Influenza H1N1: Natural Medicine, Nutrition and Hygiene can Help!

British Columbia is currently experience an earlier resurgence of H1N1 infections than anticipated. However, the majority of the infections have been relatively mild and have not required any medical intervention at all. Let’s look at a few details of the current H1N1 influenza outbreak.

Swine influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Swine flu viruses cause high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs. Swine influenza viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late autumn and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans. The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930. The current swine flu outbreak is suspected of being transmitted to humans first in Mexico, and then acquiring the ability to be transmitted through person-to-person contact. The symptoms of swine flu in people are likely to be similar to the symptoms of normal human seasonal influenza, and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Again, the majority of current cases of swine flu have been causing mild to moderate symptoms. Symptoms of swine flu may include all or some of the following:
  • Fever
  • Muscle Aches
  • Lethargy
  • Coughing and Chest Pain
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Runny Nose
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of Appetite

It may sound obvious, but your best defense against H1N1 swine flu is prevention. The following is a list of simple preventive measures that can not only reduce your risk of swine flu infection, but improve your overall health as well!

Good Hygiene. Hand-washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the single best thing you can do to prevent infection. The US Center for Disease Control estimates that 80 percent of all infections are spread by hands. If you can’t wash your hands regularly during the day, use hand-sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Cough and sneeze in your arm, not your hands. Keep common surfaces and items clean and disinfected. Stay home if you are feeling sick.

Don’t Panic. Stress suppresses your ability to fight infections. You can literally worry yourself sick. Go for a walk with a friend. Practice deep breathing or progressive relaxation. Meditate. Get a massage. Watch funny movies – laugh!

Say ‘No’ to Sweets. As tempting as it may be, try to avoid reaching for starchy and sugary snacks. A famous study from 1973 indicates that consuming large amounts of carbohydrates and sugar can drastically lower the activity of neutrophils. Neutrophils account for about 50-70% of white blood cells and are the first responders when an infection is detected by the body. The effects of these unhealthy carbohydrates can last for over 5 hours.

Sleep Well. When in the midst of an illness, the body often demands more sleep, simply because sleep helps strengthen the body’s defenses. The same is true when trying to stay well. The key is to get adequate sleep (usually between 7-9 hours) in a completely dark environment. Darkness is necessary in order for the brain to produce adequate/optimal levels of melatonin, which is, in part, responsible for some of the immune-boosting effects of sleep. If you are having sleep difficulties, consult your naturopathic physician for effective solutions.

Get Outside. There is strong evidence that vitamin D is imperative for optimal immune function. You can prime your body’s immune system by getting regular sun exposure. The key is to spend time in the sun during the morning and evening hours so as not to get a sunburn. Some experts recommend 15 minutes or more of “smart sun exposure” several times a week. Nutritional supplementation with 3000 IU of vitamin D3 should also be used to ensure a consistent and adequate supply of vitamin D.

Eat Your Berries. Black currant and black elderberry extracts may help combat influenza. Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, an Israeli virologist, proposes that black elderberries may interfere with the flu virus’ ability to infect healthy cells.

Drink Green Tea. A study from September 2006 found that gargling with a green tea extract helped to prevent the incidence of influenza in a nursing home setting. Subjects gargled 3 times a day for 3 months with a green tea extract that was standardized for catechin and ECGC content. Many other laboratory experiments suggest a role for tea in the prevention of flu-related illnesses and in supporting the immune system.

Take a Multi. There are many nutrients that are essential for healthy metabolism and immune function. The simplest way to nutritionally “cover your bases” is to take a high potency multivitamin/mineral daily. In addition, monthly intravenous infusions of high potency vitamin C with multivitamin/minerals will keep your immune system functioning optimally.

Herbal Medicine. Current research shows that extracts from the root of the Astragalus membranaceae plant have significant anti-viral activity, as well as increasing immune system function. In addition, the use of Andrographis paniculata and Echinacea spp extracts have been shown in numerous studies to reduce length and severity of many viral infections.

The West Vancouver Wellness Centre has put together safe and effective H1N1 influenza prevention and treatment protocol to help you combat the current pandemic. For more information, please contact our office at 604-925-2560 or