Flu remedies are always all the rage. But what if I told you the best remedies as described below not only work, but can reduce your symptoms while cutting your recovery time in half, while also greatly preventing the flu in the first place? Hard to believe? Read on, and no, I’m not selling a darn thing! Just sharing best practices. 🙂
The last time I received the flu shot was in the Fall of 2008, as it was part of the many active duty military requirements before leaving the service. Since then, I’ve learned how to reduce flu symptoms to MILD while reducing their duration to just THREE DAYS. At least with me.
I still get the flu about once every other year, complete with fever, sniffling, cough, body and back aches, some nausea, occasional vomiting, and the desire to just curl up and watch movies. However, I’ve discovered in part by trial and error and in part through objective scientific research (theirs, not mine) that the following actions GREATLY reduce both the impact and the longevity of its course:
1. FEVER: Unless absolutely necessary to maintain fever within safe levels or to control extreme aches and pains, do not take (or give) any fever-reducing medication. Remember: “Fever is your Friend!” It’s your body’s natural response to the viral infection, and it works quite well to interrupt the virus’ ability to proceed while simultaneously greatly increasing your body’s infectious control systems. On the other hand, if you’re fever is spiking (consult with professional medical authority as to what’s considered too high for your age), then follow your medical professional’s advice. In fact, you absolutely require warmth, so turn up the heat. Dive into those blankets. In short, don’t manage the fever. Instead, help your fever do it’s job. No, this does NOT mean hit the sauna or hot tub, as that can be bad, if not fatal! But absolutely do stay warm and cozy — but not hot. If you feel like you need to peel a layer, then you may be overdoing it.
2. Things to AVOID: Soft drinks of any kind. They’re diuretics (the opposite of what you need), vaso-dilators (the opposite of what you need), and many are chock full of sugar (the opposite of what you need) or aspartame, which some say significantly reduces your body’s metabolism (the opposite of what you need). Sugar, candy, ice cream, milk, and similar items will not help you during this time, either, and many of them set you up for secondary infections, including pneumonia, GI problems, sepsis… Need I continue?
3. HYDRATION: Plenty of pure water. Many of the flu’s side effects involve dehydration, caused by the fever, your body’s elevated immune response, and sadly, self-induced via sodas. Spike with a twist of lemon or lime if you must, but this should be your sole fluid intake, other than in soups. The other main reason behind hydration is that your body needs both food and water to pull energy from your fat stores. Without food, your body is only about one-third as efficient at transforming fat into energy. Without water, however, it can’t do it at all. This is bad, as your body desperately needs energy, not only to keep you warm, but also to keep your immune system humming along in high gear. Water is more important than food, so we list it first.
4. FOOD (feed a fever, starve a cold): You need a little bit of protein with a decent amount of complex carbohydrates. Best thing: Chicken Noodle Soup! But don’t buy it. Make it! And yes, homemade chicken noodle soup really is the best, as the store-bought stuff contains a number of the things you need to avoid. You should have most of this on hand, but upon the first sign of the flu, head to the store and spend ten minutes buying the rest of these ingredients, beginning with the chicken. Then, as soon as you get home, boil 2-1/2 lbs of bone-in chicken thighs in 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp oil, 1 chopped onion, 1 minced clove of garlic, 1-1/4 tsp ground pepper, 4 chopped celery stalks, 4 chopped carrots, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp minced fresh thyme, 3 cups egg noodles, 1 tbsp chopped parsley and 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice. That’s 30 min prep time. Drink more water than you think you need as you proceed in order to avoid dehydration. Remove meat and dice, then return. Bring to a boil, then serve yourself a cup while putting the rest in freezer-safe containers for rapid rewarming via microwave. Other Foods: Brocolli – Along with carrots, brocolli is at the top of the superfoods list. Whole grain nut bread, as in Dave’s Killer Bread. A touch of butter is ok, or dip it in olive oil and a dash of salt, Italian style. Gourds, lightly cooked. I like butternut squash with butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. All of which make for a natural tummy-helper! A morning mixture of blueberries, strawberries, yogurt and oatmeal will keep you going all morning. Leafy green vegetables (Spring Mix). The GOAL, people, is to support your immune system and bodily needs as you weather this thing while simultaneously keeping it SIMPLE. Consider an egg or serving of fish, if you think you can stomach it. One final word about food: You absolutely need to maintain a good balance of carbs and proteins, but don’t stuff yourself. Do eat three small meals a day, as your body needs food and water to efficiently pull energy from your fat stores.
5. HUMIDITY: In addition to heat, a person with the flu needs humidity to help ease dry sinuses, reducing dehydration, improve the overall feeling of their skin. Ordinarily, 35% relative humidity is ideal. When you have the flu, 50% is more like it. Unless you have toddlers or pets for whom warm mist humidifiers presents a potential for burns, I recommend them for several reasons. First, you’re trying to keep the place warm. They do that better than cool mist humidifiers, which actually cool down the air. Second, nearly all of the mist they produce is steam i.e. distilled water. Cool mist humidifiers toss all dissolved solids into the air, as well, including minerals like iron, salts (sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates), and small amounts of dissolved organic matter. Third, the steam is self-sanitizing, which means less risk of infection, especially if you’re using tap water. And seriously, who puts bottled water in their humidifiers? Evaporative coolers leave the dissolved solids behind, but can still release various molds, spores, and similar pathogens into the air.
6. REST: Yes, by all means, REST! Call in sick (that’s what it’s for). Get someone else to take the kids (or curl up with them and get them sick, too! Just kidding…). Get plenty of sleep at night. Take multiple naps during the day. Turn off your phone, or at least turn on the White List feature so only your own private list can call you. Do not sit at your computer all day long. That’s not resting. Lay on the couch under a comforter. Watch movies. Or, just rest, either to light music, white noise like 12 hours of Bridge Noise from the USS Voyager, or just the wind.
7. SANITATION: You don’t need a daily shower. You will feel better, though, particularly if you take a quick, warm shower, brush your teeth, and dive back under those covers. Keep up with the dishes, take out the trash, and yes, by all means, get others to do it, particularly if they’re contributing to the problem. As for your fever breaking, you’ll feel more comfortable under cotton blankets and quilts, but you’ll soak them every time your fever breaks. I use cotton sheets covered in fleece blankets. I just toss the soaked cotton sheet in the wash and pull a fresh one from the pile. Also, I cheat, because I have three king-sized cotton top sheets and one king-sized fleece blanket. Perfect for lying them on the couch, diving in, then rolling them over you. Your pillow can get soaked when your fever breaks, too, so I use multiple cheap cotton pillow sheaths and cases.
Seriously, people. Instead of fighting your fever, if you surf with the warmth, ditch the soft drinks and bad foods, hydrate with water, stick to the top ten superfoods mentioned above, keep the humidity up, rest-rest-rest, and stay clean, you’ll not only feel a LOT better, but you are likely to discover that the course of your flu will be far shorter and milder than what you think of as “normal.”
The additional benefit of this approach is that breezing through a short, mild case of the flu with your immune system functioning at its best provides the best immune system against getting that and closely related flu virus strains in the future.
Naturally, however, it avoids many of the common mistakes people make when suffering from the flu that lead to complications, ancillary diseases and conditions, and even death.
As an added benefit, if you ate well, eating superfoods while avoiding bad foods, obtained plenty of rest and exercise, and practiced good sanitary habits, your chances of even catching the flu in the first place are greatly diminished!
Good luck, and get well.