinate Acid secretion by the Pancreas. Elderly folks usually have some degree of Pancreatic insufficiency; therefore Zinc in the form of Zinc Picolinate is the best form to be used.
Zinc lozenges, usually gluconate, at 23 mg. One lozenge every 2 waking hours for one week is very effective. (Studies show a dose of 15 mg can enhance thymic function.)
CAUTION: Prolonged supplementation without copper added to the intake will cause anemia. Prolonged supplementation will also upset the delicate balance of essential nutrients and lead to immunosuppression. Please consult with your Healthcare Professional!
III: Stimulation of Thymus Gland Activity:
High quality thymus extracts and botanical extracts have been known to help stimulate the Thymus Gland.
1. Studies show administration of extracts of calf thymus tissue can significantly increase immune functions, especially in the elderly. This type of therapy is referred to as "glandular supplementation." On a home treatment program, modern chicken soup has some of these same characteristics.
2. The most widely used herb for enhancement of the immune system is Echinacea Angustifolia. Studies have shown that Echinacea has profound immune enhancing effects, many of which are mediated via the thymus gland.
Factors that Weaken Our Immune System
Besides the negative effects of nutrient deficiency and stress, there are also:
1. Alcohol and Tobacco
2. Prescribed, non-prescribed, and recreational drug use.
3. Elevated glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels.
4. Environmental factors (chemical exposure), and Allergies.
5. Excessive sugar consumption.
Sugar: Sugar consumption, even if derived from natural sources like fruit juices and honey, can impair immune function. This is believed to be as a result that blood glucose and Vitamin C compete for the same membrane transport sites into the WBCs. (Is based on evidence that both glucose and Vitamin C appear to have opposite effects on immune functions and that both require insulin for membrane transport into many tissues.) As much as 75 grams of glucose has been shown to depress lymphocyte activity and considering that the average American diet consists of 150 grams of different types of sugars suggests that most Americans may already have a depressed immune system.
Immunity via Homeopathic Medicines
Homeopathic medicines stimulate the body's own defense mechanisms rather than directly attack specific antigens.
Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic remedy that has been used in Europe for 30+ years, but has only been used in the United States since 1983.
In homeopathy, micro doses increase potency. Homeopathic remedies are diluted enough that at approximately 12 to 15x (which is considered a low dose), molecules of the original substrate material are no longer present within the remedy. It is suspected that the Electron Signature is all that remains, and is responsible for the effectiveness of the remedies. The higher the number, the higher the dilution. An "X" potency is diluted at a rate of ten parts pure alcohol to one part of the original substrate ("10 to 1"). A "C" potency is diluted "100 to 1." A "15x" remedy has been received a "10 to 1" dilution "15 times", hence it is called a "15x." Alcohol is used becasue it is considered to have the purist, or most neutral electronic signature and thus will have little to no effect on the electronic signature of the substrate which is making up the homeopathic remedy. Do not worry about the alcohol in the remedies. By the time you take a remedy in pellet form, it is doubtful there is any alcohol content remaining in the remedy.
Oscillococcinum is homeopathically diluted 200C times. It has been diluted at a ratio of "100 to 1," 200 times!
Oscillococcinum is made from the livers of geese. Geese are by nature exposed to a large array of viruses. This is what gives Oscillococcinum its broad array of effectiveness towards many different strains of viruses.
In a continuing education seminar at one of our local hospitals in Portland Oregon, the guest speaker for the colds and flu seminar was a medical doctor from back east. He was a duck and goose hunter and noted that the Flu season seemed to correlate with the duck / goose hunting season. He thought that was very interesting. He also noted that when the conventional flu shot is made, it is ineffective against any new strands of flu. He also noted about once every ten years there is a epidemic of some very powerful flu virus that ends up killing several victims and there is no way to prevent this from occurring.
Oscillococcinum is made from the liver of geese for a reason. Geese are exposed to new and mutated flu viruses long before it becomes an epidemic to humans. If you purchase fresh Oscillococcinum every year, then your chances of receiving homeopathic doses of any new flu viruses is greatly enhanced
Double blind studies all show effectiveness to flu.
Because Oscillococcinum stimulates the body's own defenses and is effective against such a large array of viruses, it becomes broad spectrum. It can therefore assist in better prevention of all flu virus strains in general. If it is taken after a person already has the Flu, then faster relief and a more rapid recovery are the norm.
Prophylaxis use of Oscillococcinum:
(Prophylaxis means taking a medication ahead of time to help prevent getting sick later on.) The following examples are taken from personal use, clinical experience, and experiences from other Naturopathic Physicians:
1. Either one (1) capful TID (three times per day) for the first five days of each month during the flu season, or one capful per week during the flu season. The flu season is generally thought to be from about October through April.
2. If you have been exposed to the flu virus from someone, then repeat the dosage ASAP.
3. If already have the flu, then take at the first signs.
Dose: This is important to make Oscillococcinum more affordable to all who desire it. Oscillococcinum is sold in either a three pack or a six pack. Each tube is about the size of your little finger. When you take the top off, there will be an inner cap. During your preventative treatments, you only need to fill the larger portion of the inner cap full with the little pellets. However if you already have the flu, then you must consume the entire contents of the tube at once; this is due to the vomitus taste that is present in your mouth. Homeopathic remedies are extremely sensitive to any odors and can become deactivated very easily! For this reason it is extremely important that no food or drink be placed in the mouth for at least 20 to 30 minutes before or after dosage. Homeopathic remedies should be placed under the tongue and allowed to slowly dissolve. Do not touch the pellets with your fingers! There are many small capillaries present under the tongue and this is the best entrance for the remedy to get into your body in its purity form. Homeopathic remedies should never be stored in the kitchen where exposure to strong odors are possible and probable, or anywhere near perfumes or any other strong odors! Also, don't forget to wait to brush your teeth for that 20 to 30 minute time period!
This next paragraph is repeated as it is very important!
1. Administration should be sublingual: There are lots of tiny capillaries under the front of the tongue that allow quick diffusion of the medicine into the body with the least likelihood of contamination.
2. Avoid any substances in the mouth for 20 to 30 minutes before or after administration of any homeopathic medicine.
3. Store away from strong odors such as perfumes, or above the kitchen stove!
Individualized: Homeopathy can be very specific to each individual. Oscillococcinum is considered a broad spectrum remedy against the flu virus and therefore should help most everyone, however there are times when other remedies may be better indicated. These need to fit the specific symptom picture to work. There are several good books on the market that a person can study to try to treat themselves at home, and some success will be realized. However I must tell you that it usually takes a practicing Naturopathic Doctor or Homeopathic Practitioner about ten years to "really" become knowledgeable in homeopathy when specific remedies are needed.
Influenza Virus Vaccination
The flu shot is composed of antigens from three different types of flu viruses. These antigens are made from whole flu virus, split in half so it will not cause you to get the flu. Since these are derived from whole, cultivated virus, each formula only contains three strands of viruses. There are well over 200 strands of flu viruses known to date. This is why Oscillococcinum is such a good idea. Each year the formula is changed to match what is believed to be most likely to circulate in the United States in the upcoming Flu season.
It is important to know that flu viruses mutate from time to time. There are also several possible strands of flu viruses. Also, immunity declines after about a year. Therefore it is important to get a new flu shot the next year if you desire immunity via this avenue. In addition, immunity is afforded only against those strands from which the vaccine was prepared or against closely related strains.
The vaccination is composed of either the whole virion, or is split in half. In my clinic I use the split antigen or subvirion. It has been said that we cannot get the flu from the flu shot; that if we do get the flu anyhow, that we were already getting it, or it is of a strand not found in the formula. Vitamin C, 1000mg x 2 days before inoculation of the flu shot, seems to lesson any negative effects. A vitamin C shot actually works even better than oral Vitamin C.
The vaccination is formulated using chicken eggs. If someone has a known allergy to eggs, they cannot receive the flu shot!
Herbs To Enhance Immunity
Olive Leaf - Contains anti-microbial natural plant chemicals active against viruses, bacteria, and yeast. This is an excellent herb for an herbal immune enhancement formula!
Echinacea - Has strong anti-microbial and immune stimulating qualities and is the most effective herb to strengthen the Thymus Gland.
Hydrastis (Goldenseal) - Is useful for mucous membrane inflammation. Combats colds and flu. Is helpful in some bacterial infections.
Cats Claw - Cats Claw is most noted for its immune enhancing properties.
Myrrh - Is useful for mucus membrane irritation and is also immune stimulating.
Trifolium (Red Clover) - Is an aid for spasmodic cough, is a blood purifier and cleanser, and is nutritive to nervous system.
Ligusticum (Osha) - This herb is one of the few truly anti-viral herbs. It is immune stimulating. It is also good for bronchial irritations, congestion, and dry coughs.
Cayenne (Capsicum) - It is a stimulant. It increases circulation, and aids in the utilization of other herbs. It is good for the first stages of cold when the skin and mucosa are hot and dry. It is also good as a trial you can do on yourself. I've take perhaps two or three capsules on an empty stomach, with only a large glass of water. When the gelatin capsule dissolves, you will know it!!! Now you will have "first hand experience" on how long it takes a gelatin capsule to dissolve in your stomach. (And you will probably never want to duplicate that experiment again either!!!)
Of a very interesting note: Capsicum dilates arteries and has a natural affinity towards the coronary arteries. It will dilate the coronary arteries. I personally carry capsicum in my first aid kit, especially when I am in the mountains, away from civilization. Personally, I do this because if I ever started to sense I was getting a heart attack, I would immediately take three or four capsules. It will burn my stomach a lot, but I may help avert further problems. Please remember, this web site is for informational purposes only and has not been approved by the FDA. However I feel it is a good idea to share with you why I carry around some capsicum capsules in "my" first aid kit.
Garlic - Is a strong antibiotic and anti-microbial, is a good stimulant, and serves well as a general health enhancer. Like Capsicum, Garlic is also good for heart nourishment. I know of many who will consume both garlic and capsicum on a regular basis. (Just stand a little further back from your friends if your decide to take it on a regular basis.)
Ginseng - Is an excellent adaptogen for stress. It also helps normalize body systems such as blood sugar. It is a stimulant for mental, physical, and nervous exhaustion.
Lomatium - This is another of the rare, effective anti-viral herbs. It is immune stimulating.
Steps to take at First Signs of Illness
Food - Eat very lightly or not at all. With most illness the appetite is diminished. This is the natural response of the body in order to allow the digestive tract to rest. Your body is working on fighting off a bug. It does not have the energy to process food.
Rest - Get rest as soon as you can. Many people ignore the early warning signs, and keep working till they drop. You will take longer to heal if you allow the disease to set in firmly. If you feel a sore throat, headache, congestion etc., let yourself take it easy. If possible, take a day off from work. This may save you from taking three days off later on.
Deep Sleep - Remember stress and the "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous system response? The immune system functions better under parasympathic nervous tone. This portion assumes control over bodily functions during periods of rest, relaxation, visualization, meditation and sleep. During the deepest levels of sleep, potent immune enhancing compounds are released and many immune functions are greatly increased. The value of good quality sleep and relaxation techniques for counteracting the effects of stress and enhancing our immune system cannot be overemphasized! Good quality bed rest is the best.