How to Avoid Flu – or Survive It

When I began this blog on how to avoid flu months ago, I was feeling fairly confident. But I was too busy to get it up here. Now, coming out of a cold thanks to overwork, I am humbled, yet freshly educated on the survival aspects of getting well again. May this be of assistance to you at whatever point you are, to successfully avoid flu and/or bounce back with resilience. Here are some top supports for staying well and regaining wellness.

Fresh Veggies

#1: Enjoy the golden and dark leafy green veggies you love, to support immunity, at least one serving of each daily, at every point in the process. These are rich in beta carotenes that keep mucus membranes resilient and happy. Want some ideas?  Carrots, winter squashes of all kinds, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin. Broccoli, Romaine lettuce, arugula, kale, green onions, spinach, escarole, Swiss chard, fresh basil, parsley, beet greens, chicory, collards, dandelion greens, turnip greens. Bok choy, cilantro, watercress, Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts.

If a Blood Type diet (A, B, O or AB) works well for you, honor that (thank you for this reminder, Leelah Eisenberg of Scottsdale, Arizona!). For example, if you’re a type B, revel in beet greens, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, mustard green, parsley, Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes and yams. Choose the goldens and greens most favorable for your type to avoid flu. 

If you don’t know your blood type, relax and enjoy those golden and dark leafy veggies to which you are most drawn. Having them hot, steamed, simmered, roasted, juicy, even as liquids, is optimal. Take it easy on the fried oils. There are many delicious choices offered in my new Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda, from Green Dino Detox Tea to Pumpkin Spice Smoothie.

Hot Water!

#2: Get in hot water, in a tub, sauna or steam. Respiratory viruses don’t like heat. Stay in until you are perspiring, and stay there at least 10 – 15 minutes more, or as well tolerated. This step can be especially helpful if you’ve been exposed to a germ and wish to avoid flu. Yet it can also feel comforting and clear the head any time in the healing process.

As you go about your day, hygiene is important, with respect for others. Cold viruses can survive up to 7 days on a surface! Mind boggling. Cheeringly, flu viruses are vital for only 24 hours.

Healing Herbs

#3: Make friends with exotic healing herbs, like osha root, turmeric, ginger, tulsi, and other allies. Many people are familiar with some of these, yet have never heard of osha. It is a key player to avoid flu, and survive it. A nasty tasting pungent root, it is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-pertussive (stops cough) yet paradoxically it plays a role in stimulating cilia of both the lungs and small intestine. This means it is an excellent aid for congested lungs or gut, moving things along and out. It soothes sore throat and bronchitis, a favorite with indigenous people of northern New Mexico. While you often see it as a cough syrup, which it serves in most admirably, an affordable efficient way to use it is straight as dried root, available in local herb stores. Break or slice off a one inch piece of the herb, hold it in your mouth as you go about your day. (My teacher and old friend Michael Moore advised using a walnut-sized chunk every 3 – 4 hours to avoid flu.) If you’ve succumbed to a miserable cough or sore throat, this method saves your teeth. Instead of hours of sucking on sugar-sweetened cough drops, one piece of osha root can last half a day and strengthen your immunity while it’s calming your stressed tissues, with no sugar at all. 

Ply yourself with healing teas. There are many tasty turmeric-ginger tea blends out there now, including one with tulsi  from Organic India (thank you Jordan Angell of Ames, Iowa!). Another popular one is offered by Trader Joe’sh

Cold hands and feet can indicate low agni in the plasma, from an Ayurvedic perspective. Warming spices like ginger and cinnamon are tasty and also increase rasa dhatu agni, the digestive fire of plasma. A cup of a cinnamon-ginger tea blend can warm up your hands and feet in an hour, and head off the flu (the plasma, where white blood cells frolic, knocking off germs, is where many respiratory infections can be prevented). Avoid flu. If you’ve got Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda, Immune Boosting CCF Tea is an example of such a tea.

If you are studying Ayurveda, the classic cold formula from the Ayurvedic Institute is: Sitopaladi 5 pts by weight, Talasadi 4 pts, Abhrak 2 pts, Mahasudarashan 2 pts. Organic herbs are crucial; search out the companies that are supporting the farmers, you, and the planet with sustainable organic, like Banyan Botanicals and Pukka Herbs

You can also gargle with turmeric at the first inkling of distress, first thing in the morning, or at any point in the day. This is a tried and true anti-biotic remedy of Ayurvedic physicians. Combine ½ cup boiled water + ½ teaspoon turmeric + 1 teaspoon salt, cool to comfortable level, gargle. If you choose, you can first do a saline nasal wash/neti, followed by the gargle. Ayurvedic nasya oil, an aromatic blend  of spices in oil, is gently dropped in the nostrils after the wash. This keeps the nose from getting dry and chapped, strengthens gateway immunity at the nostrils, plus the spices help clear the brain. 

You can also use friendly herbs as steams: lemongrass essential oil is anti-viral. Add 1 – 3 drops to a steaming pot of simmering water, use a bath towel as a “tent” if you like, breath in the delicious aroma. It also lifts the spirits. Ditto for eucalyptus essential oil, it’s anti-bacterial, helpful for preventing secondary infections. 

Echinacea tincture used early on can be an excellent support to avoid flu, use as directed, so long as you are not working with an auto immune condition. Later in the process, if you did catch something (or it caught you, as the French would say: grippe, from gripper, to seize) tasty astragalus as sliced root, tincture, or tablet can help mop up a lingering infection. Simmer a slice of the root in your favorite soup.

Life Wisdom

#4: Are you doing too much? Often the only way the body has to communicate with us is through symptoms. Years ago, in my early 30s, I started getting colds a lot. I was eating pretty well; it sort of mystified me. Then I noticed that the colds only came during periods of intense overwork. I started scheduling in human-style breaks, and the colds stopped. No fancy remedies, just a shift to a more manageable life. Now in my 60s, I’m reminding myself of this wisdom again!

New Time Remedies

#5: Many people have their favorite nutraceuticals or supplements. Here’s some of mine:  Enzymedica brand Enzyme Defense, a blend of proteolytic enzymes from pure plant proteins that digests the protective coat of viruses, making it easier for your immune system to digest and eliminate them. A typical dose is one capsule on an empty stomach. Working in a well-populated health care building, this product has helped me avoid flu repeatedly. I also make sure I have on hand buffered vitamin C (to tolerance), alpha lipoic acid (anti-oxidant, 150 mg or more), zinc (supports immunity, 30 mg or more, only on a full stomach), pantothenic acid (natural anti-histamine, 250 mg or more).

Pranayama and Marma Therapy

#6: Pranayama and marma therapy support both prevention and treatment of respiratory flus. Kapalabhati pranayama is a breathing technique that takes some practice. Here’s a link to learn. Once you’ve mastered it, you are likely to appreciate its ability to lift spirits as well as immunity. It literally translates as “Shining Skull”. It is great for clearing a congested mind, as well as congested respiratory passages. (Dr. Vasant Lad in his 2018 pulse training in Albuquerque mentioned Kapalabhati as a key practice to use in preventing and healing auto immune conditions. Because it strengthens digestive fire, it improves our ability to cleanse old accumulations out of our tissues. This ama is considered an underlying cause of auto immune conditions in Ayurveda.)

One favorite marma/yogic therapeutic point,  of mine to strengthen immunity is Parshva Sandhi  (see Dr. David Frawleys’ Ayurveda and Marma Therapy) at the small of the back. Rest your hands at the back of your waist and rub the area vigorously with the palms of your hands. It simply feels good! You can do this as often as you like. For an extra soothing healing boost, use Tiger Balm or other healing salve on this area.

Think of the Others

#7: Send the germs to the Pure Lands! This is the advice from H. E. Garchen Rinpoche h who often practices in crowded rooms with hundreds of students. During one such retreat some years ago, he advised us that it can be necessary to kill off germs, to protect the health of the community. Yet viruses and bacteria are also sentient beings, he said. If you take measures to kill them, wish them the best, pray that they go straight to the Buddhist pure lands. They, like everyone, need your respect and kindness.

Photo thanks to Renee Lynn, from Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda,