Sean E. Heerey ND, MA, CCC/SLP

There is a chill in the air. It gets darker earlier. We no longer need to run our air conditioners. Summer is gone and fall is upon us. That also means flu season is upon us. Radio and TV remind us of this constantly. If you walk by a pharmacy they broadcast “get your flu shot here”. Does the flu shot work all the time? What about for small children?

The Cochrane Collaboration, an independent network of researchers that does not accept commercial or conflicted funding, reported in 2012 that there is little evidence that the flu vaccine is effective in children less than 2 years old. Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the overall effectiveness of the 2015 -2016 seasonal influenza vaccine was 47%.

For those who choose natural methods to prevent and treat the flu there are options:

1. Vitamin D3- Flu epidemics tend to occur in the winter. Vitamin D levels in the population are much lower in the winter as well. Given that flu virus is seasonal, it is possible that vitamin D may be a factor that can affect the chances of getting the flu. According to the Vitamin D Council, if you get the flu you can safely take 50,000 IU/day for 5 days to fight off the infection. For those more interested in prevention a mid-range dose of 5000 – 8000 IU/day is a good starting point to maintain proper immune function. For children consider 35 IU per lb. of body weight as starting dose. If you are unsure of your Vitamin D levels, then have your health care provider test it. Make sure to take vitamin D with food.

2.  Sleep- Our bodies heals and repairs during sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can raise stress hormones. This lead to a decrease in immune function.

3.  Exercise- 20 minutes, three times a week. A routine that increases circulation and generates a sweat is desirable. Exercise increases oxygen flow to our muscles and improves the function of your immune system.

4.  Probiotics- These beneficial organisms provide vital support to your immune system. These beneficial bacteria have a powerful effect on the immune system in your gut and your systemic immune system as well. Probiotics also protect against over-growth of other microorganisms that cause disease.

These simple strategies can help keep you and your family healthy during the cold and flu season and ward off other common infections.