The Flu

flu sneezing symptoms

The Flu is always scary.  I caught the flu a few years ago and … I was the stereotype of a sick man: moaning and planning my obituary.

The two primary reasons we catch the flu:

  1. we are exposed
  2. we are vulnerable

The first one is obvious, but the second one is key, because it explains why some of us catch it while others around us do not.  Simply put, we need to do our best to keep our defenses up.

How do we optimize our defenses?

  1. No Sugar! (I’ll come back to this but also see: Good News/Bad News: Sugar)
  2. A little exercise and plenty of rest goes a long way in the winter
  3. Take your vitamins (especially C, D, and multivitamin)
  4. Strictly limit or eliminate dairy during cold season
  5. Peppermint essential oil

Sugar and the Immune System

I go into more detail in the other blog entry about sugar, so if you want to understand the science behind this, go there.  Basically, sugar interferes with how our immune system behaves.  Sugar causes our immune system to work harder and accomplish less resulting in a weaker defense and an increased production of mucus.

  1. No sweets or desserts (yes, including ice cream)
  2. No tropical fruits (bananas, mangos, pineapples, etc.)
  3. No fruit juices (except unsweetened grapefruit juice)
  4. Honey … honey is a gray area because it has a number of benefits also. I still discourage it but not everyone responds to honey the same way.

If you are exposed to the flu or expect to be, there are other precautions that you can take:

  1. Regular neti pot
  2. Elderberry tincture or lozenges
  3. Occilococcinum
  4. Everything else that has already been mentioned above

Ultimately, if you do develop symptoms, you will probably need more intervention, but you should consult with a provider at that point to get the best results.

Good News / Bad News

sugar can decrease your immune system function

The good news is that I know a guaranteed way to boost your immune system for free.  The bad news is that it requires you to stop eating some of your favorite foods.  In 1973 the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that showed how consumption of sugar correlated directly with a diminished function of the immune system, or more accurately, neutrophilic phagocytosis.  Neutrophils are major players in our immune system and sugar basically causes them to not function properly, so, essentially, sugar makes your immune system lazy.  High fructose corn syrup was introduced in the 70s, but was not mentioned in the study; however, the study does state that fructose had the most significant impact, albeit by a very close margin.

What this means is that anyone who is prone to catching seasonal illness or who is being exposed to contagious pathogens should not eat sugar.

For the sake of staying well, avoid sugar if:

A) You are prone to seasonal colds

B) You are going to be or have been exposed to contagions pathogens, i.e. taking a flight, working or living with children, etc.

There are certainly other reasons why most people should avoid sugar but this is one thing too many people are unaware of.   Orange juice is loaded with sugar.  Most cough drops are almost entirely sugar.  There are benefits to both when you have a cold, but the sugar may negate them, so it is typically better to take a vitamin C supplement and taking prescribed herbs if you do get sick.  Eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep.  Your body should take care of the rest.


Am J Clin Nutr November 1973 vol. 26 no. 11 1180-1184