Fall means flu season is officially here, rethink the Z-Pak

Fall is in the air and that means the flu is right around the corner. 

Millions of Americans are going to be affected by this virus before the year is over, some will be laid up for days while others will be achy and sneezing and coughing for weeks.

It makes sense to get a flu shot each fall.  Influenza is still responsible for several thousand deaths every year in the United States, and beefing up your own immune system annually can trim your chances of developing this nasty bug. Don’t worry, the way vaccinations are formulated now, you won’t “get the flu” by getting the shot.

Make sure to visit your doctor for a flu shot even if you’re not in a “high-risk” group (those over age 65, pregnant women, or those whose immunity has been compromised by cancer treatments or HIV). Outside of a preventative flu shot, there are some healthy cold and flu fighters to consider too.

We all know that stress, poor diet, and lack of sleep all compromise the body’s immune system. Weakened immune defense against illness is the primary reason most people get sick. Besides proper sleep, good diet and moderate alcohol consumption, here are some natural ways to boost your immune system:

Herbal Echinacea

Nature’s flu fighter.  Purple cone flower Echinacea is a plant used by traditional Native American people as a natural antibiotic for treatment of cold and flu. It is an antiviral and antibacterial which can be used in larger doses at the onset of a cold or at a lower dose to help prevent colds or flu. According to a study conducted by the University of Connecticut – Echinacea can cut the chances of catching the common cold by 58 percent and reduces the duration of the common cold by 1.4 days.

Herbalists recommend a total daily dose of 3 grams or 3-4 ml of Echinacea per day at the first sign of cold symptoms. It is usually a dose every 2-3 hours. After one to two days, the dose is usually reduced. Incorporating it as tea or supplement into your everyday diet could be beneficial for prevention.

Probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus

Lactobacillus acidophilus or L. Acidophilus is a lactic acid producing bacteria, a specific type of probiotic, thought to have beneficial effects on digestion and overall health. This good gut bacteria is responsible for proper digestion of the food we eat. Excessive alcohol consumption, antibiotics, and food additives can kill them off, leading to irregularity, allergies, and a weakened immune system. Probiotics can hault the growth of disease-causing bacteria, such as salmonella and shigella-caused dysentery, various types of diarrhea, and virus-caused flu. According to a year-long study at the University of California, subjects who ate a 3/4 cup of yogurt daily had 25% fewer colds than non-yogurt eaters.

Green and White Teas

Teas have numerous health benefits including the ability to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and prevent certain cancers. Their antioxidant contents also contribute to overall health by preventing damage to body cells and repairing damage that has been done. A natural anti-viral and antibacterial remedy, teas act as natural immune boosters by stopping the growth of bacteria that causes infection.

Garlic

Garlic is a member of the lily family, related to onions and chives, and frequently used in cooking. This aromatic root bulb is an anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and has anti-yeast properties. Garlic kills viruses responsible for colds and the flu, according to studies at Brigham Young University. Other studies suggest garlic boosts the immune functioning by stimulating infection-fighting T-cells.

If you opt for a supplement, try taking enteric-coated garlic pills which dissolve deeper in the digestive track and lessen the garlic taste. Use caution when taking garlic as a natural remedy because, like aspirin, garlic acts a blood thinner. Consult your doctor if you are already taking aspirin or prescription blood thinners.

Many of those feeling the early signs of the flu will want to request prescription medicines like the Z-Pak, a five day course of the antibiotic, Azithromycin, which is supposed to kill the infection before it takes hold. 

Colds and flu (along with most common infections) are caused by viruses, so antibiotics — designed to kill bacteria — are useless. They can hurt and kill off the friendly bacteria that are part of our immune defenses. If you’ve used antibiotics a lot lately, consider a course of probiotics (see above) — replacement troops for friendly bacteria. 

 

Dr. Damon Raskin, a double certified internist in Los Angeles agrees and says, not so fast on the Z-Pak.

He says, “Taking antibiotics in general is completely useless if a patient has a viral infection, as they only work against bacterial infections. Most colds and flu symptoms are caused by viruses. Taking unnecessary antibiotics can lead to resistant bugs, which means the antibiotics no longer work against the bacteria. Also, they can also lead to side effects like diarrhea and a serious gut infection call C. Difficile Colitis which occurs when good bacteria in the gut is wiped out. Even more alarming, Azithromycin has been shown in some cases to cause dangerous heart rhythms in some people, which can be fatal.”

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.

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