This post is a collaborative effort of homemademommy.net and seasonshealth.com.
I just received the latest monthly email newsletter from my daughter’s (former) pediatrician’s office with a ‘flu season update’. The whole newsletter urges parents to get the flu vaccine in their office. They go on to say that they are almost out of ‘preservative free’ vaccines but that the risks of getting the flu this season were high enough that they recommend parents get their children vaccinated with the vaccine containing preservatives.
I do not think there is any real risk-benefit analysis going on in this pediatrician’s office. Especially when a recent New York Times article states:
Last month, in a step tantamount to heresy in the public health world, scientists at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota released a report saying that influenza vaccinations provide only modest protection for healthy young and middle-age adults, and little if any protection for those 65 and older, who are most likely to succumb to the illness or its complications. Moreover, the report’s authors concluded, federal vaccination recommendations, which have expanded in recent years, are based on inadequate evidence and poorly executed studies.
“We have over-promoted and overhyped this vaccine,” said Michael T. Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, as well as its Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance. “It does not protect as promoted. It’s all a sales job: it’s all public relations.”
The newsletter proceeds to give tips for avoiding colds and flu this season including:
- Avoiding close contact with people
- Staying home
- Hand washing
- Getting sleep
As I have said before, all these kinds of newsletters do is breed fear and loss of control. If the only ways to prevent the flu are to get a shot full of preservatives and to live in a proverbial bubble, then we are in a sorry state of affairs.
This is what I was told year after year due to my asthma. My doctor always recommended (well more like strongly insisted) that I get a flu shot and always made me feel as if I was going to die if I got the flu because I had asthma. Most years, I was told there was not enough vaccine for everyone but that I would receive one as top priority because I had asthma. And I did end up in the hospital for four days once with pneumonia so I took these recommendations very seriously.
But a year and a half ago, I started eating real food and building my immune system from the inside out. I have since reversed my asthma and have not had symptoms or had to take any western medicine in over a year. I now believe we can be more empowered to not dread these winter cold and flu seasons. We can help ourselves with proper diet and supplements to ensure our bodies are not breeding grounds for viruses. This helps to avoid getting sick in the first place or to diminish the length and severity of illness we do end up getting. This year I have finally been able to come in contact with someone who was sick and not actually get sick myself. This is a gigantic feat in my book as I used to get sick at the drop of a hat.
‘Not So New’ Tools to Prevent Illness and Shorten Duration and Severity
We employ a whole foods based supplement approach as well as incorporating Traditional Chinese Medicine for its anti-viral support and also management of symptoms. Below is a list of herbs and supplements I use to help myself and my family to stay well and to get well quickly when we do get sick. It is important to remember that having a skilled and qualified practitioner prescribe and guide you through use of these herbs is required.
My excellent acupuncturist and diet and nutrition expert, Charlotte Sobeck, collaborated with me on this post and she notes that the TCM herbs below are powerful medicine.
Some of these herbs are ‘dispersing’, meaning they release the heat, toxin, and viral pathogens out of your body, often thru promoting sweating — you must keep warm, bundled and protect your pores when they are in this process or you can make the pathogen worse. Also any of these remedies taken for long periods of time without guidance could clear too much and leave someone feeling depleted. They are medicine.
I know just how powerful they are in that they have helped me to get over my seasonal allergies including cedar fever and they have enabled my husband and I to finally avoid our seasonal sinus infection treatments with antibiotics – in fact, we never get sinus infections at all anymore.
So, with that disclaimer, on to the supplements and herbs:
Cod liver oil (where to buy cod liver oil) is liquid gold and has so many benefitsincluding being rich in vitamins A and D which have been proven time and again to support a healthy immune system. Fish oil may be high in omega-3s but for A and D, generic fish oil can’t hold a candle to cod liver oil. How many of your parents or grandparents took this as a child? Their generation and all the generations before them were on to something. I take the capsules and give my daughter the liquid variety every day.
Ban Lan Gen
Ba Lan Gen is a heat clearing detoxifying herb, it can be mixed with other herbs to make a formula to treat viruses with fever, sore throat, swollen glands etc. It has anti-viral properties and can be used to prevent virus on occasion. One must be careful not to overuse.
Gan Mao Ling — (Ban Lan Gen is in this formula)
Gan Mao Ling is for viruses with sore throat, swollen glands, fever and chills, sinuses, or swollen lymph. This formula is often used to prevent colds and influenzas when an exposure has taken place. It can be useful also when Yin Qiao (below) doesn’t work. Also useful as a preventative when traveling on airlines or other places where there may be shared air supplies.
Yin Qiao is a milder formula with herbs that clear heat for the beginning stages of common cold and flu with sore throat, fever, slight or no chills, HA, cough.
Evergreen’s Herbal ENT
This formula is for infection and inflammation in the upper parts of the body including the ears, nose and throat (ENT). It has an antibiotic effect to treat infection, anti-inflammatory effect to reduce swelling and relieve pain and an antipyretic effect to reduce fever. Great for any ear, nose or throat infections. This formula also includes Ban Lan Gen, along with other herbs that clear heat toxin like Huang Lian, Huang Qin and Lian Qiao.
For Seasonal Allergies like Cedar Fever, Pollen, etc.:
Evergreen’s Magnolia Clear Sinus or Pe Min Kan Wan
Magnolia Clear Sinus contains the herb Xin Yi Hua (magnolia) which unblocks nasal congestion and relieves allergy symptoms of sneezing, nasal discharge, sinus pain and headaches. This herb is great for winter and spring seasonal allergies. This herb truly amazes me, I can be fully congested and I take this and voila – no more congestion in my sinuses. I have no idea how it works but it works!
Evergreen’s Pueraria Clear Sinus or Bi Yan Pian
A more potent sinus clearing formula for impacted sinuses with purulent yellow mucous, pain and sinus infections. This formula includes the sinus clearing magnolia herb as well, but adds other herbs like Bai Zhi, Cang Er Zi, etc. which make it stronger along with herbs that will clear the toxic heat of an infection like Shi Gao and Huang Qin.
Strengthening your Immune System
The most important aspect to all of this is building up a strong immune system by eating immune boosting real food (probiotic fermented foods are a must!) and doing some gut healing. From A TCM standpoint, the Jade Screen formula is also a popular immune booster in the winter months. For a daily preventative, of course try this No Flu Tea recipe as well. I hope all of you stay well this winter!