Ready or not….Bird Flu any Flu
Some people suggest that calm preparation is the order of the day. What
is not openly talked about, however, is the rather obvious call for Martial
Law (and other alarming response strategies) found in the language coming
from the White House NSPI document. The same document readily admits
the government probably won't be able to save you, so you'd better start
"Where appropriate, use governmental authorities to limit non-essential
movement of people, goods and services into and out of areas where an
- White House document, National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza
"While your government will do much to prepare for a pandemic, individual
action and individual responsibility are necessary for the success of any
measures. Not only should you take action to protect yourself and your
families, you should also take action to prevent the spread of influenza if
you or anyone in your family becomes ill."
U.S. President George W. Bush
" Although governments in Europe are buying enough Tamiflu to cover a quarter of their population—and the Pentagon has already ordered $58 million worth of Tamiflu for U.S. troops around the world—the U.S. government has purchased only 4.3 million doses of Tamiflu and another anti-viral, Glaxo's Relenza, enough for just 1.5% of Americans.
Fortune Magazine/Nelson D. Schwartz /11-2005
If a bird flu pandemic strikes, not only will anti-viral medicines be in short
supply, they may not even work.
"Quite honestly, nobody knows at this point whether Tamiflu will be effective at all when we face a pandemic. We may have wasted the money that we bought all this Tamiflu for."
Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer
"In the face of a pandemic, the available supplies of antiviral drugs would
be used up in days."
Dr. Robert Webster, Infectious Diseases department of St. Jude
What is a Flu?
Etymology: Italian, literally, influence, from Medieval Latin influentia; from the belief that epidemics were due to the influence of the stars
1 : an acute highly contagious disease caused by any of several single-stranded RNA viruses (family Orthomyxoviridae) and characterized by sudden onset, fever, prostration, severe aches and pains, and progressive inflammation of the respiratory mucous membrane; broadly : a human respiratory infection of undetermined cause
2 : any of numerous febrile usually virus diseases of domestic animals marked by respiratory symptoms, inflammation of mucous membranes, and often systemic involvement
- in·flu·en·zal /-z&l/ adjective
3 :any of a large group of very tiny infectious agents that are too small to be seen with the ordinary light microscope but can often be seen with the electron microscope, that are considered either very simple microorganisms or very complicated molecules, that have an outside coat of protein around a core of RNA or DNA, that can grow and multiply only in living cells, and that cause important diseases in human beings, lower animals, and plants.
Who gets the flu?
The elderly or the very young usually have a tougher time with any flu. In children, the immune system is relatively new. This is like having an army that's all dressed up with brand-new uniforms and equipment, but they have not had any combat experience whatsoever. It’s the same when the body is attacked by a virus. The immune system needs experience so it knows what to do. A child’s immune system is inexperienced. In the elderly the opposite is true. They have very experienced immune systems, but it is as if they’re all worn out and too tired to fight back. So those in their teens, 20,s 30s, 40s, and 50s will have the best chance of fighting off any flu since their army is well practiced and has recorded a profile of the enemy and its behaviors.
With the looming threat of bird flu spreading throughout the world, there's been a mad dash to acquire a viable vaccine or antiviral drug that will save the day. It is doubtful that a vaccine would be effective, since viruses tend to mutate so quickly that by the time enough vaccine is made and distributed to the population the viruses would have changed once again. Tamiflu, one of the best-known antiviral prescription drugs, has not been tested on bird flu situations, to my knowledge. It is interesting to note that Tamiflu is derived from an active ingredient in a Chinese herb called “star anise.” As is often true in medicine today, the drug was originally an extract from an herbal or plant source. It would not hurt to have some Tamiflu around just in case it does work. A few other drugs have been touted as antiviral as well, but again it is doubtful whether or not they will work.
With the H5N1 bird flu the alveoli (the functional unit in your lungs) are destroyed by the lethal pneumonia. This is why bird flu can be fatal to humans. H5N1 is hard for us to catch because it doesn't bind readily to human noses and throats, the place where flu viruses usually enter and exit the body (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/440435a). So, to prevent catching the flu it is important to protect the integrity of the respiratory tract. This is a key in the prevention of any flu.
So, what are you going to do?
People get sick when they are toxic or their detoxification systems are sluggish. Detoxification takes place in the lymphatic system (which is like a sewage system in your body) and the gastrointestinal tract. The number one problem for both of these areas is dehydration and/or a lack of exercise. In Chinese medicine, any time there is respiratory tract congestion we are told to look at the large intestine. Flushing of the large intestine will help the lungs to decongest as well. The idea is that your body tries to get rid of toxins in any way it can. The body’s primary detoxification pathways are the skin, the respiratory tract, the large intestine, and the kidneys and bladder. Keeping these systems in excellent functioning order will allow you not to get sick in the first place, or if you do contract a disease, to fight if off more effectively.
How do you get toxic? Wouldn’t it be simpler to keep toxins out of your body in the first place? But it’s not so simple. Toxins come from the air you breathe and from the food you eat. Toxins in your environment come from perfumes, paints and varnishes, cleansers, manufactured wood, and other environmental gases.
Toxins you eat may include chemical food additives, preservatives, heavy metals, too much of the white foods (white sugar, white flour and dairy products), and regular table salt. Sea salt is okay. A good rule for foods is: if it doesn't rot and bugs don't want it, you shouldn't eat it either. Toxicity in your body can also be caused by allergies and by dehydration.
Stress is probably the biggest factor that adversely affects one's immune system. Stress comes in many forms, and I refer you to the following links for more information on stress.
Foods, Vitamins, and Herbs that help
There are some classic foods which help encourage health and a strong immune system.
Garlic: Garlic helps against viruses, bacteria, parasites, and mucus formation. It is beneficial whether you eat it cooked or raw, as juice or in pill form. Garlic also helps to reduce cholesterol. Research has shown how the allicin in garlic and onions may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and increase the body's ability to fight infections.
Shiitake mushrooms: These mushrooms, available in most grocery stores, are known to be active against tumors and viruses.
Aloe Vera: Aloe not only helps to heal skin irritation and burns, but also has antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. It's great for helping to heal the intestines when they are irritated. But beware of taking straight aloe juice. This juice often has the entire plant in it and can have a strong laxative effect. Aloe juice made without the skin is less irritating in this way. Everyone should have a healthy large aloe plant in their house for the healing of topical skin burns and cuts, but for internal consumption the store bought juice is more practical.
Onions: Onion is similar to garlic in some ways. It has antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer effects. Just like garlic, onion is very high in sulfur, a vital element for a healthy immune system as well as healthy joints. Leeks, also in the same family, have similar effects.
Other foods: Broccoli, cauliflower, fresh vegetables in general, lemon juice (juice of half a lemon in a cup of hot water, taken daily, is a great cleanser), nuts, blueberries and pomegranates (high in antioxidants), and high-quality oils such as fish oil, flax oil and coconut oil are also beneficial. Spirulina and other so-called “green foods” have an unbelievable amount of nutrients in a concentrated form.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C can be taken in smaller or greater amounts depending on your stress levels. If you feel a cold or flu coming on, a vitamin C flush is a great start. You do this by taking 500 mg of vitamin C every hour until you end up with loose bowels. Then take just a little less than that for the next several days. This ensures a saturation level of vitamin C. If you find that you can't take very much vitamin C at all before this occurs, then increase calcium and magnesium, and you will be able to increase your vitamin C intake. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties, is antiviral, and anti-stress. I suggest you take bioflavonoids with vitamin C, since this is how it's found in nature. The bioflavonoids increase cellular integrity, and this is often the first defense when bacteria and viruses are present.
Vitamin A: Has significant antiviral properties; it also increases respiratory tract integrity. 20,000 IU’s per day is a nice maintenance dose. Up to 60,000 per day can be used when there is upper respiratory irritation. Emulsified vitamin A, which is usually in a liquid form, can be taken in dosages up to 100,000 units a day without any side effects that have been known to occur with the fish oil variety of vitamin A. But please consult you physician if you’re planning to take high does for very long.
Vitamin E: Another antioxidant which protects your cells from damage. If you do take vitamin E make sure this not the DL - tocopherols form which is synthetic. Also make sure you take the alpha, beta, and gamma forms of vitamin E together. 400 units a day is a safe level.
Vitamin D: The lack of vitamin D will affect your health adversely especially here in New England with the loss of sunlight being common in the winter and spring. I recently wrote an article on vitamin D, which is located on my web site, http://www.doctorrandy.com/articles_vitamin%20d.html . I think this is one of the simplest things one can do to prevent the flu and increase health.
Thymus: This gland, which sits in your chest just below your neck, has been considered the brain of the immune system. It is what directs the entire immune system including white blood cells and allergic responses. Unfortunately it does shrink with age. One can take thymus extracts when you've been chronically run down or when you have an infection of some type. This is a great remedy that I highly recommended.
Spleen: The spleen is part of the immune system and, in some cases, I will use spleen extracts to build up the immune system or fight off a chronic infection.
Zinc: Most everyone needs zinc. Zinc is vital for wound healing, pancreatic function, and immune function. During times of stress or infection, you will need more than you can get just from diet alone. Zinc lozenges are great for sore throats as well.
Calcium/magnesium: Calcium and magnesium levels are often low in individuals when stress has gone on too long. One simple way to determine if you are deficient is to notice if the muscles from your shoulders to your neck are very tight. If they are, it's a good bet that you need calcium and magnesium supplementation (calcium/magnesium foods are just not enough). Calcium and magnesium both help in relaxing and the contraction of muscles. Hence they will be helpful in times of infections such as the flu.
Echinacea: Echinacea stimulates and/or enhances the immune system. Contrary to common belief, it can be taken every day. You can tell if you have a good strong Echinacea extract as it causes your tongue and throat to feel numb upon ingesting the liquid form. It is antiviral and antibacterial and antifungal.
Astragalus: Also an antiviral herb. Some studies have shown that astragalus stimulates interferon, which suppresses the replication of viruses.
St. John's Wort: You may have heard that this herb has been used as an antidepressant. Well that would be true, but it is also an antiviral herb.
Green tea: There are many herbs that can be put into tea form, but green tea is a common one that also gives you energy, is an antioxidant, and a mild stimulant unless you get the decaffeinated variety.
Grapefruit seed extract: This extract can kill bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungus. It can be used to sterilize water or to help prevent traveler’s diarrhea.
Olive Leaf Extract: Again, this is a natural antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal substance.
Elderberry: The herb is getting quite famous for his antiviral properties.
Cat’s claw: This is an herb also known as Una de Gato. It is quite effective in Lyme disease, so it may be quite helpful in combating viruses that don't quite fit the classic description.
Oil of oregano: If you want kill parasites, yeast, or bacterial infections in the intestines, this is a great one for that. Secondary lung infections may be aided as well.
Homeopathy: Homeopathic tablets can help with flu symptoms. There are formulas for different aspects of the flu. Some for fever, some for respiratory symptoms and others for body aches. It's not a bad idea to have a number these on hand so you can take them at the first sign of symptoms.
Inflammation: The concept of inflammation in the body is a vital one, in regards to health. It is theorized that most chronic illnesses are due to inflammation. From hardening of the arteries to MS. If you have a mild inflammation in your respiratory tract you will be more prone to infection. Having a good diet with good hydration can help, but there are several herbs that do a marvelous job of reducing inflammation. These are ginger, turmeric and boswellia. Wherever the inflammation is in your body, these herbs may help to reduce it.
Other home remedies:
Hot bath: Hot baths are great for fighting off colds and flues. The concept of a hot bath goes like this: when you have an infection your body creates a fever. This is your body’s attempt to raise your body temperature in order to make it inhospitable for the bacteria or viruses to thrive. Sometimes you do not create a fever high enough or soon enough to impact the invaders in a timely fashion. So, why not take a hot bath and help the body do what it is trying to do? Also a fever, or artificial fever, helps get the toxins out faster via the increased perspiration. Body aches are reduced as well which helps you relax and fall sleep. But be aware that this is best done at the first sign of infection. Typically, you would get into a hot bath and drink some hot tea or hot lemonade at the same time, increasing the temperature in the tub until you break out with a sweat. This should take no more than 15 minutes. When exiting from a hot tub it is best not to stand up, but rather to crawl out, as you will often be lightheaded. Then you would go to bed and cover-up with blankets and sweat some more. If a bathtub is not available, the same could be done with a hot foot bath.
Eating when you're sick: I've always been confused by the concept of ”feed a cold and starve a fever” or is it the other way around? I don't think it makes any difference. To me it makes sense not to eat too much. You want your body to be able to spend its energies on fighting off illness and emphasizing detoxification. Most people have enough energy reserve to go a few hours without solid food. However, when you're increasing fluid intake and prone to increased perspiration, it would behoove you to replace the increase minerals loss that occurs during this time. Therefore vegetable broths or vegetable juices would be a good idea. But if there is something that you're craving I would listen to your body and go for it.
Since flu can be quite mild or sever the best and fundamental thing to be is as healthy as you can. This means physically, mentally and chemically healthy. And knowing how to work with your body’s innate abilities and the substances that nature has provided is important for optimal health. Waiting until you are sick to employ these concepts could be too late.
Schaetzke, D.C., D.I.B.A.K.