I say one mom's, because we're all different. We each have different ideas of what natural prevention even looks like. I'm not trying to tell you that I totally understand everything about swine flu and that I know exactly what you should do to prevent it. I don't. What I do know is that I've been looking into it for the sake of my own family, wanting to make sure that we all stay healthy, especially with a new baby and young ones in the house. These are just my own ideas and suggestions, and I pray that they will be useful or at least offer a starting place to those of you who are also concerned and wish to prevent your family from catching the flu, in the most natural way possible!
Am I concerned about Swine Flu/H1N1?
Am I hysterical, freaked out, anxious or ready to drag my kids off to get their shots asap? Nope, not in the slightest.
Last year when the H1N1 started to rear it's ugly head, I'll confess, I was pretty nonplussed about the whole thing. I believed that it was being thrown entirely out of proportion, that it's risks were being exaggerated by the government and those who stood to gain from public fear and that it did not pose much of a threat to the average person. Half a year later, I still believe some of those things to a degree, but I have also seen the flu begin to spread among my own community (knowing some people personally who have contracted it) and I know that it is at the very least a nasty flu that is spreading more rapidly than I expected.
Do I still believe that there is exaggeration in the claims being made about it's pandemic status, about the number of cases and deaths, about the need to receive (and the safety of) the swine flu shot? Yes. I don't think that we are being told the whole truth.
I don't believe that the numbers coming out are accurate, mainly because many, many people reporting flu symptoms are not actually being tested for which stain of the flu that they have (keep in mind that it is flu season in general, whether the swine flu is going around or not). Not every person with the flu has H1N1. Many places have stopped specifically testing for specific flu strains and have begun to assume that every case in indeed H1N1, which is creating more of a fear and panic than is necessary or realistic. I certainly believe that there are those who would like to (and will) gain from the sense of public fear, namely pharmaceutical companies who are creating and pushing vaccines, and whomever is on the payroll of the large corporations (ie. those who are further promoting a sense of fear).
Whatever the ultimate truth of the swine flu is, these things I know to be certain:
- God is sovereign. He alone knows what is truly happening, and in His goodness and wisdom (which we do not always understand) He is in control of the situation. We need not fear.
- Even though we have no need to fear, we have every reason to choose to act with caution and purposefulness, and to do our best to keep our families healthy this winter.
So what can we do to prevent ourselves and our family from catching it?
The best defense is a good offense. If we want to avoid catching the flu, even though chances are high that we will be exposed to it at some (or several) points throughout the season, then we must ensure that we have a strong immune system, capable of fighting off this virus and not allowing it to set up camp in our bodies.
Dried elderberry image from Wild Food Larder
Here are some ways that we can boost our own immune systems, as well as the immune systems of our husband and children:
- Elderberry- A berry that is particularly helpful in preventing the flu virus from infecting cells. Donielle has a great recipe for elderberry syrup that I plan to try making! It can also be bought at health food stores, in both adult and child-friendly forms.
- Echinacea- The popular immune-boosting herb, for good reason. It's best taken as a preventative, though it can also be taken once you've come down with the flu to help increase your body's ability to fight off the virus. Sometimes you can find great Elderberry/Echinacea combos at a health food store. Or you can purchase your own bulk herbs and makes teas, syrups, etc.
- Vitamin D- In recent years, this important fat-soluble vitamin has been shown to really impact immunity. We get some from exposure to sunlight but most people don't get enough, especially in the winter months. You can find it in Cod Liver Oil (which I recommend that everyone take year-round but especially in the wintertime), as well as organ meats (like liver), oily fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, etc.), and egg yolks (particularly pastured/free-run eggs).
- Vitamin C- This is one of the easiest of all. This water-soluble vitamin (which means you need to consume it frequently as it gets flushed out of your system daily) is found in many fruits and vegetables: parsley, bell peppers, spinach, strawberries, oranges, lemon juice, leafy greens, cauliflower, among others. You can also take it in a high quality supplement if necessary (though food sources are usually preferable). One very kid-friendly way to take it is Emer'Gen-Cdrinks (mamas like it, too!).
- Take probiotics- These improve digestive health (and will help you digest more of the good nutrients you're loading up on), but they also have their own positive impact on immunity. You can also achieve this by eating more fermented foods!
- Homeopathics- This year my mother-in-law discovered some homeopathic remedies intended to be both a preventative and a treatment for the regular flu and the swine flu. We are purchasing a bottle of each and all of us will be taking both of them throughout the winter.
- Staying well hydrated- When your mucus membranes are moist enough, there is less chance of germs being able to really set in and create an infection.
- Getting enough rest- A tired body is not effective at fighting off anything. Ever noticed how when you let yourself get really run down, you almost inevitably get sick? Making sure that you go to bed at a decent hour (I'm preaching to myself, here!) and resting adequately is a really important aspect of a strong immune response.
- Garlic- With strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities, this is a food that you should be consuming more this winter! It's most potent when taken raw, which I know can be hard to swallow for some (pardon the pun). When I was sick a few weeks back, my husband and I discovered that it's pretty easy to take like this: Make a piece of toast and butter it. Put a clove (or several cloves for a real kick!) in a garlic press and then spread it on top of the toast. Eat, enjoy and give some to your hubby so he'll still kiss you (because at least you'll both have crazy garlic breath!).
- Oil of Oregano- Oregano also has similar anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and is excellent to take both preventatively and as soon as you feel something coming on. It seems really pricey (usualy about $20 or so for a very small bottle) but it lasts a long time. You only take a drop or two for prevention, and then more like 2-6 drops several times a day when you're actually sick or fighting something. We buy this every year and we truly notice that it makes a difference. We don't give this to the kids as it's quite strong, but my husband and I both take it.
** Note that I'm not specifying what is okay to take when pregnant or breastfeeding, for different ages of children, for those with specific illnesses or disorders, etc. but instead I have just given general ideas of what to take. Please make sure that you look into whatever you choose to take and ensure that it is safe for you or your loved ones to be taking. Though I make my suggestions based on my own research, I'm not a doctor, naturopath or certified 'anything', so take responsibility for your own health and use discretion in what you take or give to your family!
Lastly (but very importantly!), lay off the sugar. One of the very best ways to deplete and depress a good immune system is to eat sugar, especially refined sugars like white or brown, corn syrup, etc. But even natural, wholesome sweeteners (ie. Rapadura/Sucanat, honey, palm sugar, dried fruits, molasses, etc.) still contain sugar that will depress the immune system (though to a lesser degree). White flours (or other processed grains) also have the ability to do this. Keep your sweet treats to more of a minimum during flu season to help keep that immunity at it's peak!
- Wash your hands and face thoroughly, with soap and warm water, after being out in public (and do the same for each of your children). I'm usually not into hand sanitizer (because I don't like to use things that kill all bacteria, and it has both alcohol content and several chemical preservatives that I wish to avoid). However, we are using it this year if there is nowhere to wash our hands. I have been in the hospital and doctor's office (along with my children) several times so far this season and those places are germ hotbeds! Definitely wash or sanitize well in those situations and even consider taking a shower and changing/washing your clothes as well.
- Gargle once or twice a day with salt water and especially after you've been out in public or if you're concerned that you may have been exposed. This gets rid of bacteria or germs in the throat and helps them to not spread further into your body.
- Avoid those who've been sick or exposed. I know that this can sound mean (or lonely) but sometimes it's wisest just to avoid contact when necessary.
- Keep your time in public, crowded places minimal. This might be the year to attend less big holiday events, or try to do your grocery shopping at non-peak hours. You might even consider doing your Christmas shopping online this year. I've been using Swagbucks to buy gifts from Amazon using the gift certificates I earn!
- If anyone in your family gets sick or you know that you've been recently exposed, please use common courtesy and avoid contact with others. Even if it means skipping out on a social or family event, or missing out on a church service. Protecting others when you or your family might be contagious is a loving and considerate thing to do!
To Vaccinate or Not?
I choose not. I wrote a post last year on the flu vaccine and why my family doesn't get it, so I won't get into the whole issue all over again (but definitely read the post if you're interested in my reasons). My reasons for not choosing the H1N1 vaccine this year are similar. One particular reason why we especially won't try out this new vaccine is because the risks are really quite unknown. I don't believe that the threat of the virus is bigger than the unknown risks of using the vaccine. Some may disagree with me, and that's quite alright.
Other Resources Worth Reading:
Swine Flu Update by Shonda Parker. She is a certified herbalist and educator on health, nutrition and midwifery. She has an excellent, very detailed post that covers prevention, some more scientific information about the flu and natural remedies to take.
Critical Alert: The Swine Flu Pandemic- Fact or Fiction? Note that I tend to consider Dr. Mercola an extremist and I don't believe that he always presents a balanced view. I do think that there are some worthwhile things in this article, including his tips on staying healthy and avoiding the flu.
7 Immune Boosters in Light of the Swine Flu. This was on The Nourishing Gourmet back in the spring when all the hubbub about swine flu began. She's got some great suggestions for keeping your immune system healthy through foods and supplements.
What are your thoughts and feelings about the swine flu? What will you be doing to try to prevent your family from coming down with the flu this season?