Temperatures are dropping and the sun seems to be getting ever lower in the sky – which means it can only be the time of year that winter approaches and we should all be preparing for winter flu. The common symptoms of winter flu include congestion in the chest and head, coughing and sneezing, aching muscles, a sore throat, headaches, watery nasal discharges, feelings of fatigue and general fevers and chills. Sooner or later most of us succumb to a bout of flu during the winter, with some people suffering recurring bouts of flu – so what can we do with vitamin and health supplements to try and prevent the onset of winter flu or treat ourselves with should it strike us down.
What causes winter flu?
In the simplest possible terms flu is caused by a virus that attaches itself to the lining of the nose or throat, which then spreads throughout the body’s upper respiratory tract and can even infiltrate the lungs in very severe cases of the flu. It is when the virus starts to attack the respiratory system that most of us will begin to feel we have ‘the flu’ as opposed to perhaps feeling we have a cold or are just unwell when the virus is only in the nose or throat. The virus that is the root of the problem become more of a problem in the winter due to us increasing indoor heating, which results in less humid conditions indoors as the air dries out – which creates the perfect breeding conditions for the flu virus.
Flu and infections.
First off we need to establish that a flu infection is a viral one, not a bacterial one; and so antibiotics will not cure the flu. Having said that, if the flu becomes severe other infections, bacterial ones, can occur – which might need treating with antibiotics rather than just health supplements. So, if the flu symptoms develop into ones where your temperature is above 380C for more than three days, you get a sore throat combined with a fever for more than 24 hours, you experience chest pains and breathing difficulties or a dark and thick mucus discharge – see your doctor for a professional opinion. Seeing doctor could be important as you might have developed a strep throat infection, bacterial infections in the sinuses or lungs or, even worse, pneumonia.
Colds, flu and vitamin C.
If you’re the stoical type then deciding if you’ve got the flu as opposed to just a cold might be the sort of thing you’re not good at. In essence a cold will develop over two or three days – but the flu will strike you down suddenly and within 24 hours. The most common natural defense against going down with the flu is to take plenty of vitamin C. Whilst taking any vitamin supplement is a sensible thing to do, in case you are not getting enough of any of the vitamins through your normal diet – vitamin C won’t prevent you from getting the flu, but by not being deficient in it you will minimize the effects of the flu and the length of time it affects you. As a general rule a 200mg vitamin C supplement a day is quite sufficient. However, if you do get the flu increase this to 500mg for three to five days.
Health supplements and the flu.
As mentioned above multivitamin and multi-mineral supplements are always a good idea to take to make sure your body is able to best fight off any infections. However, what other specific health supplements can be useful in fighting flu. One reason you feel so bad if you get the flu is that your body has to work hard to fight the viral infection by flooding the affected parts of your body with white blood cells. So one health supplement you should certainly consider taking is Echinacea, which gets the immune system to counter-attack the flu virus. Take 200mg of Echinacea extract five times a day if you get the flu, as a preventative measure use 200mg a day of the extract in three week rotations with 400mg once a day of the herb Astralagus. St John’s Wort is another well known booster of the immune system, use 300mg of the extract a day. Remember St John’s Wort doesn’t agree with everyone, so it might be best to consult your physician about this one. However, drinking Yarrow, Peppermint or Elderflower teas should present no problems and will all be of comfort and help to alleviate the symptoms should you get the flu. The same as for most herbal teas infuse 10g of the herb in 200ml of boiled water for about 10 minutes.
Other things to help fight the flu.
Being a viral infection simply washing your hands regularly with soap and water will help reduce the possibility of you picking it up, whilst a humidifier will keep the air moist and create conditions unfavorable to the virus. If you don’t already know – smoking will only exasperate the flu condition and render smokers more susceptible to a whole range of infections. Finally, you could consider a having flu jab. This will need doing a good 6 to 8 weeks prior to the ‘flu season’ beginning and, as flu viruses mutate and change, can never be a 100% safeguard against getting the flu.