Flu Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment

woman suffering from the flu

Cold & Flu Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopathic Doctor

What is a cold?

A cold is an infection that is caused by one of up to 100 different viruses. The most common cold virus is called the rhinovirus. The prefix rhino is latin for “nose”. Coronaviruses and adenoviruses can also cause colds. These viruses can infect the respiratory tract (the nose, sinus cavities, throat, bronchi and lungs) and sometimes cause a stomach flu (gastroenteritis).

The symptoms of a cold include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Sore or itchy throat
  • Coughing
  • Mild fatigue
  • Sinus pressure
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mild body aches
  • Phlegm in the nose, sinuses and/or throat
  • Redness of the eyes

What is the flu?

The flu is also an illness caused by a viral infection, typically one of three viruses: influenza A, B or C viruses.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Flu symptoms can be very similar to cold symptoms, but think cold symptoms on steroids! Symptoms may include:

  • Body aches
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Moderate to high fever
  • Feeling run down
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

The main difference between a cold and the flu is the severity of symptoms. The flu tends to be more severe and debilitating. Where colds are not fatal, in those with a compromised immune system, the flu can be fatal.

How long am I contagious with a cold or the flu?

You can be contagious even before the onset of symptoms, and throughout the duration of the cold or flu.

When am I most infectious? Before symptoms? At the start of symptoms? In the midst?

You are most contagious during the first 2-3 days of a cold or the flu. Your ability to spread the virus continues throughout the illness.

How can I avoid transmitting a cold or the flu to my friends and family?

Keep your secretions to yourself! Viruses are transmitted through contact with infected body fluids.

  • If you are sneezing or coughing, turn away from others and be sure to cover your mouth and nose, preferably with your sleeve and not your hand.
  • Wash your hands frequently, particularly before handling community property like keyboards, phones, remote controls or preparing food and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • If possible, avoid being around a vulnerable person (infant, elderly, pregnant, diabetic, asthmatic, immune suppressed) while you are sick. If that’s not possible, keep physical contact to a minimum and/or wear an N95 face mask. The person who wants to avoid contracting the cold/flu can also wear a face mask.

Flu Prevention

Here are my top 6 tips to prevent the flu:

  1. Vitamin C – 1000 mg 3-6 times per day
  2. Vitamin D – at a minimum of 1000 IU for adults
  3. Exercise – at least 1 hour of physical activity every day
  4. Avoid sugar and white carbs – excessive amounts of even whole grains can slow down your immune system.  Instead, focus on healthy protein sources, lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds, grains like quinoa and amaranth, moderate amounts of fruit and legumes.
  5. Reduce your stress – Stress hormones like cortisol suppress your immune system.  Divest yourself of problems that are causing stress, and if you can’t add in lots of anti-stress techniques like yoga, meditation, tai chi, massage therapy or even just slow, deep breathing several times per day.
  6. Prioritize sleep – with busy lives, sleep can take a back seat.  Sleep is your body and your immune system’s chance to recover and restore you for the next day.  A minimum of 7 hours of good quality sleep per night is vital for adults, at least 10 hours for children 8-16 years old and at least 11-12 hours for children under 8.

Already done all that?  Ok, well here is the next level flu prevention & fight the flu regimen:

Echinacea

Echinacea is our favourite immune-boosting herb.  It can be safely taken throughout flu season as a preventative.  It was previously thought that you had to take a break from echinacea, this has since been disproven. I have people take one tablet twice per day of echinacea that contains 600 mg of Echinacea purpurea root and 675 mg of Echinacea angustifolia root, containing 2.1 and 2.0 mg of alkylamides respectively.  This helps keep their immune system strong and healthy.

An Immune Boosting Tincture

Tinctures are alcohol based liquids that may contain single herbs or combinations.  For boosting the immune system we may use a combination like this: Echinacea Root (Echinacea angustifolia), Osha Root (Ligusticum porterii), Calendula Flowers (Calendula officinalis), Red Clover Flowers (Trifolium pratense), Cleavers Herb(Galium aparine), Borage Herb (Borago officinalis).  These herbs work together to boost the immune system, help the lymphatic system drain, reduce inflammation and fight bacteria, viruses and yeast.

Garlic Extract

One of the active ingredients in garlic that helps fight infection is called allicin.  When you eat garlic, your gut will create some allicin from the garlic you have eaten.  A more direct route to get allicin is to take it in its stabilised form.  Ajoene is another active component of garlic.  It has been found to have anti-thrombotic, anti-tumoral, antifungal, and antiparasitic effects.  We use 200 mg of a garlic oil and parsley oil blend that contains 20 mg of the active ingredients of garlic, including ajoene, 1-3 capsules per day.

Olive Leaf Extract (Olea europaea)

Another favourite immune booster and anti-viral is olive leaf extract.  The positive effects of olive leaf extract include antioxidant properties and effective immune support against opportunistic microbes.  Oleuropein, a constituent of olive leaves, was found to be broken down in the body to elenolic acid, which is believed to be its most active component.  The effect of olive leaf extract is that it helps prevent microbes from multiplying.  We use a product that is standardized to 20% oleuropein.  We recommend 1000 mg of olive leaf extract 3 times per day for 10 days when you are fighting a  cold or the flu.

For specific advice about how to treat or prevent the flu and whether any of these is right for you, see one of our naturopathic doctors.  I’m sorry but we are not legally allowed to provide advice via email to people that we have not seen in person and performed a full first assessment on.

Cold & Flu Research

Ledezma E, Apitz-Castro R. Ajoene the main active compound of garlic (Allium sativum): a new antifungal agent. Rev Iberoam Micol. 2006 Jun;23(2):75-80.

Suffering from Seasonal Allergies?

woman with successful treatment for seasonal allergies

Seasonal Allergies

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc, Naturopathic Doctor

What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?

Allergy symptoms most often include:
  • congestion in your nose
  • pressure in your sinuses, which may cause sinus headaches
  • runny nose, usually with clear discharge
  • itchy, watery eyes
  • a scratchy throat
  • cough
  • dark circles under the eyes
  • puffy eyes
  • decreased sense of taste or smell
  • post-nasal drip

What Causes Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal allergies are not just due to an immune system response to pollen.  Your immune system should not consider pollen to be a foreign invader that requires an immune system attack.  Allergies are a sign of inflamed and irritated tissue in the respiratory tract that has become super sensitive to particulate matter that should not normally trigger an immune response.  Below are a number of factors that can contribute to this irritated tissue.

Underlying food allergies or sensitivities or intolerances

Almost everyone has sensitivities to certain foods.  The most common ones are dairy, eggs, gluten, pineapple, almonds and beans like kidney beans and green beans.  Therefore consuming these foods provokes the production of antibodies that lead to inflammation that can leave nasal tissue easily irritated by fumes, chemicals, dust, pollen or mold spores. Our naturopathic doctors can help guide you through an elimination diet or order blood testing for food allergies or sensitivities.

Toxin overload

If your liver is not efficiently clearing waste and pollution from your body, then these chemicals can accumulate and irritate tissue, leaving it sensitive to pollen. Improving phase I and phase II liver detoxification through supportive nutrients like n-acetyl cysteine, milk thistle, grape seed extract, vitamin B6 in the form of pyridoxal-5-phosphate, L-5MTHF, calcium-d-glucarate, indole-3-carbinol and amino acids like histidine, taurine, methionine, glycine and serine can help your liver to more easily package toxins for excretion.

Lack of vitamin C and vitamin B6

Vitamin C and B6 are both natural anti-histamines.  Both are necessary in greater quantities when you are under stress.  In some cases of seasonal allergies, helping my patient replenish both vitamins and has helped long term allergies to subside.

Lack of vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is crucial to the health of mucous membranes.  Mucous membranes are what line the entire respiratory tract, so a lack of vitamin A leaves that tissue unhealthy and more susceptible to irritation. One of the only foods that supplies pre-formed vitamin A is liver.  Otherwise, we acquire beta carotene from foods like carrots, Swiss chard, kale and spinach and our liver has to convert that to vitamin A.  Vitamin A accumulates in your body so long term supplementation is not recommended.  Vitamin A supplements should be avoided in women who are pregnant, breast feeding and in children. A vitamin A derivative has been shown to have anti-allergic effects in an allergy model in mice.  It works by balancing the immune system.

Overgrowth of harmful bacteria/yeast in the digestive tract and a lack of probiotic bacteria

Good bacteria help keep the immune system functioning normally by moderating immune system activity.  Antibiotic use wipes out good bacteria and allows overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria or yeast that can push the immune system into inflammation overdrive. Killing off gut bacteria or yeast excess and restoring healthy beneficial flora can help settle down an overly active immune system.  An Italian study found that a Bifidobacteria mixture was capable of significantly improving allergy symptoms and quality of life in children with pollen-induced allergies and intermittent asthma.  Another found a combination probiotic of Lactobacillus gasseri and two strains of Bifidobacter improved quality of life during allergy season for otherwise healthy individuals with self-reported seasonal allergies.

Our naturopathic doctors can help provide natural treatment for allergies.  Book an appointment now.

Natural Allergy Treatment Research

Miraglia Del Giudice M, Indolfi C, Capasso M, Maiello N, Decimo F, Ciprandi G. Bifidobacterium mixture (B longum BB536, B infantis M-63, B breve M-16V) treatment in children with seasonal allergic rhinitis and intermittent asthma.
Ital J Pediatr. 2017 Mar 7;43(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s13052-017-0340-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28270216

Dennis-Wall JC, Culpepper T, Nieves C Jr, Rowe CC, Burns AM, Rusch CT, Federico A, Ukhanova M, Waugh S, Mai V, Christman MC, Langkamp-Henken B. Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2) improve rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life in individuals with seasonal allergies: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Mar;105(3):758-767. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.140012. Epub 2017 Feb 22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28228426

Son HL, Park HR, Park YJ, Kim SW. Effect of Retinoic Acid in a Mouse Model of Allergic Rhinitis. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2015 Nov;7(6):590-8. doi: 10.4168/aair.2015.7.6.590. Epub 2015 Jun 2.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26333706

Thornhill SM, Kelly AM. Natural treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Oct;5(5):448-54. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11056414

Ipci K, Altıntoprak N, Muluk NB, Senturk M, Cingi C. The possible mechanisms of the human microbiome in allergic diseases. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2017 Feb;274(2):617-626. doi: 10.1007/s00405-016-4058-6. Epub 2016 Apr 26.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27115907

Dry Skin

woman with dry skin

Healthier Skin from the Inside Out: Natural Solutions for Dry Skin

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

You’ve applied a ton of moisturizer and still you have dry skin? That’s because the health of your skin is determined by internal factors as well as external factors like cold, dry winter air. Maintaining healthy, soft skin means addressing the internal and external factors that affect your skin.

Water

Water moisturizes your skin from the inside out.  Every one of your skin cells is like a little bag of water.  If you don’t take in enough water, your skin cells may look more like dry, shriveled up raisins instead of plump, moist grapes.

EFA’s

The shell of  your skin cells is an oily layer that helps hold water in and selects what is allowed to enter and exit your cells. Taking in healthy fats, called essential fatty acids, helps build a healthy shell that keeps moisture in. Eating Omega 3 fatty acids from whole foods like eggs, nuts and seeds and fish are especially important when dry winter air hits.

Vitamin A, C & E

Because of their antioxidant value, vitamins A, C and E are important for healthy skin. The antioxidant effect helps fight free radicals and oxidative stress that can damage your skin. Topical vitamin C cream has also been shown to improve skin quality and fight aging.

Make it edible

I always recommend that you only use products on your skin that you would put in your belly. At least 25% of the chemicals that you apply to your skin are absorbed into your blood stream and the liver must then detoxify them and remove them. The chemicals in moisturizers can have unwanted estrogen like effects.  I like extra virgin organic coconut oil to protect my face and lips from winter’s dryness and wind because it’s edible (hello, it’s going on my lips!) and it has anti-inflammatory effects.

Exfoliation

Scrubbing your skin can damage it because it strips off protective oils that keep moisture in, creating redness and inflammation. Exfoliation also removes superficial layers of skin before the underneath layers are ready, exposing tender new skin cells to the elements before their time.  Gently cleaning your skin with a washcloth and water and following that with an edible moisturizer is more soothing and gentle on your skin.