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12 Flu Natural Remedies, Including Best Foods

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Flu natural remedies - Dr. Axe

Each season, the flu affects about 8 percent of the United States population, on average. And the numbers may be even higher for asymptomatic people.

Children are most likely to become sick from the flu, or influenza, but people with a depressed immune system or nutrient deficiencies may also be more prone to catching the virus. Stress, lack of sleep and exposure to toxins can worsen flu symptoms.

Fortunately, there are flu natural remedies that can help boost your immune system to fight off the flu or relieve symptoms.

What Is the Flu?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. These viruses spread through the air from person to person.

Signs and symptoms of flu may include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The CDC reports that although anyone can get the flu young children are affected by the virus most often. Pregnant women and adults 65 years old and older are at greater risk of developing serious flu-related complications because of their suppressed immune systems.

Flu vs. the Common Cold

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, but they are caused by different viruses. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the flu and a cold, but usually influenza symptoms are much more intense.

With a cold, it’s common to experience mild cold symptoms, like a runny nose and congestion. The flu is more likely to cause body aches, fever and headache, and it may cause serious health problems, like bacterial infections, pneumonia and even hospitalization.

Flu remedies - Dr. Axe

12 Natural Remedies

So, how do you get rid of the flu naturally? Home remedies for the flu include vitamins C and D, herbal supplements, essential oils, probiotics and eating healthy. Try these flu natural remedies to help relieve your symptoms:

1. Vitamin C (1,000 mg 3–4x daily)

Vitamin C helps with immune function and boosts white blood cells. Research shows that vitamin C has shortened the duration of colds and can decrease the number of colds in physically active people.

Take 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily to ward off a cold or the flu and up to 4,000 milligrams daily when you are experiencing symptoms. For the most dietary vitamin C, eat whole fruits and vegetables.

2. Vitamin D3 (2,000 IU daily)

Vitamin D is produced in the body by sunlight and regulates the expression of over 2,000 genes, including those of the immune system. Unfortunately, up to 90 percent of people are deficient in vitamin D. Recent research suggests that low vitamin D levels are linked to higher rates of cold, flu and respiratory infections.

Many physicians believe that current recommended daily amounts of vitamin D are far too low, and that 2,000 units rather than 200–400 units per day is a better choice. You can also order home testing kits to test your vitamin D levels.

3. Echinacea (1,000 mg 2–3x daily)

This herb can help your body fight off infections, but it is best to take it at the first sign of illness.

An extract of echinacea was tested in a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial in 2013. Researchers found that the echinacea effectively treated respiratory tract infections in the short- and long-term, and didn’t cause the same resistance as a popular flu medication, oseltamivir, often causes when treating this illness.

A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study conducted in 2000 indicates that drinking five to six cups of echinacea tea per day as soon as upper respiratory symptoms developed, and reducing the number to one cup of tea over a 5-day period, was effective for relieving cold and flu symptoms.

Echinacea acts as an anti-inflammatory, which can help reduce bronchial symptoms of cold and flu. It directly attacks yeast and other kinds of fungus.

Different preparations have different concentrations of echinacea. Some common preparations and dosages include:

  • Tablets containing 6.78 milligrams of echinacea extract, two tablets three times a day
  • 900 milligrams of echinacea root tincture daily
  • Five to six cups of echinacea tea on the first day of symptoms, and then 1 cup a day thereafter

4. Elderberry (10 mL daily)

It is believed that this herb can deactivate the flu virus and naturally boost immunity. The flowers and berries of elderberry are said to boost the immunity, treat flu and relieve sinus pain.

Elderberry does seem to attack flu viruses and reduce bronchial inflammation. A preliminary study found that when 15 milliliters of elderberry syrup was taken four times daily for a five-day period, it relieved symptoms of influenza an average of four days earlier than those taking a placebo.

5. Oregano Oil (500 mg 2x daily)

Oregano oil has a powerful antiviral effect. I like to use oregano oil to fight viral infections and although there aren’t studies evaluating the efficacy of oregano on influenza specifically, there is research that indicates the powerful antiviral properties of the essential oil.

6. Zinc (50–100 mg daily)

Zinc has shown to support immune function because of its antiviral effects. It works best when taken at the first sign of illness. Zinc may lessen the symptoms of the cold virus, but excessive amounts aren’t good for you. Zinc pills and sprays do not seem to be effective.

Take 50–100 milligrams of zinc daily to ward off or treat cold and flu symptoms.

7. Brewer’s Yeast

This popular supplement contains B vitamins, chromium and protein. Research in Science Direct describes that it’s used for cold, flu and other respiratory tract infections. In fish, brewer’s yeast stimulates immunity by positively influence the microbiome, which may also improve digestive function.

Research conducted at the University of Michigan Medical Center found that a yeast supplement was able to reduce cold and flu symptom severity, and lead to significantly shorter duration of symptoms in patients.

8. Essential Oils for Flu

Rubbing peppermint and frankincense essential oil into the neck and bottoms of the feet can naturally support the body’s natural defenses, as indicated in studies.

I also like to use clove oil to protect my body against infection and speed recovery from the flu. Research confirms that clove oil has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

9. Chiropractic Care for Flu Prevention

During the 1918 flu epidemic, flu patients that received chiropractic care survived much more readily than those that didn’t. This is because chiropractic care focuses on the health of your nervous system, which can help to boost your immunity.

A 2011 study showed some promise for chiropractic adjustments and their potential to help boost immunity.

10. Probiotics

Restoring the beneficial bacteria in your gut can help boost your immune system considerably.

A lab study conducted in 2017 showed that a particular strain of probiotics, Bacillus bacteria, demonstrated anti-influenza activity, with complete inhibition of the influenza virus.

A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials evaluated the effects of probiotics and prebiotics on the immune response to the influenza vaccination. The results indicate that participants who took probiotics and prebiotics showed significant improvements in the H1N1 and H3N2 strain protection rates. This suggests that taking probiotics may elevate your immunity.

11. Get Fresh Air

Indoor winter environments can be a source of concentrated toxins and germs. The dry air we inhale as we heat our homes during the winter makes airways more reactive and sensitive to viruses.

An added bonus to time spent outdoors in the winter is the extra bit of sunlight you receive.

12. Get Enough Rest

Studies highlight that sleep and immunity and linked. Sleep affects the body’s defense system and enhancing sleep while fighting an infection can promote your natural defense mechanisms and improve infection outcome.

Plus, a stimulation of the immune system triggers a natural inflammatory response, which can induce an increase in sleep duration and intensity. Basically, your body needs the extra sleep to do its work.

13. Stay Hydrated

Reports actually show that respiratory infections may not directly lead to dehydration, contrary to popular belief. However, even mild dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches and weakness.

Sometimes when we are sick and congested, we are less likely to ingest enough fluids. Fluid helps your body to flush bacteria and viruses from your system. Drink approximately half your body weight in ounces daily of either spring water or reverse osmosis filtered water. Warm water can also be soothing to your throat.

Herbal teas, like green and black teas, are potent immune system boosters and antioxidants. Try to drink at least eight ounces every two hours.

14. Top Foods for Flu Recovery

Also, these are the best foods to consume while you recover from the flu.

Light, easy-to-digest foods: Include soups with bone broth, cooked vegetables or herbal teas to help with digestion. Don’t force yourself to eat.

Water: Adequate hydration is the key to flushing out the virus from your system.

Hot water with lemon, honey, and cinnamon:  Honey and cinnamon helps prevent mucus buildup and keeps you hydrated.

Ginger: Make a ginger tea and add raw honey.

Garlic and onions: Both of these vegetable help boost immune function.

Flu remedies - Dr. Axe

Conventional Treatment

Conventional flu treatment includes antiviral drugs and vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends injectable influenza vaccines for everyone over 6 months and older. Vaccine injections are available as an inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) and a recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV).

There are a few things you should know about the flu vaccine ahead of time.

  • For one thing, it doesn’t work right away, but takes about two weeks before it is effective. This is why the CDC recommends getting the vaccine in the fall, before the flu season is at its worst.
  • Another thing you need to know is that you can still get the flu even though you’ve been vaccinated. The virus that’s used to make the vaccine does not always “match” the virus that is circulating the community.
  • The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from year to year because flu viruses are constantly changing, which is called antigenic drift, and experts do their best to pick the viruses to include in the vaccine many months before flu season begins. It’s not possible to be 100 percent sure which flu viruses will be most prominent in any given season, so the protection of a flu vaccine is not guaranteed.

Reports indicate that the 2019-2020 flu vaccine was 45 percent effective against overall seasonal influenza A and B viruses.

There are also side effects from getting the flu shot, such as soreness or swelling at the site of the injection, body aches and fever.

The CDC recently made some additions to the 2007 guidelines on nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to protect oneself and others against the flu. Some of the recommendations for personal NPIs include:

  • Staying home when you’re sick.
  • Staying home if you’ve been exposed to a sick family or household member.
  • Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
  • Washing your hands or using hand sanitizer.
  • Covering your nose or mouth with a mask or cloth if you are sick and have to be around others at a community gathering of people.

Implementing these behaviors can help stop the spread of flu.

Risks and Side Effects

If you or a loved one experience complications from the flu, such as pneumonia, or have a high fever that won’t go down, contact your healthcare provider right away. If you catch the flu and you have a chronic condition, such as asthma, or you are pregnant, see your doctor.

Also keep in mind that some symptoms of flu and Covid-19 are similar, which makes it hard to tell the difference between the two viruses. For this reason, it’s a good idea to call your healthcare provider and tell him or her about your symptoms over the phone. You will then be advised about what to do next.

Most people recover from the flu within a few days to less than 2 weeks. If you’re still experiencing symptoms after 2 weeks, contact your healthcare provider. There is the risk of developing complications or a co-infection from the virus and bacteria.

Final Thoughts

  • The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The symptoms are typically more severe than the common cold and include body aches, fatigue and headaches.
  • Conventional flu treatment includes antiviral drugs and vaccines, although they are not 100 percent effective.
  • Try flu natural remedies to help relieve your symptoms.
  • Contact your doctor right away if you get the flu and you have a chronic medical condition or you are pregnant. Also, get medical care if you experience flu complications, such as pneumonia.
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