DNC News

The Flu:

December, 2003

Subject:  What can we do to avoid getting the flu, how should you treat it and what about flu shots and the other questions you've been calling on the phone with?

You've all heard by now that this year is a lousy flu year.  First they distributed the wrong flu vaccine so it isn't offering very good protection.  Then the flu seems to have shown up earlier than it was supposed to.  From what we've seen so far people who catch the flu are having a miserable time of it.  The newspapers have treated us with the daily tragedies of young children dying.  Perhaps this is to take your mind off Iraq but it has had the effect of sending people into a flu panic.  Now there isn't enough vaccine to go around

We've been getting frequent calls about the flu.  Let me try to answer some of them.  Many calls are asking our opinion of flu shots, well more exactly, "Should I get a flu shot?"  I don't have an easy answer for the question.  I think each person needs to weigh the pros and cons of getting these vaccinations and unfortunately we are missing much of the information needed to make these calculations.

It is clear that some people are at great risk if they get the flu and should do everything they can to avoid getting it.  Yet it isn't clear that this year's flu shot will offer any guarantee of protection. 

How to avoid getting the flu without getting the shots?  Well the old standbys still work.  Get plenty of rest, wash your hands frequently and avoid sick people still seem reasonable.

Is there something I can take? I like the combination immune stimulators:  either the mushroom extract combinations or Astragalus and Echinacea mixtures in theory though I forget to take them. I wrote a news letter about n-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) last year.  Daily doses don't change whether or not you get the flu but they do decrease how many people notice they are sick.  In other words it is possible to get the flu and never feel particularly sick. 
 I am totally sold on the Elderberry extracts sold under the brand name Sambuccol.  If I remember to start taking them at the first twinge of sickness I think they work well to cut the intensity and duration of viral infections way down.  Rena on the other hand, hates the way they taste and uses a homeopathic preparation called Flu Solution.  Both of these seem to work if taken very early in the course of illness but with only some benefit if started in the middle of the illness.  We keep both products at the office where they do you little good.  If you want to try them, get them now and keep them at home where you see them and start taking them at the first suspicion of impending illness.
Lauricidin, the brand name for the monolaurin we stock, is being promoted for treating the flu.  I haven't used it for this but have seen it work well for other viral infections, especially the herpes virus.
Longstanding patients have told us about having the flu as an afterthought.  "I didn't know you can treat the flu, my MD said there was nothing he could do."  The MDs may not have anything to treat the flu with but we certainly do.

How do you treat the flu?  We get this question often and there isn't a simple answer. We don't treat the flu; we treat people who have the flu.  This is very different.  People don't all get the flu in the same way.  Our treatments vary depending how people experience the flu.  Typically I'll give a person with the flu several different things.  As I've mentioned I'm a fan of Sambuccol and will almost always give this along with a homeopathic remedy and an herbal tincture.    The homeopathic remedy is picked based solely on the person's symptoms:  are they thirsty or irritable, do they ache, where do they ache, when are the symptoms worse and so on down the list of a hundred and one questions.   Based on their peculiar symptoms we can often choose a homeopathic medicine which appears to reduce their discomfort and shorten the duration and intensity of the illness.
There are a number of herbs which we used which have distinct anti viral action.   We will often use one or more herbs in treating the flu because of this antiviral action.  We may combine antiviral herbs like licorice, and lomatium with specific herbs to treat the symptoms.  For example, if swollen glands are the predominant symptom I may add phytolacca, if bone aches are a big part of the discomfort, I'll add eupatorium and so on.  The herbs we choose for coughs will vary with the type of cough: location, wet dry, productive or not, color of phlegm, sensation and so on.

Some people are sent home with instructions for complicated hydrotherapy techniques, others with a list of videos to rent.  With the flu as with many other illnesses we treat there is no one size fits all when it comes to treatment plans.

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