Flu Epidemic and the Immune System

While exposure to bugs can’t always be avoided, much can be done to boost the immune system to lessen their impact and potentially save lives.

The speed with which the current flu epidemic is attacking and killing people is confounding medical practitioners. High-risk groups—children, people with autoimmune deficiencies and Baby Boomers—are being hit the hardest. The use of tobacco and alcohol, a poor diet and the side effects of medications all contribute to poor health, making people more susceptible to the flu. Likewise, young children are at risk because they haven’t lived long enough to build up immunity to dangerous infections.

Our ancestors looked to tried-and-true herbal remedies and nutritional approaches for healing. In fact, scientists in pharmacology are still using herbs in their symptom-based formulas because they know they’ve worked for centuries. Whenever possible, individuals should look to these approaches to get well. Given the right nutrition and elimination of toxic substances, the body can and will heal itself.

The Immune System

Simply put, the immune system is our white blood cells. They are made in the digestive tract by the flora—hundreds of God-given strains of bacteria—that produce enzymes for digestion and other chemicals that help the body deal with the functions of staying healthy. Toxins like alcohol, chemotherapy and radiation can destroy them. What is more, one round of antibiotics can wipe them out, leaving individuals susceptible to other things, like viruses and fungal infections that wreak havoc with our operating systems. Since antibiotics are only effective on bacterial infections, not viruses, their use should only be in proven cases of secondary infections.

Steroids, known as immunosuppressants, commonly used to aid in treatment of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS), also reduce inflammation in cases of pneumonia. However, steroids also adversely affect what happens in our guts, intestinal tracts, joints, soft tissue and bones.

Lines of Defense

Probiotics and prebiotics are a good first line of defense in boosting the immune system. Probiotics are healthy bacteria. High-quality, multi-strain and high-culture- count probiotics should be used in order to replace the hundreds of strains that are killed off by antibiotics and steroids. Prebiotics feed the probiotics. They can be purchased in different forms or ingested through eating raw vegetables and fruits, rich in phytonutrients and live enzymes.

Oil of wild oregano and olive leaf are antibiotic, fungal, viral and parasitical remedies used throughout the centuries by physicians. Bilberry extract has recently been found to be effective in blocking virus cells from reproducing, and has been used for centuries to treat inflammation, among other disorders. Since they are all food-sourced remedies, there is reduced risk of negative side effects, barring allergies to any of them. Dr. Jennifer Ashton, chief health and medical editor and chief medical correspondent for ABC News and Good Morning America, recommends the use of these remedies. Olive Leaf is especially effective in dealing with bronchial and asthmatic congestion.

Inflammation Control

Inflammation is at the heart of mucus production, which clogs up airways, cutting off blood supply to vital organs and drowning people in their own fluids. In heart attacks, cholesterol is at the scene of the crime; but the inflammation is the real culprit. Reduce the inflammation and there’s a chance for less discomfort and health risks.

Steroids are often prescribed to manage inflammation, but steroids can interfere with blood-sugar regulation, and can require the use of insulin. As alternatives, mullein and/or methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) are effective in reducing inflammation in the body. Mullein has been used for centuries to treat various causes of inflammation. MSM is a dietary source of sulfur that naturally supports the immune system and plays a major role in the formation of enzymes and hormones that control body activities. It is used to improve immune function and lowers inflammation.

The liver is critical in management of the immune system and in dealing with the toxic side effects of pharmaceuticals, alcohol, toxic substances and stress on our bodies. Milk thistle, another ancient remedy for infections, is effective in cleansing the liver and body of those things that make us feel so lousy.

Yeast control is often overlooked and undervalued. Sugar is a known cause of inflammation. Avoid processed fruits, fruit juices, popsicles, desserts, artificial sweeteners and processed carbohydrates— bread, pasta, white rice and flours of any kind. They all break down to sugar. Eat an orange and/or low glycemic-index fruits, and drink water and clear bone broth for their protein and life-giving marrow.

The book, The Missing Diagnosis, addresses Candidiasis (yeast) infections that can wreak havoc with the body. It causes inflammation, diarrhea, brain fog, urinary-tract infections, chronic ear, nose and throat infections, leaky gut and acid reflux from fermentation in the gut. It also can be the driver behind sugar cravings and high blood-sugar because it thrives on sugar. Proliferation is often the result of the use of steroids and antibiotics.

Oral Hygiene

Oral hygiene helps to prevent bacteria from the mouth from entering the heart, lungs and brain. It has been written about in many medical journals as a primary line of defense for people with heart and lung issues. Brushing, tongue-scrubbing, flossing and killing bacteria is Dental Hygiene 101.

The topical application of oregano oil to an infected gum can reduce or eliminate said infection, without any toxic side effects. Oil pulling is an age-old remedy rooted in ayurvedic medicine that uses natural substances to clean and detoxify teeth and gums. It has the added effect of whitening teeth naturally and evidence even shows that it may be beneficial for gum health and that certain oils may help fight harmful bacteria in the mouth.

Washing hands, disinfecting surfaces and avoiding crowds and sick people all make sense. Covering our mouths and noses when sick and keeping our hands out of our mouths and off our faces all help to prevent the spread of contact and airborne diseases.

To stay out of the doctor’s office, it is incumbent on us to eat healthier diets and boost our own immune systems with supplements that nurture our cells and detoxify our bodies. Let food be thy medicine.

Diane L. Slader is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, in New York City, and a practitioner of holistic treatments for conditions that cause symptoms that lead to the use of pharmaceuticals and no healing. She believes that we are each of body, mind and spirit, affected by what we take into ourselves in thoughts, words and substances.

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