If you want to understand how to prevent the Flu, then you need to know a little about how your body works.  First, it is important to note that the Flu is a viral infection (Influenza virus) which often occurs in the winter when we’re lacking sunlight exposure, are indoors the majority of the time, and are vulnerable with extreme changes in temperature.

Infections first begin when you’re exposed to the virus through the secretions of coughs and sneezes of an already infected person. Once exposed, the virus enters your body through nose, eyes, throat, and bronchial tubes. It then attaches itself to the cell wall and rapidly starts reproducing.

It’s worth remarking that a virus is technically not a live organism, but rather a tiny particle that can only multiply with live cells. The newly formed virus kills the original host cell and is then released throughout your system via your bloodstream and travels down your throat and lungs. As this happens, the majority of the Flu symptoms begin. The lymph swells and the virus travels through the circulatory system and also attaches to muscle cells causing aches and pains. The immune system responds with inflammation, mucus, and fatigue.

While these symptoms feel uncomfortable, they’re not necessarily bad for you. One great example of the intelligence of the body is that it responds to the infection by increasing the body temperature- creating a fever, which helps you fight the infection by slowing down the down the rate of viral reproduction! This immune response continues until the viruses are eliminated from the body and the lymph completes the purification of debris, dead cells, pathogens and waste.

Feeling Better- The immune system is complex, intricate, and wise. Support your immune response, do not suppress it, and you will move quickly through discomfort. Likewise, the sooner you take action against an infection, the easier it is to minimize its effects.

√ Upon first signs of Cold or Flu, take action with natural remedies. Within the first 12-18 hours, use herbs that promote lymph and circulation, and support a healthy  immune response. Use herbs like Echinacea, Stephania, Yarrow, Elderberry flower and berry, and Osha. Eat healthy, and get to bed early.

√ If you didn’t catch it in time, it’s ok!  Don’t suppress a fever right away. The fever is a wise response by the body to damage viral duplication and encourage you to rest. At this stage you want to use herbs and foods that regulate normal body temperature, drain lymph, and support a healthy inflammatory response. Reach for herbs like garlic, cleavers, elderberry & elderflower, lemon balm, and olive leaf extract.

√ Stay hydrated. Drink a lot of pure water to flush out the body and loosen secretions. If you’re very uncomfortable from the fever, soak your feet in cool water and/or use a cool compress on your forehead. Also consider natural approaches that regulate and assist normal inflammatory response.

√ As you continue to assist your lymph system, support your circulation, too. Add a hot cup of ginger tea to the herbs listed above. Gentle movement like stretching and hot baths can help move lymph, support circulation, and ease discomfort.  Try ½ c. of baking soda to alkalize, calm & deodorize. Or use 2c. of Epsom salts in the bath to cleanse the lymphatics, relax sore muscles, and soften the skin.

√ Get plenty of rest. This means physically and emotionally! This means taking a mental break from emotional stressors and resting mind and body. At certain times, over-exercising can actually place more stress on your body, and suppress your immune system. Try a simple walk if you are coming down with a cold and know that rest is just as vital to health as the air we breathe.

√ Avoid milk products, grains, and sugar, all of which promote mucus, inflammation, and deplete the immune system. Avoid alcohol and chemical over-the-counter medications that suppress symptoms.

√ Stay home to avoid infecting others, and wash your hands and linens . Small measures like these help prevent spreading the virus to your community and family. Staying home not only helps you rest but helps keep the virus contained.

Written by Elizabeth Willis, Clinical Herbalist and Nutritionist

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.