October 19, 2004
Subject: Alternative approaches to preventing the flu
At this time of year I typically start fielding phone calls from patients asking if they should get a flu shot. This year is going to be different because of the vaccine shortage. [see today's New York Times Article] http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/10/politics/10flu.html
This might be a good thing. My typical answer to the question is to only get a flu shot if you need to, that is catching the flu is dangerous. Because of age or other illnesses, catching the flu can be life threatening for some people. Not to most.
For those of us who don't need a flu shot, or this year can't get one, there are a number of ‘alternatives' to consider trying or to use if you do catch the flu.
The most interesting and exciting new product is from the French homeopathic manufacturer Dolisos. It is called Dolivaxil. It is essentially a prophylactic homeopathic medicine, used in much the same way as a flu shot. It is taken ahead of time to prevent catching the flu. The protocol for taking Dolivaxil is precise but easy to follow. Each week for a total of four weeks, you take a single dose. For the next three weeks you take no further doses and then you take one final dose, on the eighth week. The whole process takes 8 weeks. If you want to do this, start now. There have been no large clinical trials or comparisons between this and flu shots. Preliminary trials involving several hundred individuals in France suggest that it works. It is these trials that websites quote in advertising Dolivaxil. Ann example, “ Preliminary research shows that the flu shot is 68% effective on all people compared to a 90% effective rate on Dolivaxil .” This is a new product for us and we do not have experience with it. As a homeopathic medicine the chance of side effects is low. Homeopathy has a long and successful history in treating flu outbreaks over the last hundred year.
I've written before about using daily doses of NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine). In many cases it might not prevent the infection but keeps the symptoms mild enough that people don't feel sick enough to complain.
I've also written about our favorite Elderberry Extracts sold as Sambuccol which seem to cut down the severity and duration of flu symptoms in people who become ill. Experience has taught us that Sambuccol works best if started at the first twinge of illness. I keep a bottle at home and will start taking it if I start thinking I might be getting sick. I don't wait until I'm sure.
The classic homeopathic all purpose preparation for the flu is Oscillococcinum. This is one of a handful of homeopathic medicines that have been subjected to modern clinical trials. There have been three double-blind studies involving 300-500 patients per trial. Each trial showed statistically significant results favoring Oscillococcinum for treating the flu. I like this product, we have sold it for year. Spelling it correctly can be challenging though.
Don't forget the low tech approaches to preventing the flu. Hand washing with soap and water is one of the most effective methods at preventing flu transmission. There is no shortage of either, little side effects to worry about and low cost.
We try to keep a supply of all the products mentioned at the office. Give us a call if you want more information.
Flu prevention letter from 2003: http://denvernaturopathic.com/flu.html
Alas, it appears I did not post the older NAC and flu newsletter on our website(or even save it). The article came out seven years ago. The purpose of the study was to evaluate long term use of NAC on flu symptoms. A total of 262 subjects average age 65 years old, took NAC, 1200 mg/day for six months during the winter flu season. Blood tests at the end of the winter showed an equal number of the NAC takers and the placebo takers had gotten the flu, but only 25% of the NAC group had felt sick versus 79% of those people taking the placebo. In simpler terms, people taking NAC got ‘sick' with the flu less than 1/3 as often as people not taking it.
Here is the abstract of the study I reported years back: