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One minute you are feeling fine and the next minute your whole body aches, your head, ears, and throat hurt, you get the hot and cold shivers, and generally feel like you have been run over by a bus. The only thing you want to do is go home and crawl into bed after having taken something to make it all go away. You know you have the flu. Before you kick yourself for not getting a flu shot, let’s talk about some real solutions! 

What Is Known About the Flu

Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection spread by the coughing and sneezing of infected people. It affects the nose, throat, bronchi and, in some instances, the lungs. You know the flu symptoms: sudden high fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, weakness, sore throat, and weakness or fatigue. The unpleasant symptoms usually last from one to two weeks, but in vulnerable individuals—the very young or very old and the immuno-compromized—flu can lead to pneumonia and even death.

Every year, influenza circles the globe in seasonal epidemics. Conventional medicine's answer has been to develop flu vaccines. The influenza virus mutates each year, so flu shots are designed to expose you to a relative of the impending virus in an effort to stimulate your body into building up immunity. Despite the millions of dollars that have been pumped into developing vaccines, however, there is no conclusive evidence that they actually do what they promise to do - prevent infection. From the October 2011 Lancet comes the underwhelming news that “Influenza vaccines can provide moderate protection against virologically confirmed influenza, but such protection is greatly reduced or absent in some seasons.” Studies have shown that increasing vaccination in the elderly has not affected influenza mortality in this age group.

The flu vaccine comes with a list of potential side effects, including a distracted immune system, which might make you more vulnerable to any other virus than the one in the vaccine. Of course, vaccines are useless if they do not match the strain of virus in current circulation.

In 1981, R. Edgar Hope-Simpson, best known for his research on shingles, was the first to document that flu epidemics peaked in winter and fell in summer. He studied the records of the great flu epidemics of Great Britain in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He realized that they spread much faster than people could travel in those days, yet countries on the same latitude, separated by great distances, simultaneously had outbreaks. He questioned why epidemics are so explosive, why they end so suddenly, why the secondary attack rate is so low, and where the virus disappears between epidemics. All of these factors are not consistent with infectious diseases. He reasoned that there was a seasonal trigger associated with solar radiation that regularly and predictably impaired the human immune system in winter. He did not live long enough to discover that the missing piece of the puzzle was vitamin D deficiency. In winter, people are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D. Elderly and dark-skinned individuals are most likely to have a vitamin D deficiency, which is why the virus hits these groups particularly hard.

Since Hope-Simpson's time, vitamin D has been identified as a potent physiological defense and as absolutely crucial for good health, both physical and mental. It is key to the production of antimicrobial peptides, which destroy the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including the influenza virus. Vitamin D is protective and preventative of a wide range of illnesses, from cancer to heart disease.

The cheapest, most natural, and effective way to get vitamin D is through safe sun exposure. The sun has been so demonized lately that most people are terrified to get any kind of exposure without copious amounts of toxic sun block smeared over their bodies. In winter, when sun exposure is difficult, you can get additional vitamin D from food sources like fish, cod liver oil, and supplements.

Healthy Steps: Influenza—First Steps

For the greatest improvement of flu symptoms with the fewest steps, do the following:

  • Thorne Research OPC's: Take a double dose 3 times daily.
  • Vitamin D3 as Biotics Research Bio-D-Mulsion Forte: It is safe to take up to 10,000 i.u. vitamin D3 twice daily for 5 days if taken with the fermented cod liver oil and can reduce influenza symptom severity and duration.
  • Lots of liquids: Consume only liquids for 48 hours, especially chicken soup.

Healthy Steps: Influenza—Full Program

A comprehensive program involves many areas in which action steps can be taken, gradually or all at once. Start by following the basic nutrition and healthy lifestyle guidelines, with the following modifications:

Real Food

Savor Helpful Foods

  • Liquids for 48 hours (adults only): For 2 days, drink so much that you barely want to eat solids. It isn't that solids are harmful; consuming only liquids gives your digestive system a chance to rest and recover, directing all its extra energy reserves toward healing. Best liquids are broths (meat, especially chicken, and vegetable), plain water, coconut water, and tasty herbal teas.
  • Homemade chicken rice soup and cream of vegetable soup: Chicken soup can be made many different ways, but if your homemade soup contains chicken, lots of vegetables, and sweet potatoes, you're off to a good start. Add wild oregano as a spice. If you can add chicken bones, heads, and feet then simmer for 6 to 8 hours and strain, this works best. At the end of the cooking period, add whole coconut milk, lemon juice, and salt. Cream of vegetable soup is another option. Add oregano and thyme to stimulate your flu recovery.
  • Coconut Oil:  2 tablespoons in water daily has antimicrobial properties.
  • Beet kvass: One glass daily is helpful and tastes good. Here's a recipe you can use to make this yourself: Take 2 large beets, clean tand peel them. Dice into small chunks. Place beet chunks into a two-quart glass jar. Add 4 teaspoons salt and fill with water. Mix. Cover the jar and allow the mixture to ferment in a warm place for a few days until it is slightly effervescent and a dark red color. Taste should be somewhat tart. You may need another day of fermentation if it tastes salty. Refrigerate when fermentation is complete. It mixes nicely with kombucha for a stronger health tonic.
  • Cooked veggies with lots of butter: Vegetables are cell builders. As a saturated fat, butter is used in the body to strengthen cell walls, which can keep bacteria and viruses out.
  • Raw garlic: Only one clove daily, crushed in your mouth, can be effective. Use fresh garlic only. Eat the garlic with an olive for better flavor.
  • Herbs and herb teas: Ginger stimulates circulation in the body, and if you add a dab of raw cream, you'll get some natural immune factors that can help you recover quickly from the flu. Honey also boosts immunity because of its antimicrobial properties.
  • Spices: Mix cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, and curcumin into foods.
  • Coconut water: Unsweetened coconut water, with a little lime juice, is a great restorer if you're dehydrated.

Avoid Problematic Foods

  • All types of sugar and fruit juices: Sugar causes an immune system reaction in the body, slowing down white blood cells almost immediately. It also causes inflammation in the body. Even fruit juice is mostly sugar; avoid it.
  • Wheat and grain products: Gluten-containing grains are common food allergens. If you are sensitive to them, they can produce inflammation in the body, which will interfere with your healing from the flu.
  • All meat and eggs for 48 hours: Protein sources can be a drain on the body's resources when you are trying to overcome a cold. Giving your digestive system a rest is thought to speed recovery. Limit your meat and eggs for a period of 48 hours.
  • Dairy products: For some people, dairy products cause added congestion.  Raw dairy may be more immune supportive.

Supplements Can Help - Adults

  • Vitamin D3 as Biotics Research Bio-D-Mulsion Forte: Take 10,000/5 drops i.u. twice daily for three days along with the fermented cod liver oil.
  • Thorne Research OPC's. Oligomeric proanthocyanidins are powerful antioxidants extracted from grape seeds and pine bark. Take a double dose three times daily.
  • Zinc lozenges such as Zand Herbal Herbal Formulas:  Sucking on zinc lozenges can decrease risk of pneumonia by 41 percent. Use as tolerated: nausea indicates you've had enough.

Daily Life Activities

Medications to Avoid

  • Antibiotics: They are of no help against viral illness and weaken your immune system.
  • Aspirin and Tylenol: Both suppress the immune system.
  • Cold and flu medicines: All over-the-counter cold and flu products have been proven to be non-beneficial and possibly harmful, especially to children.

Good Practices

  • Wash your hands: Wash with normal soap often, especially when you are out in public.
  • Rest, stay warm and hydrated: Drink coconut water without sugar if you are dehydrated and thirsty. Drink a variety of herbal teas.
  • Use a humidifier: You can add a few drop of eucalyptus oil unless you or any member of your family is taking a homeopathic remedy, in which case, use only water.
  • Use antibacterial hand washes sparingly.

Best to Avoid

  • Flu vaccine: I do not recommend flu vaccines, questioning their efficacy and safety. Focus instead on strengthening your immune system.
  • Antibacterial soaps: Don't use antibacterial soaps in general. Germs become resistant to them.
  • Stimulants: Avoid succumbing to coffee, tea, sugar, and drugs to keep you going.
  • Travel: Don't take plane flights or go to movie theaters. They are notorious germ machines in the winter.
  • Don't smoke: Smoking paralyzes the tiny respiratory cilia that help keep your airways clear.

See your Physician

  • Nourishment is very important when you are ill. If you are unable to keep anything down, it is time to seek professional help.
  • Strength is an excellent measure of your immune vitality, yet everyone is lethargic when they have the flu. If you find your mental, emotional and physical strength (your voice, your appetite, your feelings, and your ability to stand up and walk to the bathroom) challenged and weakening, check with your physician to see if you need extra treatment.


This is one of the best options if you are really sick and need to be better quickly. Influenza especially responds quickly to the correct homeopathic remedy.  With a 30C potency, repeat the remedy hourly if you have a high fever, and decrease to twice daily when the fever subsides. Taper or change the remedy as you get better or the symptoms change.

Remedies are available for purchase through my office

Aconitum Napellus

  • Fever comes on rapidly after exposure to cold, especially cold wild.
  • There is great thirst for cold drinks, even if chilly inside.
  • Anxiety is a key symptom, with fear about how sick they are.

Arsenicum Album

  • Extremely chilly, at times with a hot face or head
  • Symptoms are worse at night, especially around midnight.
  • Anxious about illness, wants someone dependable to help with care.
  • Thirsty for hot or cold drinks, but only one sip at a time.


  • The flu develops slowly and gradually over days or a week.
  • Everything hurts, and movement makes the pains worse, so he lies very still.
  • Headache is dull and aching, and worse with any movement.
  • Very thirsty, more for cold drinks than warm, and can gulp down a whole glass of water.
  • Irritable and wants to be alone.

Eupatorium Perfoliatum

  • Fever accompanied by body aches, usually in the bones, as if they're broken.
  • Thirst for refreshing drinks: cold water or juice
  • Like Bryonia, just wants to lie around.


  • Develops slowly over several days.
  • Weak and dizzy with the fever, can't think straight, can't even sit up.
  • Head feels heavy.

Rhus Toxicodendron

  • Develops slowly over several days, may follow exposure to cold.
  • Aches and stiffness with the fever, where gentle motion seems to help.
  • Feels a little better with warm drinks, baths or covers.


Flu Prevention

Studies show people with the highest levels of vitamin D have half the risk of respiratory infections. To be certain that you are absorbing the vitamin D, I recommend a liquid product that provides vitamin D3 (Pure Encapsulations or Biotics Research) 2,000--5,000 i.u. daily, aiming for a blood level of 40-65 ng/ml. Take the liquid drops on a fork-full of food, don't just add it to food as it's too easy to lose part of it. 

Other helpful supplements include OPC's (Thorne Research) taking 1 capful daily in water all winter. Take Zinc citrate, 30 mg daily.

I also recommend taking probiotics regularly, alternating the sources. Obtain probiotics in food from yogurt, fermented sauerkraut, kombucha, kvass, and, if you like it, unpasteurized beer.

Don't ignore the obvious: Get enough sleep. Plus, enjoy eating a well-balanced diet - follow our Ideal Diet.

Our bodies are designed to fight off infection and disease, given adequate exercise, rest, sun, and nutrition. When we are ill, instead of asking what drug can kill the offending bug, shouldn't we be asking how we can support our bodies to do what they are so beautifully designed to do? The vast majority of diseases thrive because of a deficiency in macro and micronutrients. If you get the flu, chances are you are not deficient in the latest flu shot. The best place to start building natural immunity to influenza and other nasty bugs is with a nutrient-dense, whole-foods diet.

From Dr. Deborah's Desk

In my practice, I don't have to convince many people that influenza prevention is better accomplished with a strong immune system than a flu shot. I even promote the heresy that for people of average or better health, having an occasional bout of the flu (every 5 to 10 years) is not necessarily a bad thing for their overall health. The symptoms of an acute illness are not the work of the bug, but rather the work of your body resisting the virus or bacteria. People with weak immune systems can have serious infections with minimal symptoms. It is not uncommon to hear from someone with a cancer diagnosis, “But I never even get a cold, I thought I was so healthy.”

With healthy people what I often see is excellent prevention, for perhaps ten years or more, and then they are hit with the flu. Dana believed she had never had a true flu until 2008 when she experienced first-hand the misery of influenza, and in fact hadn't seen a doctor in years. She requested an urgent appointment because she couldn't miss work.  When I saw her, going back to work was not part of my prescription for her:  OPC's, Fermented Cod Liver Oil, extra vitamin D3, homeopathic Bryonia and lots of advice, including bed rest.  She protested the bed rest all the way out the door, continuing adamantly with my receptionist and out into the parking lot. A follow-up phone call the following day yielded a compliant, achy, but relaxed Dana. Her flu and bed rest lasted about 4 more days, but her reliance on the supplements have continued through the subsequent influenza-free years.

This information is provided for educational purposes only, and any individual diagnosis or treatment should be determined by you and your doctor. See Additional Information.

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