Every year winter brings along with it a variety of influenza viruses that are constantly changing – stopping our body from building up a natural defense against it. Up until now we’ve been urged to start thinking about getting our loved ones vaccinated against influenza as early as March or April. Not so, say many experts! Researchers question the lack of evidence for promoting vaccinations for children under the age of two. In addition, researchers have found that the flu vaccine is only mildly effective. Closer to home, over the past few years there has been a steady decline in the use of flu shots in South Africa. Furthermore, antibiotics may be less effective each year and may be contributing to a cycle of illness...
Family fact: How antibiotics can compromise the immune system
Antibiotics were developed to treat bacterial infections when our own immune system can’t mount an adequate response. It makes sense then, that if our immune systems were strong enough we might not need the antibiotics.
Most parents may not realize that antibiotics are not effective against viruses and should not be taken for a viral infection. The paradox is that antibiotics were developed to help the immune system, but in reality they actually impair it. As far back as 1972 the Baylor School of Medicine in Houston documented that some antibiotics actually prevented white blood cells from attacking and killing bacteria. Today it is well known that overprescription of antibiotics has made bacteria ‘smarter’ and increasingly resistant to antibiotics.
We are all aware of the new trend to take pro-biotics while we are taking an antibiotic. This is done to replace the ‘good’ bacteria in our digestive tract in order to reduce the gastric side effects of the antibiotics. However there are also bacteria in the gut that produce specific proteins that stimulate our immune systems so when we kill off these bacteria too we are putting a temporary halt on our immune system and increasing our susceptibility to additional infections.
The more antibiotics a child is given
the more we depress his or her immune system
and the more depressed his or her immune system is
the more likely it is that another infection will present itself
another infection will most likely be met with another antibiotic
and so the vicious antibiotic cycle continues...
So what is the best plan of action when it comes to getting the immune system in tip-top shape?
Natural remedies as an alternative to flu vaccinations
Often we find ourselves dealing with the symptoms of flu as they hit us mid-winter with a vengeance. But the best line of defense is prevention. Symptoms of cold and flu are anything but pleasant, so it makes sense to do as much as we can before the cold and flu season – giving us a better chance of escaping the sniffles and sneezes. From a naturopathic point of view, frequent vaccination can weaken immune functioning and ultimately lead to ill health and more serious illnesses. Some people are not able to have a flu vaccination due to allergies or other conditions. (Flu vaccines are prepared on chicken embryos and are therefore not safe for those with egg and chicken allergies.) Whether or not you have yourself vaccinated, it is important to know that there are other choices that are equally effective without the side effects associated with conventional flu vaccines.
We have listed the safe, effective alternatives for each member of the family:
Babies and pregnant moms:
While you’re carrying your precious cargo, it’s understandable that you may not want to take any conventional strong drugs during the winter season, as these often have side effects and dangers for pregnant women and unborn babies. There is a large amount of medicine out there that has never properly investigated the safety during pregnancy. This can pose a serious predicament for a pregnant woman who wished to navigate the flu season! With vaccinations and many medications risky or completely unsuitable during pregnancy, our homeopathic remedies provide a safe and all-natural alternative to help fight colds and flu all year round.
BaniFlu is our natural alternative to the flu vaccine – as it contains a 100% Homeopathic Formulation of the current year’s ‘flu vaccine! BaniFlu will help to build systemic immunity against the flu virus, without any of the toxic side effects that can occur as a result of the conventional flu vaccine. Taken at the start of the flu season, it will stimulate the body’s “vital force”, supporting and strengthening the body’s immunity against the actual flu virus - thereby making it more resilient to the virus strains for the current year. BaniFlu is safe for all ages and is recommended to protect the whole family against the flu virus. It is well tolerated with the conventional flu vaccine for those of you who feel the need to cover all your bases!
During the cold and flu season we would also recommend our Throat & Tonsil Dr. formula – especially chosen for it’s ability to gently soothe the throat without any harsh side effects or risk of addiction – giving mom fast relief as well as peace of mind.
For wet coughs and phlegm-clogged chests – our homeopathic remedy Mucous-Clear Phlegm Away will help to loosen lungs and provide relief without side effects of conventional meds.
Children under 12yrs:
While a flu-shot or vaccine can sometimes be beneficial, we have seen that there are many concerns and controversies surrounding this method of prevention. Children can be especially sensitive to harsh medications, never mind the fact that the injection itself can be painful, unpleasant and traumatic!
KiddieBoost is especially formulated for children under twelve – to keep the sneezes and the snuffles of winter away. Because children are confined to classrooms for much of the day, colds and flu’s are rife in the winter months. Younger children in crèches and day care are also prone to what is often called ‘creche’ or ‘daycare syndrome’. Due to their weaker immune systems, small children often pick up infection after infection during winter – often developing secondary infections such as bronchitis and ear infection. KiddieBoost contains a combination of immune boosting herbs especially formulated for children. A 10 – 14 day course prior to winter is recommended, with booster courses every two to three months (or in the case of infection). KiddieBoost is easy to administer, with just a few drops mixed in water or a favourite juice.
Adults and Teens over 12yrs:
ImmunityPlus, an all-natural remedy by Feelgood Health, works wonders for everyone over twelve years old! It serves as nature’s very own immune booster, helping to protect your system against viruses like colds and flu. A strong immune system is the first line of defense! ImmunityPlus contains Hypoxis Rooperi (extract of African Potato) - which helps to support the immune system and works in conjunction with the body’s natural ability to ward off colds and flu. Agothosma betulina (buchu) is also an active ingredient of ImmunityPlus - a naturally produced diuretic. Buchu has been used by the natives of the Western Cape of South Africa for many centuries and can help ‘flush out’ your system by stimulating the secretion of retained water. ImmunityPlus also contains Mentha piperita, Solidago virgaurea, Viscum album, Crataegus oxycanthoides, Schizandra, Astralagus membranaceus and Olea europea (extract of olive leaf). All these powerful and organic ingredients are found in nature’s medicine chest and will go a long way in helping you navigate through winter’s chills and problematic patches!
Quick Tips to prevent colds and flu:
Keep hands clean at all times.
Clean hands resist germs. Always wash your hands with soap (if there isn’t any available use very warm (but not scalding) water, and dry them well. You may even want to invest in a small pocket sized natural sanitizer. Keep hands away from your face. When coming into contact with a germ, it will not attack you unless you place it on your face with your hands. This simply introduces another reason to wash hands before bringing them into contact with your face. Although we may not realize it, the point of entry for most flu germs are the eyes, so avoid rubbing or touching your eyes with dirty hands.
Cigarettes are no good for respiratory tracts.
If you haven’t quit - stop today. Smoking leads to bronchitis, which can linger causing serious damage to the lungs. Colds and flu for a smoker are even more difficult to ‘shake’ as the lungs are not working at their full capacity, and will tend to retain mucus and phlegm. Smoking around your family members is also a bad idea – second hand smoke can depress the immune system and make it harder to fight off flu!
Rest and sleep.
Get 8 hours sleep a night, and take short breaks during the day to rest your system (5 minutes even). Your immune system will love you for it!
For starters, as little as half an hour a day of gentle exercise can help fight flu. Research suggests that moderate daily exercise can help fend off the common cold. In a recent study older women who walked for half an hour a day reported half the number of colds as women of similar age who didn't exercise. Regular, low impact exercise is key in helping the immune system ‘train’ for winter! Work out for at least forty-five minutes, three times a week. If three days are good, five days are excellent. Exercise is an ally for the immune system and helps to attack germs.
Food For Fighting Flu.
The correct eating plan can greatly reduce the risk of colds and flu and has the added benefit of helping us stay in shape during winter months when we are tempted to overindulge. Pre-winter foods to boost your immune system include: Oranges, grapefruit and naartjies (packed with protective nutrients such as vitamin C, bioflavonoids and anti-oxidants), Butternut, pumpkins and squash (these are all great sources of beta-carotene, one of the most powerful antioxidants in our winter protection pack), low-fat yoghurt (with live cultures), Fish (a fantastic source of zinc and the omega-3 fatty acids), herbal tea (Chamomile tea in particular has been applauded for it’s strong antibacterial properties - explaining why the tea has long been attributed as a cold fighter). Feast on plenty of fruits and vegetables and don’t wait until you get sick to indulge in a good old-fashioned bowl of chicken soup!