Category Archives: colds and flu

H1N1 Protection: Simple Ways With Water

Here are some “water ways” to protect yourself from H1N1 and other forms of flu.  (As always, check with your doctor before doing anything that affects your body.)

First, the source: Dr Vinay Goyal MBBS, MD, DM 
is Associate Professor in the Department of Neurology
Neurosciences Centre at All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Continue reading

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H1N1 Pandemic: Boost Your Immunity

The World Health Organization has determined the H1N1 outbreak is a pandemic.  That in itself is not a measure of the severity of the so-called “swine flu” – just of its dispersion now into Australia, too. I asked Alexa Fleckenstein, M.D., to comment about ways to protect oneself. Here is her advice—which should, of course, never replace a consultation with  your doctor or health care professional. Always check before taking any over-the-counter or herbal supplements to make sure they are right for you. In addition, there are several ways  to use water, including saltwater rinses, to protect yourself from viruses, explained here.

So far, the swine flu has been mild – lethality does not even reach that of “normal” flu outbreaks which kill more than 30,000 people every year. The unfortunate people, who die, usually have underlying diseases which compromise their immune systems. The fear is that this flu might mutate like the 1918/19 flu did, and come down on us the second time around with a vengeance. Normally, mutations are such that the virus dies out–and it would be an extremely rare event that it would mutate into a much stronger strain. Nevertheless, that is the thinking behind taking the swine flu seriously now–mostly to observe it evolve (or perish).
Advice From Dr. Alexa (but always check with your doctor first)
Meanwhile, get enough sleep, take your herbs, eat plenty of vegetables, drink warm water and/or herbal teas. And it is never too late to start challenging your immune system with daily cold showers – unless you are already coming down with something.
Another anti-viral concoction I want to share with you is the Chinese Jian Qiao Jie Du Pian or Isatis 6, also called Honeysuckle-Forsythia Detoxifier. It might be a good idea to have some of those pills at hand when you get sick (get them from a reputable source). During the next H1N1 outbreak – or any seasonal viral disease that might come along.

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FDA and the Cold Shower Remedy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has written that “It’s not chicken soup. Believe it or not, a much more unorthodox therapy of warm-and-cold showers has recently been proposed–though not proven–for the prevention of the common cold.” The article goes on to identify water therapy researcher Edzard Ernst, M.D., who wrote  about shower therapy: “An efficient, practical and inexpensive prophylaxis [preventive measure] against one of the most frequent (and ‘expensive’) diseases has been identified at last.” In a 1987 research study comparing a “cold shower”group with a control group for 6 months, Ernst found that the cold shower group’s colds were “significantly fewer, significantly milder, and slightly shorter.”

Well, even if not “proven” to the FDA’s satisfaction yet, cold showers are worth considering as flu season looms ever closer, and here is some research evidence. As noted before in this space, however, cold showers may not be for you if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure or a circulation problem, so always check with your doctor first!

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FDA says no cold meds for kids under 2- but there are alternatives

Today, the government issued a Public Health Advisory warning parents that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold products should not be used to treat infants and children under 2 because of serious and potentially life-threatening side effects, including convulsions, rapid heart rates, decreased levels of consciousness, and death.

So what to do when your baby or toddler has a cold? There are a number of safe alternative treatments in Own Your Health: Your Sick Child, by John D. Mark, M.D., of Stanford University Medical School. These include herbal remedies, saltwater nose rinse, herbal steam inhalation, and anti-inflammatory foods—such as hot blueberry soup.

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Herbs for Health

Here are some herbs that will help you have stay healthy, especially during winter. My expert is Alexa Fleckenstein, MD, author of Health2 0 and Healthy to 100. Here is what she told me:

“Herbs have been with us throughout evolution. They fit into our ancient physiology like a key into a lock. In prehistoric times, we always ate herbs from the wild. In modern life, a bitter green or strong root might just be what your body needs to find its way back to balance.”

Unlike the new “superbugs” that are resistant to antibiotics, bacteria and viruses do not easily develop resistance against herbs, says Dr. Fleckenstein. That is because a single herb contains hundreds or more of compounds, and many of these compounds work on killing off the germs. Since point mutations in bacteria can only develop one by one, it is highly unlikely that an herb becomes ineffective against a pathogen, because there will always be plenty of compounds to destroy the microbes first.

“The word for these compounds working together is synergy,” she explains. “Synergy is the reason why I recommend whole herbs (tinctures or so-called phytocaps with extracts of the whole plant) instead of ‘taking the best’ from several pants, and making a patented medicine. Patent medicines exist because natural plants can’t be patented, and so firms try to make money by taking single compounds from a plant, combining it with other single compound, thus producing a ‘new’ medicine which allegedly is better. The truth is that in many cases it is not better because you cannot improve on nature.”

So what does Dr. Fleckenstein recommend that you have on hand this winter in case illness strikes?

For colds and flu: echinacea, osha, pau d’arco, olive leaf, elderberry
For simple urinary tract infection: Uva ursi, usnea, cranberry. (Drink lots of warm water, too.)
For indigestion: dandelion, peppermint, milk thistle. (And think of cleaning up your diet!)
For cough: horehound, echinacea, linden flowers
For insomnia: valerian, hops, passionflower

Important caution: Always check with your doctor before taking any herb, since there could be dangerous interactions with other medicines you are taking!

For more information, check out her books (which include not only advice about herbs, but also about cold water, nutrition, movement and life balance). Another great resource is The Green Pharmacy, by ethnobotanist James Duke.

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Got Milk? For Some Children, the Answer Should Be “No!”

“For some children, the possible adverse health effects of cow’s milk outweigh the benefits, despite what the dairy industry would have us believe,” asserts Stanford University pediatrician John D. Mark, MD.

In his new book, Your Sick Child, part of the Own Your Health series about combining alternative and conventional medicine, Dr. Mark refers to research showing that cow’s milk and dairy products, due to their saturated fat content, can increase inflammation in the airways and other parts of the body. “This inflammation may exacerbate asthma, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and colds,” explains Dr. Mark, an expert on the lung diseases of children. “I regularly try an elimination diet of cow’s milk, cheese and butter from my patients’ diets, and often there is a dramatic improvements in their respiratory problems.”

What about calcium and strong bones? “There are other and often more nutritional ways to get calcium, vitamins and protein, including green leafy vegetables, nuts, calcium-fortified juices, cereals, beans, sesame seeds, almonds, figs, seaweeds, and fortified soymilks,” says Dr. Mark. “We are the only species that drinks milk from another species, and the only species to drink milk at all after infancy. Many children – and adults as well – have trouble digesting cow’s milk. Many children are simply not biologically meant to drink it.”

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Take a Cold Shower to Protect Against Colds and Flu This Winter

At first, it sounds crazy – can a cold shower really prevent colds and flu? But Dr. Alexa Fleckenstein, author of HEALTH 2 0: TAP INTO THE HEALING POWERS OF WATER TO FIGHT DISEASE, LOOK YOUNGER, AND FEEL YOUR BEST (McGraw-Hill 2007) says that a few seconds of cold water after your hot shower is scientifically proven to make you healthy – even if you’re in the cold water for less than 30 seconds a day.

Here are 6 ways that a short cold shower protects you from colds and flu:

1. A brief cold water shower will decrease your body’s “reaction time” to cold. The cold shower “teaches” the blood vessels in your skin to clamp down faster, so you are losing less warmth in draft or cold exposure. Especially, during the winter months while it’s cold outside, you’ll stay warmer, longer.

2. Gamma interferon and interleukin-4 are two important virus-fighting cytokines (immune system proteins) A new German study has shown that cold water exposure helps these two disease-fighters work better together, resulting in fewer viral colds.

3. A cold shower increases lymphocytes in the blood. Lymphocytes produce antibodies, which help fight germs.

4. A cold shower makes you breathe deeply. (A big gasp when the cold water hits the skin!) A deep breath opens closed or clogged alveoli (small air sacs in the lungs) which are then less prone to bronchitis and pneumonia. And deeper breathing means more oxygen for the whole body.

5. A cold shower increases blood flow in all organs, especially skin, heart and lungs. The pharynx/larynx ( organs of the throat) also benefit from the increased blood flow, and are better able to kill viruses.

6. And a cold shower lifts your mood. Depressed people get more colds – probably because depression lowers immunity. A brisk cold shower has been proven to lift the mood and lower stress, both of which jumpstart the immune response – which kills flu and cold germs!

Remember that cold water therapy works only if done regularly, and also needs a few weeks (about six) to work. Start with just your feet and hands in the cold water, and gradually work your way up to your whole body. It feels great!

IMPORTANT: Check with your doctor first. Contraindication include uncontrolled high blood pressure, and narrowing of the arteries.

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