Seasonal influenza (also known as the flu) is an acute infection caused by influenza viruses. There are many types of influenza viruses, and they can mutate frequently[i].
Flu is an illness seen all across the globe, and most people don’t need any medical treatment to recover from it - although various supplements and over the counter medications may help relieve symptoms and speed up recovery[ii].
Influenza is highly transmissible between people when they cough or sneeze. Very common symptoms of influenza include acute onset of fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and fatigue. It can also cause gastrointestinal distress, in some cases[iii][iv][v].
Symptoms of influenza usually begin around two days after being infected by someone who has the virus.
Sudden onset of fever
Muscle and joint pain
Severe malaise (feeling lack of energy)
Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or if you suspect you are experiencing any complications.
Existing conditions: The flu can lead to complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and worsen existing respiratory conditions in vulnerable people[vii].
Secondary infections: The flu can weaken the response of the immune system, making some people more susceptible to additional infections that might occur, like sinusitis or ear infections, for example[viii].
Chronic conditions: People with pre-existing conditions may experience worsened symptoms or complications due to contracting the flu. This may include many autoimmune diseases or gastrointestinal disorders etc[ix].
Certain populations: Young children, older adults, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems, for whatever reason - are at higher risk of flu complications[x].
Children: Children, especially those under 5 years of age[xi] (older age groups may also be at risk), are usually more prone to complications like ear infections from the flu. If you suspect your child’s symptoms may be a result of a complication or secondary infection, please talk to your doctor urgently.
Daily life: The flu can be an annoying disruption to daily routines, lead to missed school or work days, and may even cause financial burdens. It is worth ensuring you nurture your immune system, and that of your family as much as you can[xii].
Nutritional therapy is an important tool for maximising the strength of the immune system, as well as ensuring good all-round health and wellbeing. Holistic medicine focuses on treating the body as a whole, as each and every body system is interlinked and can therefore affect each other. For example, a poorly functioning thyroid or digestive system can affect immune function. Therefore, the health of each system in the body is taken into account.
That said there are some specific ways the way we eat can target the flu, and help prevent infections – this may include:
Strengthening the immune system: Nutritional therapy provides essential nutrients that support the immune system's function during the flu.
Supporting energy levels: Proper nutrition supplies the energy needed to combat fatigue and restore energy levels during flu recovery[xiii].
Supporting tissue repair: Nutrients in the diet aid in repairing damaged respiratory tissues and reducing inflammation caused by the flu[xiv].
Enhancing nutrient absorption: Focus on easily digestible and nutrient-dense foods to ensure proper nutrient absorption when your appetite is reduced[xvii].
Terranova Astragalus, Elderberry & Garlic Complex: Astragalus, elderberry, and garlic are commonly used in traditional remedies for various respiratory conditions due to their potential antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties[xviii].
Pine: Pine is believed to possess antimicrobial, mucolytic, anti-inflammatory, and expectorant properties, which may explain its traditional use in chest infections. Wild Harvested Pine Needle Tea / Bronchosan pine cough syrup[xix].
Cytoplan Immune Complete 1/2: includes a powerful combination of nutrients including vitamins A, C and D, selenium, zinc, beta glucan, quercetin, resveratrol and NAC[xx]. These are really powerful nutrients for bolstering the immune system, helping in the case of active flu and also to prevent future cases[xxi] [xxii] [xxiii].
A Vogel Po-Ho Inhaler Oil: Po-Ho essential oil for inhalation is made from the highest quality essential oils. It contains a mixture of the essential oils of peppermint, eucalyptus, juniper, caraway and fennel. Aside from their relaxing aroma, essential oils can also help the body in other ways, forming the basis for aromatherapy use in healthcare[xxiv]. Also try A Vogel Sinoforce Nasal Spray: It contains menthol to provide rapid relief for nasal catarrh and a blocked or congested nose. It reduces swelling of the nasal mucous membranes.
Natures Answer Sambucus Throat Spray: Sambucus, commonly known as elderberry, is thought to have potential antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties[xxv]. Try also Viridian Elderberry Throat Spray.
Hifas da Terra Mico-Vir: Mico-Vir by Hifas da Terra is a 100% pure standardised extract of reishi and cordyceps. It contains the highest concentration of active biomolecules with action such as ꞵ-glucans[xxvi].
Terranova Garlic – Organic: Allicin is an active antimicrobial compound in garlic and has action against many microbes which can cause chest infections[xxvii]. Try also Allicin Max for a dose of concentrated allicin.
Viridian Echinacea Tincture: Echinacea is a commonly used herbal remedy that is believed to have immune-boosting properties and is often used to support the immune system during colds and flu[xxviii].
Kiki Health Ionic Zinc Liquid Concentrate: Zinc is involved in the development and functioning of immune cells, including neutrophils, natural killer cells, and T cells. It helps regulate immune responses, promotes the production of antibodies, and supports the activity of various immune signalling molecules[xxx].
Viridian Vitamin D2 400IU: Vitamin D helps control how immune cells (like T cells and macrophages) work. It also helps make special proteins that fight against harmful germs and keep us healthy[xxxi].
Pukka Lemon, Ginger & Manuka: Bursting with warming herbs, ginger, turmeric, lemon and manuka honey, it’s a sweet and spicy blend gives you a soothing herbal embrace, and keeps the chills at bay. This is a great combination of soothing ingredients, manuka is said to have strong antimicrobial properties against flu[xxxii].
Stay hydrated with water, herbal tea, and clear broths and eat nutrient-rich foods like fruit, vegetables, whole foods, proteins and healthy fats (such as monounsaturated fats found in foods like olive oil and avocados, polyunsaturated fats in fatty fish and nuts). Include sources of protein for tissue repair and immune support [xxxvi] [xxxvii].
Warm soups and broths are highly recommended for hydration and nourishment. Also, opt for soft and easily digestible foods if you have digestive issues. When it comes to protein sources for supporting recovery during the flu, bone broth can be a beneficial option due to its high protein content, as well as its potential to provide additional nutrients that support the immune system. It is rich in collagen, amino acids, and minerals, which can aid in healing and provide nourishment[xxxviii]. Planet Paleo - Pure Collagen.
Enjoy antioxidant-rich foods such as berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens, and colourful vegetables. Consider adding garlic and ginger for their immune-boosting properties[xxxix].
Limit sugary and processed foods that can weaken the immune system[xl].
Last, but not least, rest and listen to your body's cues for food and recovery - Allow your digestive system to rest and eat according to your appetite. Avoid overeating if you have a reduced appetite.
Rest and sleep to help your body recover. Sleep and rest are essential to promote the healing actions of the immune system[xli].
Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, symptoms like fever and heavy sweating can dehydrate the body.
Avoid tobacco and alcohol, as they can worsen symptoms, especially those related to the chest and throat. In general smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol also limit the potential of the immune system and this may lead to frequent infection[xlii]. Smoking actually reduces the amount of vitamin C in the body, too – and as we all know vitamin C is vital for proper immune system functioning[xliii].
When you are recovering - and feeling up to it - some very light exercise, like going outside for a steady stroll can boost mood and also help your immune system. Please don’t push yourself if you are not yet at this stage, however, as rest is the best thing to combat an active flu infection[xliv].
Adrenal Stress Index (ASI): is a functional test that assesses adrenal gland function and the body's stress response by measuring cortisol levels throughout the day. It can identify issues like adrenal fatigue and disrupted circadian rhythm. Although not flu-specific, ASI testing can uncover factors contributing to frequent infections and weakened immune function. By addressing these imbalances through targeted interventions like stress management and adrenal support, overall immune function may improve, potentially reducing the frequency and severity of the flu[xlv].
Complete Thyroid Panel: In a similar fashion, this thyroid test assesses thyroid gland function by measuring markers like TSH, FT4, FT3, and thyroid antibodies. While not flu-specific, it provides insights into thyroid hormone production and autoimmune thyroid conditions. Acting on readdressing these imbalances identified can potentially improve overall health for better immune function, potentially reducing flu frequency and severity of symptoms you may experience[xlvi].
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Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.