by Integrative Clinical Pharmacist Scott Berliner, RPh
For families, especially those with young children, cold and flu season can be a seemingly endless cycle of getting sick and recovering only to catch the next bug from another family member, friend, or co-worker.
Concerns from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about safe doses of over-the-counter cough and cold medicine for children can complicate the decision-making process.
The best way to break the sickness cycle is by taking protective measures and focusing on boosting immunity.
- Begin with your gut. Few people realize that the largest part of the body’s immune system is the mucosal lining of the gut. Yogurt is excellent for creating good bacteria or normal flora to boost total body immunity. A few spoons a day can be an effective preventive medicine. However, stay away from yogurts laden with sugar and those without active cultures as an ingredient. Also, enteric-coated Acidophilus Pearls are specifically designed to help the good bacteria, like those found in yogurt, to survive stomach acid, allowing them to make it into the gut intact.
- Stay Alkaline. Sugar makes the body acidic, and pathogens tend to live on sugar. So during cold and flu season, try and reduce sugar intake. Drink lemon juice, hot or at room temperature, to maintain alkalinity. Surprising as it seems, some citrus fruits, despite being acidic, actually encourage the body to be more alkaline and therefore, healthier. When you’re feeling less than 100 percent, try favoring more fruits and veggies in your diet since they promote alkalinity.
- Stay hydrated in a balanced way. Everyone knows it’s good to drink lots of liquids when you’re getting sick to flush out mucus and toxins. But be aware, when you hydrate, you also need minerals to hold onto the water. Sodium maintains water balance outside the cells, while potassium, magnesium and calcium – all available in a good multivitamin with minerals – help to maintain water balance inside the cells keeping them healthy and strong. This is the reason to not drink distilled water, which leaches important minerals from the body. For those on the go, there are mineral supplements that can be added to drinking water. This is a portable and flavorful alternative for keeping healthy and hydrated.
- Go herbal, but cautiously, as some products have not been tested in children. One herbal product that has significant studies supporting it as a treatment for viral infections is Elderberry. Elderberry has a very high ORAC, or oxygen radical absorption capacity: over twice as much as blueberry. In addition, antioxidants called flavonoids, stimulate the immune system. Other compounds in elderberry, called anthocyanins, have an anti-inflammatory effect, which explains its palliative effect on aches, pains, and fever. Elderberry is safe to use in children and can be found in a syrup form for easy pediatric dosing.
- For an overall immune boost, try high potency beta glucans. Beta glucan is a complex carbohydrate purified form of baker’s yeast. Yeast beta glucan is the subject of more than 800 scientific studies and is widely recognized as an immune enhancer. Unlike many other beta glucan formulas on the market Xymogen’s Immunotix 3-6™ is refined to remove most impurities, including proteins and fats that can interfere with uptake and effectiveness. A component called “mannan” that may trigger an allergic reaction or inflammatory bowel flare in sensitive individuals is also removed.
- Studies have found that zinc can stop the progression of colds and flu and shorten the duration of infection. Three doses of zinc lozenges spread throughout the day help to form a “bandage” over the irritated area of the throat.
- Prescription for sore throat and inflamed tonsils: Make a regular cup of black tea. Add ½ teaspoon salt, and gargle. The tannins in the tea are astringent and effective for shrinking the swelling and reducing irritation. The salt enhances the anti-inflammatory effect.
- Linus Pauling touted Vitamin C, claiming the immune-stimulating effect of Vitamin C was reached at 10 grams (10,000mgs). While 10 grams of Vitamin C is not for everyone, it’s definitely helpful to boost Vitamin C intake, which is effective in acute situations. Try a bio-available form of Vitamin C at 1000mg five times a day, which is equivalent to 20,000mg of regular ascorbic acid.
Even if the headlines predict widespread infections during cold and flu season, you and your children may be able to avoid them. If you take proper care, you may dramatically reduce the number of days you’re out of commission or even dodge getting sick altogether. And if you happen to get sick, you can use these integrative pharmacy tips to get better faster.