Why do some people get very sick from the flu while others seem to be immune to it? Considering that last year’s vaccine was only about 19 percent effective, this is a vitally important question. The answer is…
It all depends on the state of your immune system and your underlying health.
Immunity to the flu first and foremost depends upon whether your immune system has been previously exposed to the influenza virus (or variants of it) and developed antibodies to protect you. It is almost impossible for you to know by testing your blood if you have antibodies or not.
In simple terms, the more you have been exposed to these types of viruses (respiratory viruses, influenza viruses) over the years and developed antibodies against them, the less likely you will get sick from the flu — even if you live with other family members who do get sick from it.
Equally important to minimize the ill effects of the flu is your underlying health. How do you know if it’s up to par? I can tell you it is not from standard screening blood tests. I remind my patients that even stage 3 and stage 4 cancer patients will have normal blood tests. Your blood is the homeostatic fluid of your body.
So if your blood tests are not a good indicator of your underlying immune system health, what is? If you answer yes to these five questions your immune health should be in good shape:
- Do you consume a high percentage of your food from raw food and whole food sources? If you consume above 90% as whole food and 50% as raw food, you are doing well. After many months of this kind of eating you will likely notice your energy levels are excellent and after a few years, you won’t get winter illnesses.
- Do you eat only minimal amounts of refined sugar, refined flour, refined oil, foods with chemical preservatives/dyes/additives, and processed foods consistently? It has been scientifically shown that when you eat more than 50% of your foods from processed, refined, chemicalized and even cooked or baked foods, then you already have inflammation, called leukocytosis, measurable in your body. 1
- Do you consistently exercise (moderate to high intensity) at least 3 times/week?
- Can you consistently feel good in a state of peace with your relationships, your work, and your usual feeling state? Do you get enough restful sleep?
- Are you pursuing your life passion? Do you have a passionate love relationship?
Still getting sick? Here’s what you can take or do to boost your immune system when the flu is already upon you:
- High dose Vitamin C at 10, 000 mg in divided doses each day until you are recovering has been shown to inhibit viral activity and boost immune system significantly. In s study 2 of 252 students ages 18 to 30 years, those who received megadoses of Vitamin C reported flu and cold symptoms 85% less than those of the student control group who received pain relievers and decongestants. Other evidence comes from physician reports and not from Pubmed data.
- High dose Vitamin D at 100,000-200,000 IU daily for 3 days has been proven to be a potent promoter of innate immune function. 3 In fact, vitamin D triggers the release of your body’s own natural antimicrobial peptides against infectious agents including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. 4 In 1948 researchers reported 5 near miraculous effects on influenza and viral pneumonia. Mega doses, 6 even up to of 500,000 IU of vitamin D3 once 7 a month in the elderly have been shown to be safe.
- Avoid refined sugar; it suppresses immunity. 8
- Get as much extra rest as possible; this allows your energy to recharge and your immune system to focus on your physical internal system.
- Stay hydrated with minerals; Emergent C is full of minerals you can easily absorb. It is like getting an IV with Ringer’s Lactate solution. You will feel much more strength from this. Herbal teas (listed below) are also optimal liquids.
- Herbal teas containing cats claw, ginseng, and ginger root are powerful tonics to fight viral infections. Other teas such as chamomile are mildly helpful to calm nausea and keep you hydrated.
- Garlic in the dose of 4-8 times what the usual dosing is on the bottle. Garlic is one that can be taken during the flu season to build your immune system and you don’t have to wait until it hits you. Be sure to look for an allicin-containing garlic supplement. Of note, a 2001 study done by researchers in the UK reported using just one capsule daily of a garlic supplement containing allicin during the flu season on 146 volunteers. 9 Half of the volunteers received no medicine (placebo group) and this half suffered 63% more common cold infections compared to the other half of the group who received garlic. Among the garlic group, those who did get sick with a cold only suffered symptoms for 1.52 days (on average) compared to 5.01 days for the placebo group. A number of other studies prove garlic’s effects on viruses. 10
- Fresh ginger tea; cut off 6-8 coin-size chunks of fresh garlic root, place in 2 C water, and bring to a boil; cool, add Stevia for sweeter, and sip over 2 hours.
- Cimetidine (Tagamet®) at 800 mg daily has been shown to boost immune function by reducing T-suppressor cells — particularly effective against certain viruses. 11 It also can increase natural killer cell activity and the inherent immune stimulants interleukin-2 and gamma interferon. 12
- DHEA at the high dose of 200 mg each morning you have flu symptoms has been shown to boost immune response. In one study, doses of 50 mg daily measurably increased seven different immune markers by 20% to 62%.
- Lactoferrin is an immune booster found naturally in mother’s milk, and sold at health food stores. It has been shown to potentiate the immune system and inhibit viral attachment to cells. 13 I would take 1200 mg as a daily dose during flu symptoms.
- Echinacea contains several stimulant compounds. The German government has approved Echinacea for the treatment of influenza-like symptoms.
Lower your risk of spreading the flu to others
Remember to wash your hands and don’t share cups or utensils. Viruses spread most often from touching contaminated objects, like doorknobs, phones, shared computer keyboards, and shaking hands. Contain your cough or sneeze because viral particles circulate for several minutes like lint floating in the air.
To your health and happiness!
Michael Cutler, M.D.