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Top 5 Safe Supplements to Fight the Flu

by Dr. Elizabeth Langer

I get it. When you have the flu, you don’t feel like getting out of bed, let alone coming into the office. You feel crappy and want to rest – which you should! But other than acetaminophen or ibuprofen, there really aren’t any over-the-counter medications that can help to relieve your symptoms. And because the flu is a virus, you really shouldn't be taking antibiotics. Fortunately, there are basic supplements available that can help to boost your immune system and get you back on your feet.

1. Mushrooms

As a food, mushrooms are a wonderful source of B vitamins, trace minerals, protein, and fiber.  They are a great source of beta-glucans, which are miraculous polysaccharides that keep your immune system strong.   While they are a tasty addition to soups and stews, taking a combination of them in a supplement is a powerful when to fight the flu .Popular types of mushrooms that are in supplements include: reishi, shiitake, cordyceps, maitake, oyster, cremini, and lion’s mane mushrooms.  

Reishi mushrooms are a powerful way to fight chronic disease. Their anti-inflammatory properties help to not only fight the flu, but can benefit people suffering from asthma, bronchitis, cancer, heart disease, cholesterol, hormone imbalances, adrenal fatigue, and mood disorders.  

Shiitake mushrooms are antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal.  They protect your DNA from oxidative damage and are beneficial for not just the flu, but many other conditions, which are anti-inflammatory.  Shiitake mushrooms provide energy and can help you to balance blood sugar.  They contain all of the essential amino acids, linoleic acid, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, copper, and manganese.

Cordyceps mushrooms increase stamina and endurance and are used in anti-aging nutrition, because they help the body produce ATP.  ATP is essential for helping our mitochondria function at optimal levels.

Maitake mushrooms are not only key components in fighting the flu, but can also help to reduce the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. 

Oyster mushrooms help to reduce muscle aches and joint pain. They are a great source of iron, and help to prevent anemia.

Cremini, or white button, mushrooms contain linolenic acid, and minerals such as copper, potassium, protein, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, niacin (vitamin B3), and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). 

Lion’s Mane mushrooms stimulate the immune system, along with promoting the growth and function of nerve cells. This mushroom is also good for joint inflammation (arthritis), and gastrointestinal problems.

2. Vitamin C

This one is pretty obvious, but it's a "tried and true" remedy and deserves to be one of the top five.  The trick is in getting the right vitamin C.  First, be careful with chewable tablets, because they often contain sweeteners such as sugar or worse (i.e. fructose, dextrose, sucralose, and other horrible concoctions).  Secondly, the type of vitamin C that you take is important.  The Linus Pauling Institute will beg to differ, but I personally advise my patients to take approximately 1,000 mg of Ester C with bioflavonoids.  Not that ascorbic acid is bad for you, but Ester C is natural and the bioflavonoids help your body to absorb it, and it’s also a little easier on your stomach.   However, you can take more, but once you start to get loose stools or diarrhea, you should back off on the dosage.

3. Oregano Oil

The extract of the oregano herb is commonly used to treat all respiratory problems in addition to the flu, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, pneumonia, and bronchitis.  The active oils in oregano, thymol and carvacrol, have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Oregano oil is also great for digestion, as it calms nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  It also stimulates sweating, a natural detox mechanism that can help to reduce a fever. 

4. Vitamin D3

Taking vitamin D3 is especially important in the winter or in climates with very little sun. Vitamin D3 is a steroid which naturally balances the hormones in your body, while stimulating your immune system.  Unless you are a strict vegetarian or vegan, take the D3 as opposed to D2.  Your body will better absorb this natural form and you decrease your risk of toxicity.  A safe dosage is 2000 IUs, but I take 5000 every day – some people take more.  Vitamin D reduces the level of cytokines, inflammatory proteins, while increasing the amount of antimicrobial proteins that destroy viruses. Taking vitamin D3 may help to prevent the flu from developing into full-blown pneumonia.

5. B Complex

Taking a B complex everyday will not only help fight the flu, but it will increase energy, nerve conduction, and circulation.  There are eight B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12), and I recommend that patients take them all together in a complex form, unless otherwise indicated by blood work.  This prevents you from developing an imbalance in your system.  Vitamin B5, especially helps to support the adrenal glands, thereby providing you with the ability to fight off infection and make a full recovery.  Also, it is a good idea to take methylated B vitamins, as they are better absorbed in the body.

These supplements are usually safe to take and in most circumstances, do not interfere with medication. However, if you are taking certain medications, it would be a good idea to talk with a trusted health care provider before adding any to your diet.

If you have any questions, please call or shoot me an email and I will be happy to talk with you!