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Natural Flu Remedies For Those With Thyroid Autoimmunity

This time of year I get asked a lot of questions about the flu virus, also known as influenza.  Not surprisingly, many people ask about the flu vaccine, and I’ve written a past blog post [1] on this topic where I have given my thoughts.  Another question I commonly get asked is what options are there other than the flu shot?  In other words, what can someone do naturally to prevent themselves from getting the flu, and what can be done from a natural standpoint if someone already has the flu?

Of course preventing yourself from getting the flu in the first place is preferred.  So let’s go ahead and first discuss some flu prevention strategies, and then I’ll discuss some natural flu remedies for those who currently have the flu.  Although this blog post was written specifically to help my patients with Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s, anyone who is looking for flu prevention strategies and/or natural flu remedies can benefit from this information.

7 Flu Prevention Strategies

1. Reduce stress and increase sleep.  Chronic stress and sleep deprivation will both weaken your adrenals and immune system, thus making you more susceptible to getting the flu.  Chronic stress and lack of sleep frequently go hand in hand, as many people have difficulty falling and/or staying asleep due to chronic stress, while others will have sleep problems due to other reasons (i.e. blood sugar imbalances).  Either way, you want to make sure you’re getting at least 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep each night, and if this isn’t the case then you’ll want to do what’s necessary to get more sleep.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing your habits, but other times you’ll need to work with a healthcare practitioner to find out what imbalances you have that are causing and/or contributing to your sleep difficulties.

As for dealing with chronic stress [2], I’ve spoken about this in past blog posts, and so I won’t go into detail here.  But while it would be great if you were able to reduce the stressors in your life, for some people this isn’t an option.  An example of this is someone who is a caretaker for a family member.  And of course there are other examples where someone won’t be able to reduce their stressors, and when this is the case, you’ll want to do everything you can to improve your stress handling skills.  In fact, even if you ARE able to reduce your stressors, you still should do everything you can to become an expert in managing your stress.  This will greatly help to reduce your chances of getting the flu, as well as other infections.

2. Maintain optimal vitamin D levels.  This is yet another topic I’ve spoken about numerous times, and fortunately many people reading this are already aware of the importance of vitamin D with regards to immune system health.  Just remember that you don’t want to rely on the lab reference range, which is commonly 30 to 100 ng/mL, although it will vary depending on the lab.  You want your vitamin D levels to be at least 50 ng/mL, and some will suggest that it should be between 60 and 80 ng/mL.  Some healthcare practitioners even suggest it to be between 80 and 100 ng/mL.  My levels are usually in the upper 50s/lower 60s.

So how can you maintain healthy vitamin D levels?  Well, internal vitamin D synthesis occurs primarily through sunlight exposure, and so getting 15 minutes of sun exposure between the hours of 11am and 3pm at least two to three days per week might be sufficient to maintain healthy vitamin D levels in some people, although those with darker skin will require more time in the sun, while those with very fair skin might require less (1) [3].  However, it’s important to keep in mind that certain factors can prevent someone from getting enough vitamin D from the sun, including air pollution and/or living in a northern latitude (2) [4] (3) [5].  Having a genetic polymorphism of the vitamin D receptor might also make it difficult for someone to get enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone.  So in some cases, supplementation with vitamin D3 is necessary to maintain healthy levels.

3. Don’t overtrain.  While it’s important to exercise regularly, you don’t want to overdo it, as this will also have a negative impact on your adrenals and immune system.  It’s a big challenge for some people to know how much exercise is “too much”.  If you’re ready to collapse right after a workout I think it’s safe to say that you’re overtraining.  However, if someone already has compromised adrenals, then even moderate aerobic exercise can cause problems.  For example, I’m a proponent of high intensity interval training, but I don’t think someone with compromised adrenals should be doing this type of exercise.  And the only way to know for certain if you have compromised adrenals is through testing.

4. Support your gut microbiome.  Most of your immune system cells are located within the gut, and so having a healthy gut is necessary in order to have a healthy immune system.   But how do you optimize the health of your gut microbiome?  I would definitely check out the blog post I wrote on the 5-R protocol [6], but I’ll give a brief summary here:

Remove: you want to remove any factor that is having a negative effect on the health of your gut microbiome.  This of course includes unhealthy foods, but you also want to address any gut infections, minimize exposure to gut-disrupting drugs and chemicals, etc.  We all know that antibiotics can disrupt the good bacteria in the gut, but so can other medications, including proton pump inhibitors (4) [7].  As far as environmental toxins go, many reading this are familiar with the herbicide glyphosate [8], and this also can disrupt the gut microbiota (5) [9].  This is yet another reason why you want to try eating as many organic foods as possible.  Also, keep in mind that just because something is non-GMO verified doesn’t mean it’s free of glyphosate.

Replace: Being deficient in digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, bile salts, and even dietary fiber can all have a negative effect on your gut microbiome.  Of course you want to try to do as much as you can through diet, especially when it comes to getting enough fiber, although supplementing with digestive enzymes, HCL, and/or bile salts might be necessary while you correct other imbalances.

Reinoculate: Eating prebiotic and probiotic foods can greatly benefit the gut microbiome.  When it comes to feeding the good bacteria in your gut, eating a wide variety of fiber-rich vegetables is important.  Although I try to practice what I preach by eating a wide variety of vegetables, I also take prebiotic and probiotic supplements.

Repair: While the gut can heal on its own when you remove the factors disrupting the intestinal barrier and causing gut inflammation, you can speed up the process by consuming gut-healing foods and supplements.  Many people drink bone broth for gut healing, but cabbage juice also can help heal the gut.  Supplements that can help with gut healing include L-glutamine, zinc, and vitamin A.

Rebalance: This component involves getting enough sleep, doing a good job of managing your stress, exercising regularly, etc.

5. Incorporate sauna therapy: First of all, sauna therapy will help to reduce your toxic load by sweating out chemicals, which in turn will improve your immune system health.  But in addition, heating up the body through sauna might also have anti-viral effects.  To be honest, while this makes sense, there isn’t much research in this area, although an older study demonstrated that regular sauna therapy reduced the incidence of common colds (6) [10].  I personally do infrared sauna therapy twice per week, usually for 25 to 30 minutes.

6. Don’t overlook the impact of electronic pollution and mycotoxins.  Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can disrupt the immune system (7) [11] (8) [12], and thus make you more susceptible to the flu and other infections.  While you probably won’t be able to eliminate your exposure to EMFs, you want to do everything you can to minimize your exposure.  Start with unplugging the wifi at night, and stop using electronic devices at least one hour before going to bed, and two hours would be even better.

Mycotoxins from mold can also suppress the immune system.  For those interested in learning more about the consequences of mycotoxins on human health I’d check out this journal article [13].  I’ve also written an article entitled “Mycotoxins, CIRS, and Thyroid Health [14]“.  Exposure from mycotoxins usually comes from food and/or air.  As for food sources of mold, I discuss this in my article, as mycotoxins usually get into the food in the field, or during storage.  And water damage is the most common cause of the inhalation of mycotoxins in the air.

7. Supplementation.  Consider some of the following supplements to support your immune system.

Natural Remedies For Those Who Currently Have The Flu

When discussing “natural flu remedies” there will be some overlap with the last “flu prevention strategy” I mentioned, as some of the same supplements that can help prevent the flu from developing can also help when someone already has the flu.  Once again, I wouldn’t suggest taking everything listed below.

What’s Your Experience With The Flu?

Have you taken any natural remedies either for flu prevention, or to support your immune system while already dealing with the flu?  If so, please feel free to share your comments below, as not only would I love to see what you did, but sharing your experience may also benefit others looking to prevent the flu, or reduce the severity of their symptoms if their already dealing with the flu.  Thank you for sharing your experience with everyone!