8 Evidence-Based Things You Can Do to Help Beat a Cold or The Flu

This year’s flu season is not messing around.

As the virus has swept the US in recent months, people have turned to some strange habits to keep illness at bay, like chugging orange juice, “starving” their fevers, and taking antibiotics. (Spoiler: None of these will help.)

Orange juice is high in sugar and there’s little to no evidence that the vitamin C it contains helps beat viruses.

Depriving yourself of nutrients while you’re sick may also backfire; your weakened immune system needs nutrients to fight off illness. And antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses – which characterise both the flu and the common cold.

Instead, there are several research-backed steps you can take to fight off illness.

Keep in mind, too, that the symptoms of the flu and the common cold can be very similar, but these preventive and defensive tips should help in most cases.

1. Gargle with plain water

If you’re just starting to feel a cold coming on, try gargling with plain water. A study of close to 400 healthy volunteers published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that those who gargled with plain water were significantly less likely to come down with upper-respiratory-tract infections (URTIs) – a type of infection often linked with colds and the flu – during the study period.

The researchers concluded that “simple water gargling was effective to prevent URTIs among healthy people.”

2. Have some chicken soup

Strangely enough, several recent studies have suggested that chicken soup may actually reduce the symptoms of a cold.

The jury’s still out on precisely why this old-school remedy appears to help, but the available evidence suggests that some component of the soup helps calm down the inflammation that triggers many cold symptoms.

For a study published in the journal Chest, the official publication of the American College of Chest Physicians, researchers found that chicken soup appeared to slow the movement of neutrophils, the white blood cells that are the hallmark of acute infection.

In an attempt to decipher precisely which part of the soup was beneficial, they also tested some of the components individually, and concluded that both the vegetables and the chicken appeared to have “inhibitory activity”.

3. Get plenty of rest

Getting enough sleep – somewhere between seven and nine hours a night – is key to a properly functioning immune system, which plays a critical role in both helping fight off an existing cold and defending you against a new one.

For a 2009 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers tracked the sleep habits of 153 healthy men and women for two weeks to get a sense of their sleep patterns.

Then, they gave them nasal drops containing rhinovirus, also known as the common cold, and monitored them for five more days.

Volunteers who regularly got less than seven hours of sleep were nearly three times more likely to come down with the cold than those who slept eight hours or more each night.

4. Try a zinc supplement or lozenge

Unlike vitamin C, which studies have found likely does nothing to prevent or treat the common cold, zinc may actually be worth a shot this season.

The mineral seems to interfere with the replication of rhinoviruses, the bugs that cause the common cold.

In a 2011 review of studies of people who’d recently gotten sick, researchers looked at those who’d started taking zinc and compared them with those who just took a placebo. The ones on zinc had shorter colds and less severe symptoms.

Zinc is a trace element that the cells of our immune system rely on to function. Not getting enough zinc (Harvard Medical School researchers recommend 15-25 mg of zinc per day) can affect the functioning of our T-cells and other immune cells.

But it’s also important not to get too much: an excess of the supplement may actually interfere with the immune system’s functioning and have the opposite of the intended result.

5. For aches and pains, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or (Advil) may help

Over-the-counter pain medications like Advil and Tylenol can help with the aches and pains that often accompany colds and the flu. The research on which one provides superior relief for viruses is inconclusive, however.

A 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal that looked at close to 1,000 people with upper-respiratory infections (not colds) suggested that Tylenol provided stronger relief, but it’s important to keep in mind that because Advil is an anti-inflammatory, it may be better for soothing swollen glands.

6. Use honey to soothe a cough

If you hate the taste of cough syrup, you’re in luck: The WHO actually recommends honey as a cough medication for children.

A 2012 Pediatrics study of 300 children who’d been sick for a week or less found that those who were given 10 grams of honey at bedtime had fewer cough symptoms (compared with those who were given a placebo).

Oddly enough, the kids given honey also slept more soundly.

7. If your nasal passages are blocked, try a decongestant and skip the Vicks.

According to Jay L. Hoecker, an emeritus member of the department of pediatric and adolescent medicine at the Mayo Clinic, menthol rubs like Vicks VapoRub won’t help relieve a stuffy nose.

Instead, the “strong menthol odor of VapoRub tricks your brain, so you feel like you’re breathing through an unclogged nose,” he wrote in a recent post for the Clinic.

What he recommends for congestion are over-the-counter decongestant tablets like Sudafed and nasal sprays, which studies suggest may narrow the blood vessels in the lining of your nose and help reduce swelling.

8. If your stomach is also upset, ginger can provide some relief.

Sometimes, getting a cold seems to throw our whole body out of whack. If you’re also feeling nauseated, bloated, or experiencing indigestion, ginger may help.

A study published in the British Journal of Anesthesia comparing people taking a placebo with those taking ginger found that just one gram of the root was helpful in alleviating symptoms of seasickness, morning sickness, and nausea induced by chemotherapy.

Ginger may also be helpful for relieving gas and indigestion in general, Stephen Hanauer, a professor of gastroenterology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told Prevention.

The root speeds up stomach emptying and helps release gas, Hanauer said.

More Bad Flu News: It’s Tied to Heart Attack Risk

A bad case of the flu can trigger a short-lived, but substantial, spike in some people’s heart attack risk, new research suggests.

Among 332 heart attack patients, the complication was six times more likely to strike following a bout of the flu, researchers reported.

The findings come in the midst of a particularly brutal flu season.

Across the United States, flu-related hospitalizations are spiking, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most recent figures put the rate at 31.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 Americans, versus only 13.7 per 100,000 two weeks earlier.

The Canadian researchers said their findings underscore some longstanding advice: Get a yearly flu shot, especially if you’re at increased risk of a heart attack.

 “If you have heart disease, you take it as gospel that you should do things like take your cholesterol medication and keep your blood pressure under control,” said lead researcher Dr. Jeffrey Kwong.

“You should look at the yearly flu shot that way, too,” said Kwong, a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, in Toronto.

Studies have long shown that flu infection is linked to an increased risk of heart attack in people who are vulnerable.

And for years, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and other groups have recommended that people with heart disease get an annual flu shot.

But the new findings strengthen the theory that a flu infection can actually trigger a heart attack, according to Dr. Andy Miller, chair-elect of the ACC’s Board of Governors. However, the study did not prove that the flu can cause a heart attack.

Still, “there’s a growing line of evidence that inflammation, and interventions that reduce inflammation, are important in heart attack risk,” said Miller, who was not involved in the study.

He explained how a flu infection could, in theory, cause trouble: If a person already has artery-clogging plaques, a bout of the flu could cause inflammation — body-wide and within blood vessels — that then causes a plaque to rupture. When a plaque breaks apart, it can completely block an artery supplying the heart, causing a heart attack.

The new study was able to look at how people’s heart attack risk changed in relation to the timing of a flu infection.

Kwong’s team started with nearly 20,000 Ontario adults who’d come down with a case of the flu that was confirmed through lab testing. Out of that group, 332 were hospitalized for a heart attack within a year.

On average, the study found, patients were six times more likely to suffer their heart attack in the week after their flu infection was confirmed — as compared with the year before, or the year after.

The patients also faced a higher risk shortly after coming down with other respiratory infections, the findings showed.

According to Kwong, the patients likely had severe infections — bad enough to warrant a trip to the doctor and lab testing. So it’s not clear, he noted, whether milder cases would carry the same risk.

Nor can the study say what the absolute risk of heart attack would be for any one person who catches the flu, Kwong said.

But, Miller added, out of 20,000 people with serious flu infections, relatively few had a heart attack over the next year.

The flu shot is imperfect: It’s no guarantee against infection, and it works better during some flu seasons than others. But, Kwong pointed out, “even some protection is better than no protection.”

Still, other measures — like regular hand washing — are important, too. And everyone can help out by staying home when they are sick and not exposing others to their infection, Kwong advised.

Miller stressed that people at risk of heart attack should focus on all of their risk factors, during flu season and otherwise.

 “Address all of the traditional risk factors you have — obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol,” he said. “Getting the flu shot is one additional intervention to take.”

Big Pharma Has the Flu

Flu vaccines make pharma companies $3 billion a year and aren’t very effective. Without a Manhattan Project-style initiative to modernize immunizations, things aren’t going to get any better.

A week ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed what people have been suspecting: This flu season is one of the worst in recent memory. It’s on track to match the 2014-2015 season in which 34 million Americans got the flu, and about 56,000 people—including 148 children—died.

One reason behind the high toll is a mismatch between one of the flu viruses infecting people and one of the viral strains chosen almost a year ago for the global vaccine recipe, which gets rewritten every year. The dominant strain this winter is one called H3N2, which historically causes more severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths than other strains. When the flu swept through Australia last summer, the effectiveness of the H3N2 component of the vaccine was only about 10 percent. The CDC doesn’t yet have a hard estimate for effectiveness in the United States but thinks it might be near 30 percent.

That mismatch is a bad piece of biological luck. But we should consider it a warning.

We’ve long known that our flu vaccines aren’t built to last, or to tackle every strain. But pharma companies don’t have an incentive to research drugs that will make them less money—not while current vaccines are good enough to make them $3 billion a year. To drive those new vaccines forward, medicine needs a Manhattan Project-style investment, pulling on resources outside the drug industry to force a new generation of vaccines into existence.

It’s well-known inside medicine, and little appreciated outside it, that flu vaccines aren’t as protective as most people assume. In January, the CDC collated data on flu-vaccine effectiveness from 2004 up through last year. There was no flu season in which the vaccine protected more than 60 percent of recipients. In the worst season, 2004-2005, effectiveness sank to 10 percent. That’s very different from childhood vaccines. As Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, lamented at a meeting last summer: “The measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine is 97 percent effective; yellow fever vaccine is 99 percent effective.”

The flu virus itself is to blame. The measles virus that threatens a child today is no different from the one that circulated 50 years ago, so across those 50 years, the same vaccine formula has worked just fine. But flu viruses—and there are always a few around at once—change constantly, and each year vaccine formulators must race to catch up.

The dream is to develop a “universal flu vaccine,” one that could be given once or twice in toddlerhood like an MMR vaccine, or boosted a few times in your life as whooping-cough shots are. That is a substantial scientific challenge because the parts of the flu virus that don’t change from year to year—and thus could evoke long-lasting immunity—are hidden away in the virus, masked by the parts that change all the time.

A handful of academic teams are competing to build such a new shot. They’re tinkering with the proteins that protrude from the virus, trying to take off their ever-changing heads so the immune system can respond to their conserved, unchanging stalks. They’re creating chimeric viruses from several proteins fused together, and they’re emptying out viral envelopes or engineering nanoparticles to provoke immunity in unfamiliar ways. Several of those strategies look promising in animal studies but haven’t been tested in humans. There are substantial hurdles to putting any formula into a human arm—including the fundamental one of figuring out what level of immune reaction signals that a new formula is protective enough.

And then, of course, there’s the fact that creating a new vaccine is expensive. It includes not just the cost of research and development, clinical trials, and licensing—generally accepted, across the pharma industry, to take 10 to 15 years and about $1 billion—but also the price tag for building a new manufacturing facility, which can top $600 million. Contrast that to the expenses of making the current vaccines, which use equipment and processes not changed in decades. A 2013 World Health Organization analysis pegged each manufacturers’ cost of refreshing the annual vaccine at $5 million to $18 million per year.

Now consider this: Right now, millions of people, roughly 100 million just in the United States, receive the flu vaccine every year. If those shots were converted to once or twice or four times in a lifetime, manufacturers would lose an enormous amount of sales and would need to price a new vaccine much higher per dose to recoup.

“What’s the business model here? Am I going to spend more than $1 billion to make a vaccine when I can only sell $20 million worth of doses?” Michael Osterholm asks.

The founder of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, and a former adviser to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Osterholm has been pushing for years to get people to notice that the market structure for the flu vaccine works against innovation. “Think about this,” he told me. “If you get a licensed product, which can take billions of dollars to achieve, how are you going to get a return on investment unless you are able to charge an exorbitant amount?”

This isn’t a hypothetical. Take the case of FluMist: As Osterholm’s CIDRAP group revealed in a 2012 report, The Compelling Need for Game-Changing Influenza Vaccines, the vaccine manufacturer MedImmune expended more than $1 billion to develop the novel nasal-spray flu vaccine. In 2009, its first year on the market, FluMist earned just $145 million. And in 2016 and 2017, a CDC advisory body recommended against using the spray at all, saying its rate of effectiveness had sunk to 3 percent.

Examples such as FluMist, Osterholm’s group wrote in their report, make it unlikely that any manufacturer will embark on a new flu vaccine or that VCs will fund them. “We could find no evidence that any private-sector investment source, including venture capital or other equity investors or current vaccine manufacturers, will be sufficient to carry one, yet alone multiple, potential novel-antigen influenza vaccines across the multiyear expenses of production,” they wrote.

As it happens, another sector of medicine is grappling with a similar problem. Since about 2000, pharma manufacturers have largely abandoned antibiotics because of a similar mismatch between investment and reward. Like vaccines, antibiotics are priced low and used for short amounts of time—unlike the lucrative cardiovascular or cancer drugs you’ll see advertised on TV and in magazines.

One answer to the funding gap has been a public-private research accelerator, CARB-X. It was founded in 2016 to dispense $455 million from the US government and a matching amount from the Wellcome Trust in England to support risky early stage research into new antibiotic compounds. Another proposal, put forward by the British Review on Antimicrobial Resistance but not yet enacted, would give roughly $1 billion in no strings “market entry rewards” to companies that get new compounds all the way through trials to licensure, counting on the cash grant to repay R&D expenses.

Osterholm thinks flu vaccines need research support, market rewards, sales guarantees, and more—a matrix of investment in research, manufacturing, and research leadership that he likens to the Manhattan Project, the all-in federal effort to build atomic bombs to bring an end to World War II. Only governments have the power to organize that scale of project, he thinks, and only private philanthropy, on the scale of the Gates Foundation or the Wellcome Trust, has the resources and the flexibility.

And he may be right. What’s clear is that the current flu vaccine market is broken. It’s important to think about that now, because this flu season marks the 100th anniversary of the worst flu known to history: The world-spanning 1918 influenza, which killed an estimated 100 million people in little more than a year. Flu pandemics arrive irregularly, and no one has been able to predict when the worst of them will come again. It would be smart of us to fix the vaccine problem before it arrives.

7 Sleep Tips for a Cold or the Flu

How can you get the rest you need when a stuffy nose and hacking cough make sleep hard to come by?

  1. Prop yourself up. Sinus pressure gets better when your head is higher than your body, so let gravity work for you. When you lie down, postnasal drip can build up, making your throat sore and triggering a cough. Make a wedge with a few pillows to prop yourself up in bed. You may breathe and sleep a little easier.
  2. Use a vaporizer or humidifier. Flu and cold symptoms dry your airways out and make them raw. Moisturize the air with a humidifier or vaporizer. Be sure to clean it regularly — check the directions — so it doesn’t trap mold or bacteria.
  3. Drink or eat something hot. Breathing the steam from hot soup or drinks can help your dried-out nasal passages, loosen mucus, and make it easier to clear your airways. Add some honey to soothe your throat and help with cough. Take a hot bath or shower before bed.
  4. Try cold and flu medicines. There are lots of over-the-counter nighttime medicines for cold and flu symptoms, so make sure you read the labels carefully. Match your symptoms with the right meds. If you’re not sure what’s right for your symptoms, ask your pharmacist.
  5. Don’t drink alcohol. Sure, it may make you drowsy. But it actually makes people wake up more during the night. Alcohol can also dry you out, swell your sinuses, and react badly with cold or flu medicines. Wait until you’re feeling better.
  6. Sleep alone. When you’re sick, it may be better to sleep away from your partner. That way you won’t risk spreading the sickness. And you can cough, blow your nose, and get out of bed without waking someone else up.
  7. Can’t sleep? Get up. Try something else. Sit in a chair and read for a little while. Listen to music. Then get back into bed when you feel sleepier.

Link between flu and heart attack confirmed in new research


IBM Creates A Molecule That Could Destroy All Viruses

One macromolecule to rule them all, from Ebola to Zika and the flu

flu virus

The influenza virus.

CDC/ Dr. Erskine. L. Palmer; Dr. M. L. Martin via Flickr

Finding a cure for viruses like Ebola, Zika, or even the flu is a challenging task. Viruses are vastly different from one another, and even the same strain of a virus can mutate and change–that’s why doctors give out a different flu vaccine each year. But a group of researchers at IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore sought to understand what makes all viruses alike. Using that knowledge, they’ve come up with a macromolecule that may have the potential to treat multiple types of viruses and prevent them from infecting us. The work was published recently in the journal Macromolecules.

For their study, the researchers ignored the viruses’ RNA and DNA, which could be key areas to target, but because they change from virus to virus and also mutate, it’s very difficult to target them successfully.

Instead, the researchers focused on glycoproteins, which sit on the outside of all viruses and attach to cells in the body, allowing the viruses to do their dirty work by infecting cells and making us sick. Using that knowledge, the researchers created a macromolecule, which is basically one giant molecule made of smaller subunits. This macromolecule has key factors that are crucial in fighting viruses. First, it’s able to attract viruses towards itself using electrostatic charges. Once the virus is close, the macromolecule attaches to the virus and makes the virus unable to attach to healthy cells. Then it neutralizes the virus’ acidity levels, which makes it less able to replicate.

As an alternative way to fight, the macromolecule also contains a sugar called mannose. This sugar attaches to healthy immune cells and forces them closer to the virus so that the viral infection can be eradicated more easily.

The researchers tested out this treatment in the lab on a few viruses, including Ebola and dengue, and they found that the molecule did work as they thought it would: According to the paper, the molecules bound to the glycoproteins on the viruses’ surfaces and reduced the number of viruses. Further, the mannose successfully prevented the virus from infecting immune cells.

This all sounds promising, but the treatment still has a ways to go before it could be used as a disinfectant or even as a potential pill that we could take to prevent and treat viral infections. But it does represent a step in the right direction for treating viruses: figuring out what is similar about all viruses to create a broad spectrum antiviral treatment.

Top Reasons Why Flu Shots Are More Dangerous Than A Flu

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The following substances are found in flu vaccines: aluminum, antibiotics, egg protein, formaldehyde, human aborted fetal apparatus (dead human tissue), monosodium glutamate (MSG), and thimerosol (mercury).” Flu vaccines are directly linked to long-term health consequences.

Every year we get bombarded with posters and slogans to get flu vaccines. We are witnessing a powerful psychological attack under the title “the Vaccine is the best protection against the flu!”. You can’t help but come to a conclusion that a common flu is the most dangerous thing in the world and thus, there is nothing else left for you to do except to get this shot. But wait! You have to know that flu vaccines have been proved to be not only ineffective but also toxic for humans and animals. The official body count of this year’s flu shot victims continues to mount, as yet another previously healthy individual is reported to have died not long after getting the heavily pushed jab.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The following substances are found in flu vaccines: aluminum, antibiotics, egg protein, formaldehyde, human aborted fetal apparatus (dead human tissue), monosodium glutamate (MSG), and thimerosol (mercury).” Flu vaccines are directly linked to long-term health consequences.

Top Reasons Why Flu Shots are More Dangerous Than a Flu

Here are some of the conditions associated with flu vaccines:

  • Facial edema.
  • Immune system disorders
  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Digestive disorders
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood and lymphatic disorders
  • Local lymphadenopathy
  • Transient thrombocytopenia
  • Metabolic and nutritional disorders
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Neuralgia
  • Paraesthesia
  • Febrile convulsions
  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome
  • Neuropathy (including neuritis)
  • Paralysis (including Bell’s Palsy)
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Urticaria
  • Rash (including non-specific, maculopapular, and vesiculobulbous)

The invention of flu vaccines was associated with the notion that humans are unable to adapt to their environment on their own, thus, they ought to rely on modern technology to get through the seasons.

Ineffectiveness and Dangers of Flu Shots

One of the many problems connected with flu vaccines is the fact that it is virtually impossible to predict what strain of the virus will cause the epidemic in a given year. The flu virus is unpredictable since it changes its characteristics fast. Thus, last year’s flu vaccine may be completely ineffective against a flu strain this year.  This predicament makes pharmaceutical companies work hard to produce sufficient pathogen material by establishing the best conditions in which different virus strains develop.

The World Health Organization (WHO) sends the three most common strains to vaccine manufacturers so that they are part of the vaccine for the new season. “The trick is to get viruses, which can reproduce in these cells, but which have not changed so much that they are no longer good for the vaccination,” says Rolf Hömke from Germany’s Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (VFA). “The vaccines would not produce the desired immunity in the body”, he adds. “When you get the flu vaccine, your body produces antibodies to three specific strains of the virus”.  This demonstrates that basically you have a 3 out of 300 chance of being vaccinated for the proper viral strain. Furthermore, by the time you get exposed, the viruses might adapt and change their form.

Additionally, if your body doesn’t produce enough reaction or responds with a damaging one due to weak immune coordination, the vaccine will be useless as well.  The choice is yours, you can keep getting those shots and hope for a great outcome, or you can start by taking care of your body in order to strengthen your immune system.



With flu season rapidly approaching, recommendations for preventatives are everywhere but many are not backed up by science. Can you guess the top five? (Hint: vaccination is not one of them!)

With flu season rapidly approaching, many are looking to vaccination as a “preventive” approach. Those who abstain are often accused of being uneducated or even socially irresponsible, but nothing could be further from the truth. Vaccination cannot replace natural immunity. Vaccines derail your natural immunological processes, along with exposing you to wide-ranging adverse effects.

Your odds of falling prey to influenza are largely determined by your overall health and immune function. Anything that strengthens your immune system will lower your risk for colds and flu. Unfortunately, flu vaccines often do the opposite.

All data point to the ineffectiveness of flu vaccines. According to CDC, the 2014-2015 flu vaccine reduced the chances that a person would seek medical treatment for influenza by a mere 19 percent.[1] If wearing seatbelts produced such dismal statistics, drivers would be demanding a much better defense strategy—which is what you should do if you want to stay healthy this winter. The good news is, there are much safer and more effective strategies than vaccines.

Preventing influenza hinges upon building up your immune system while avoiding the things that wear it down. What factors are the most destructive? Stress, inadequate sleep, inactivity, environmental toxicants and nutritional issues are some of the big ones. Excess dietary sugar,gluten, artificial sweeteners and other chemical additives can wreak havoc on your immune system.

There are many effective flu-busting strategies that are evidence-based, accessible and economically feasible—but the following five deserve special mention.

1. Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 tops my list due to its ability to produce antiviral peptides (e.g. cathelicidin), which directly destroy invading organisms. Vitamin D prevents macrophages from releasing as many inflammatory cytokines and chemokines.[2] One study[3] found supplementing schoolchildren with 1,200 IUs per day of D3 cut their risk of influenza A by 42 percent.

Traditionally, we received our vitamin D from the sun. In fact, it’s theorized the reason for influenza’s increased prevalence in the wintertime is our reduced sun exposure, with a resultant drop in our vitamin D levels. It’s best to get vitamin D3 from reasonable sun exposure, but if this is not practical, a D3 supplement can be used for just pennies a day.

The only way to accurately determine your D3 level is with a blood test. In one study, adults with vitamin D3 blood levels of 38 ng/ml or greater enjoyed a two-fold reduction in acute viral respiratory infections. The Vitamin D Council recommends keeping your levels between 40 and 80 ng/ml year-round.[4]

2. Probiotics

The billions of microorganisms that reside in your digestive tract comprise 80 to 90 percent of your immune system. Practices such as antibiotic overuse, the standard American diet and today’s “germophobic” attitude have taken a heavy toll on the human microbiome. Therefore, probiotics can give a powerful boost to your immune function.


Chinese researchers found probiotics reduced the incidence and duration of respiratory tract infections in young children.[5] In another study, daily probiotic supplementation was shown to reduce fever, rhinorrhea, cough, and missed school days for children age three to five. Adults show similar benefits—those taking probiotic-containing supplements demonstrate fewer and less severe colds.

The most abundant and active probiotics come from whole foods, such as raw sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kvass and other traditionally fermented foods. Although less powerful, probiotic supplements are another option. On a side note, a yeast-based fermentation byproduct called beta glucan has also been shown to reduce the incidence and severity of colds and flu.

3. Green Tea

If you feel a bug coming on, brew yourself a nice cup of green tea. Green tea is rich in catechins and is shown to enhance T cell function, as well as interfering with the replication of the influenza virus by inhibiting neuraminidase and hemagglutinin. A 2011 Japanese studyfound children who consume one to five cups of green tea per day have lower susceptibility to influenza. The EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) in green tea is a potent antioxidant offering numerous health benefits for your brain, heart, bones, eyes and other body parts. It is advisable to source your green tea from Japan instead of China in order to minimize levels of industrial pollutants, such as lead.

4. Elderberry

The next celebrity in natural flu prevention is elderberry, or Sambucus nigra. (Black elderberry extract is also known as Sambucol.) A Norwegian study showed flu sufferers who took 15 ml of elderberry extract four times a day for five days recovered four days sooner and required less “rescue medication” than placebo. Elderberry extract has also been shown to inhibit several strains of influenza virus, in vitro. Besides antiviral properties, Sambucol activates your immune system by increasing cytokine production.[6]

5. Echinacea

Last but not least, echinacea purpurea has a long history of use with respiratory infections. Research supports its ability to reduce both the severity and duration of flu symptoms. The roots of echinacea have cytokine-modulating properties.

Czech researchers [7] compared an echinacea beverage to the antiviral drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and found the two agents equally effective against flu—however, echinacea produced fewer complications and adverse events. Echinacea has been proven effective against avian flu (H5N1, H7N7) and swine-origin H1N1 (S-OIV). A combination of echinacea and elderberry were proven effective in killing avian flu virus (H9N2) in an infected chicken embryo.[8]

There are numerous other natural agents shown to be safe and effective against influenza—too many to discuss here—but if you’re armed with the fabulous five discussed above, influenza won’t stand a chance! For more evidence-based cold and flu remedies, click here. If you desire more information about flu-fighting medicinal herbs, please refer to this article.

A unique vaccine for lifetime protection against flu

Scientists are now investigating a vaccination that offers lifelong protection against the infectious disease.

flu-mainRecent research from an Australian university has unveiled that flu-killing immunity cells memorise different virus strains, a clue which could help develop a unique vaccine for lifetime protection against the flu

Recent research from an Australian university has unveiled that flu-killing immunity cells memorise different virus strains, a clue which could help develop a unique vaccine for lifetime protection against the flu, press reported on Thursday.

These Lymphocyte T CD8+ cells “are like hit men of our immune system and they can efficiently eliminate the virus-infected cells,” Katherine Kedzierska, research team-leader from Melbourne University, said.

“This is the first time we’ve shown that those killer T-cells are important in protecting against very serious disease very early on in the infection,” Kedzierska told ABC channel.

In collaboration with Shanghai Public Health Centre and Fudan University in China, the research was based on observations that some patients who contracted the H7N9 bird flu in 2013 were able to recover more quickly than others.

After taking samples, the researchers noted that the patients who managed to recover seemed to have a prior immunity thanks to T-cells, while those who lacked these cells suffered severely or died, ABC added.

Scientists are now investigating a vaccination that offers lifelong protection against the infectious disease, which affects humans, birds and other animals like pigs.

“We can provide universal immunity that will recognize a vast array of influenza strains and subtypes including new influenza viruses emerging and infecting humans,” Kedzierska explained.

Similarly, the scientists considered that the findings, published in weekly magazine Nature Communications, will help early diagnosis and gathering information about how a patient’s immune system responds to attacks from a variety of viruses.

How hugs can help fight the flu

WE know that hugs make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. And this feeling, it turns out, could actually ward off stress and protect the immune system, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University. It’s a well-known fact that stress can weaken the immune system. In this study, the researchers sought to determine whether hugs — like social support more broadly — could protect individuals from the increased susceptibility to illness brought on by the particular stress that comes with interpersonal conflict. “We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses. We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety,” the study’s lead author, psychologist Dr Sheldon Cohen, said in a statement. “We tested whether perceptions of social support are equally effective in protecting us from stress-induced susceptibility to infection and also whether receiving hugs might partially account for those feelings of support and themselves protect a person against infection.” In the experiment, over 400 healthy adults who filled out a questionnaire about their perceived social support and also participated in a nightly phone interview for two weeks. They were asked about the frequency that they engaged in interpersonal conflict and received hugs that day. Then, the researchers exposed the participants to a common cold virus, and monitored them to assess signs of infection. They found that both perceived social support and more frequent hugs reduced the risk of infection associated with experiencing interpersonal conflict. Regardless of whether or not they experienced social conflicts, infected participants with greater perceived social support and more frequent hugs had less severe illness symptoms. “This suggests that being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress,” Cohen said. “The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioural indicator of support and intimacy … Either way, those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection.” If you needed any more reason to go wrap your arms around someone special, consider this: Hugs also lower blood pressure, alleviate fears around death and dying, improve heart health and decrease feelings of loneliness.