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How to Use Supplements to Treat the Flu
The flu is a highly contagious respiratory infection is caused by the influenza virus. According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), 5 to 20% of the population get the flu every year. Out of these, over 200,000 people are hospitalized due to the flu and around 36,000 people die of the flu every year.The most at risk population is the very young and very old due to their immune systems not functioning as robustly as the typical adult. Normally, the body can mount an immune defense against the flu virus, but in cases where immune systems are compromised, this dose not happen. If you find yourself with the flu, talk to your doctor about using supplements.
Treating the Flu with Supplements
Buy the right kind.When buying supplements, look for reputable manufacturers. These bottles will have seal of approval on them from an accreditation service, such as Consumer Labs, the Natural Products Association (NPA), LabDoor, and the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). These independent organizations have labs that test supplements to ensure they contain what the label says they contain.
- Bear in mind that supplementation is not a regulated industry, so it is important to buy pure products and check for interactions against current prescribed medication. Interaction checks can be completed by local healthcare provider as well as pharmacists at drug stores.
- You should also remember that most supplements are not backed by scientific research — most evidence is anecdotal, or based on a personal account, rather than the rigorous testing that drugs and medication go through.
- Avoid supplements with added sugar, additives, or preservatives. You don’t need additives or preservatives if you are using a supplement before its expiration date.
Take propolis.Propolis is a natural resin made by bees that has antiviral capabilities. When you have the flu, take one to two teaspoons of propolis daily. You can get this in liquid form at your local health store or pharmacy.
- If you want to help prevent the flu, start taking propolis at the start of flu season and continue until it is over.
- Do not use propolis if you are allergic to black poplars, bee stings, or other bee products or if you are pregnant or nursing. Ask your doctor before taking it if you have asthma or chronic digestive disorders.
- If your child has the flu and you wish to give him propolis, speak with your doctor or a practitioner of homeopathy.
Use andrographis.Andrographis is an herb that is thought to lessen and shorten the symptoms of the flu. It is generally taken as a capsule, which can be found at pharmacies. The general dose can range from 500 to 3,000 mg depending on your need, so ask your doctor which amount is right for you.
- Do not take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Try herbal decongestants.Since congestion is one of the symptoms of the flu, you may need a supplement to help with this symptom. Eucalyptus and peppermint are both great herbs that can help with cough and decongestion.
- They can be found in many cold medicines and lozenges. You can use them both as herbs and oil supplements to help your symptoms, though neither oil should be ingested. These can be found at your local pharmacy or health food store.
- Try peppermint tea as well. The dried form of the herb is extremely soothing when you have the flu.
Reduce the duration with herbs.Echinacea has been shown to decrease the length of the flu by up to one and a half days. Elderberry, another herbal remedy, has been shown to help reduce the flu by up to three days. These can be found in capsule, liquid, or herb form. They are also available as oils, which should not be ingested unless specifically instructed by your doctor.
- You may be able to find echinacea or elderberry tea at health stores.
- Do not use echinacea or elderberry if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Look for them at your local pharmacy or health food store.
Try omega 3 fatty acids.Omega-3 fatty acids are used by the body to make anti-inflammatory substances. They can be found naturally in fish, oats, and nuts, but supplements help you get your daily recommended amount. Look for purified, mercury-free fish oil capsules that contain at least one gram of EPA and DHA, two different forms of omega 3s, at your local pharmacy or health food store.
- Take one to two grams every day while you are sick. You can also take this amount to help prevent further sickness and as a preventative method before you get sick
- Be cautious when taking omega 3 fatty acids if you are taking blood thinners. Ask your doctor for advice before you do.
- Be aware that large doses of omega 3's can cause increased bleeding, decreased control of blood sugars in diabetics, and increased depression.
Try spirulina.Spirulina is a blue green algae that has proven in a laboratory context to destroy the influenza virus. It has not been tested in such a way in people, but it may be effective in treating your flu symptoms. It can be found at pharmacies and health food stores. You can take it as a powder, as a capsule, or as flakes. The recommended daily dosage is four to six 500 mg capsules per day.
- Since the recommended dose varies a great deal, ask your doctor the right dose for your particular case.
Boosting Your Immune System with Supplements
Try arginine.Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid, which is a building block for proteins that can be synthesized by the body but is also required by it to function. Arginine may help decrease the risk of upper respiratory infections (URIs), so start taking this supplementbeforethe flu season begins. The supplement is available in pharmacies and the recommended daily dosage of arginine is two to three grams.
- You can get arginine naturally in walnuts, eggs, milk, meats (turkey breast and pork loin), and peanuts, so eat more of these as well to increase your intake of arginine.
- Talk to your doctor before taking arginine when you have the flu to make sure it will not interact with any medication you’re on.
- Do not take arginine if you have a history of liver or kidney disease, if you’ve had a stroke, if you have sickle cell disease, if you are taking blood thinners, or if you are taking medications for high blood pressure or diabetes. Do not use arginine if you are pregnant or nursing.
Get more vitamin D.Vitamin D supplements have been shown to decrease the likelihood of contracting the flu. Vitamin D is naturally available in salmon, mackerel, sardines, milk, eggs, cheese, and cod liver oil. However, if you want to boost your immune system with vitamin D, find a supplement, such as vitamin D3, to increase your levels. These are available at your pharmacy or health food store.
- Often times people in colder climates are deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can cause increased risk for many chronic disease including cancer, autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and osteoarthritis.
- General supplementation should be guided by physician as this is a fat-soluble vitamin (meaning it stays in your system and excess amounts are not flushed out with your urine) and toxicity can occur.
- If you are vegan, you can try vitamin D2, which is not derived from animals.
Take probiotics.Probiotics are good bacteria that help fight infections in your body. To this end, they can help you prevent the influenza virus by boosting your immune system. You can get probiotics naturally from yogurt or take them as supplements, which can be found at most pharmacies, grocery stores, or health food stores.
- Do not take probiotics if you are taking immune-suppressing medications or if you have a disease that affects your immune system unless specifically told to by your doctor.
Get more vitamin E.Vitamin E may be useful in protecting against and preventing infection from the influenza virus. You can get some vitamin E from foods, such as leafy green vegetable and nuts, but supplements help get enough to build your resistance. The supplements are available at most major stores.The recommended daily dosage is no more than 15 mg, or 22.4 IU, but you should speak with your doctor before using vitamin E, as it is fat-soluble.
- For children under the age of 14, the recommended daily dosage is 7 mg, or 10.4IU, of Vitamin E.
- Do not use supplemental vitamin E if you are pregnant or nursing.
Take additional immune supportive supplements.Zinc and vitamin C both help run, support, and improve your immune system. Take 30 mg of zinc every other day and between 75 and 125 mg of vitamin C every day. These can be found at most major stores that sell supplements.
- Do not take more than 50 mg of zinc per day. Too much zinc actually increases your risk of contracting the flu.
- Vitamin C is also an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and an antiviral agent. It’s safe for children and adults.
Understanding the Flu
Notice the symptoms.There are certain symptoms you can look if you think you have the flu. You may have some or all of the known symptoms of the flu, but they can vary per case. These symptoms should be watched for closely in those at higher risk of death or complications, such as the very young, the very old, those with HIV/AIDS or other immune suppression diseases, and those with cancer. The common symptoms of the flu to look out for are:
- Chills or fever
- Cough and sore throat
- A stuffy or runny nose
- Body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
Diagnose the flu.If you think you have the flu, see your doctor. He will do a physical exam and check your symptoms. Lab tests are usually not necessary. You may not need to see your doctor if you are generally in good health. However, if you are at high risk, use home treatments for one to two weeks without getting better, or experience severe symptoms, see your doctor immediately.
- Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated before flu season. Vaccinations can make a significant difference in how the flu affects you, and you may not get it at all.
Treat the flu medically.Medical treatment is usually rest and fluids accompanied by some kind of medication that depends on your symptoms. You may be prescribed medications such as amantadine (Symmetrel), rimantadine (Flumadine), zanamavir (Relenza), or oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Other common medications include fever reducers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, over the counter nasal decongestants, drowsy and non-drowsy antihistamines, and cough syrup.
- Do not use nasal decongestant sprays (such as Afrin) for more than five to seven days. After prolonged use, they can make your symptoms worse and actually cause congestion.
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