It’s this time of the year again when we reluctantly “welcome” the flu season. The kids usually catch it first, pass it to the adults around them then shake it off after just few days. The adults around them on the other hand are so tired and sleep deprived that they find themselves sick for 2, 3 weeks unable to recover. This week I found myself in this category thanks to my lovely nephews but decided to boost my body to shake it off. Here three things you should try when everyone around you starts getting sick.

Understanding the flu

First of all, the flu is caused by a virus and not by a bacteria. Understanding the difference between the two is critical to speed up recovery. Viruses are non-living chemical compounds (yes non-living) which interact with your body by sort of hijacking it. Think of printer (in this case your cells), it will produce copies of whatever you put in as an input. If the input is enzymes, hormones and whatever your body needs to function then the output will be many copies of the same enzyme or hormone. If on the other hand, the input is a virus, well the printer will simply create more copies of the virus. Viruses trick your body into thinking it’s a legitimate “material” and thus making copies of it (which makes the virus spread). Bacterias on the other hand are living microscopic creatures so you can kill them by taking an antibiotic.

The beauty in this is that, once the cell starts creating copies of the virus, it will know that it has lost control and signal itself to the immune system. The immune system then enters the party and start destroying the infected cell to stop the multiplication of the virus. That is the inflammatory response that you feel. The fever, pain, runny nose is nothing else than your own body trying to stop the spreading of the virus.

A lot of drugs out there simply shutdown the inflammation process so you don’t feel the symptoms anymore but that also means that you are preventing the immune system from doing its job. In certain cases, like with kids or elderly, the immune system might over shoot not knowing when to stop (for instance when increasing the temperature of the body to stimulate the immune system – yes that’s the purpose of fever). In such cases you need to calm the immune system from time to time by taking those medication.

So, since you can’t kill something that doesn’t live (try killing a stone to see), what can we do against viruses?

Stopping the spread of the virus

Well, you have to block the copy spreading process in one of the following ways:

  1. Block access to the printer: what if I can find a way to prevent the copy maker from accessing the printer (i.e. you can’t even get close to it).
  2. Block the utilisation of the printer: the copy maker accessed the printer but is unable to use it (have you ever find yourself struggling to get the office’s printer to work, you have access to it, it’s next to your desk, you know it’s working because you can see all your coworkers printing things out of it but when YOU try, it refuses to work!!!)
  3. Prevent the printer from functioning: what if I can remove the ink for instance or take off the power source, then there is no way to make copies.
  4. Prevent the distribution of the new copies: what if I couldn’t prevent the copy maker from making millions of copies but I can stop the distribution of the new copies by preventing them to leave the photocopy room. This is how flu anti-viral drugs work. The virus copies are made but the medication prevents them from leaving the cell until the immune system destroys the entire room.

Obviously, you understand that by interfering with the process of replication and spreading of the virus in the above-mentioned ways, there may be side-effects.

5 things to do when you are down with the flu

The challenge with the flu (and any other infection) is the pain caused by the immune system at work. But stopping the body’s natural healing response is not the best way to speed up recovery. You will simply stop the symptoms and then find yourself sick again few days after you stop the medication. Most if not all of the over the counter medications are not antivirals and work by interfering with the inflammatory process (you can read more about inflammation in the following post: inflammation – your body in crisis)

  1. Don’t stop the inflammatory response, it’s meant to help you fight the virus. Download the guide below to help you lessen the symptoms without stopping the inflammatory response.
  2. Try natural antivirals food like Garlic, Onions, Shallots, Chaga mushrooms, licorice, Holy basil, MCT oils, Ginger, Green tea and many others. Having said that, there is no such thing as a superfood and some of the properties of these foods may have negative effects on you, so read about each of them to find the one that works best for you.
  3. Avoid high fat diets as well as any food you are sensitive to, this will cause more inflammation in the body i.e. more pain.
  4. Support your immune system with a diet rich in lean proteins, vitamins A, D and minerals such as zinc. Zinc in particular is key. It is necessary for the immune system to work properly and also blocks the access to the printer (Case 1). Note that it is not recommended to take a zinc supplement alone because it may interfere with other key nutrients absorption, rather take it as part of a multi-vitamins minerals. One of the reason why we may have zinc deficiency is a sluggish digestion (see this post on how to improve your digestion) and high consumption of legumes and whole grains (these contains phytates which may – depending on your gut bacteria and digestive system health – interfere with zinc absorption).
  5. Get some rest.

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