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Top 5 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. But other than acetaminophen or ibuprofen, there really aren’t any over-the-counter medications that can relieve your symptoms. And because the flu is a virus, you shouldn't be taking antibiotics. Fortunately, there are supplements available that 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 contain beta-glucans, which are miraculous polysaccharides that keep your immune system strong. While they are a tasty addition to soups and stews, consuming a combination of mushrooms in a supplement is powerful when fighting the flu. Examples of mushrooms found in supplements include reishi, shiitake, cordyceps, maitake, oyster, cremini, and lion’s mane mushrooms. 

Reishi mushrooms contain anti-inflammatory properties that help to not only fight the flu, but 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. 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, 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 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 might be 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. Ascorbic acid is great and certainly cost-effective, but if you have problems with digestion you may want to consider liposomal vitamin C. Additionally, taking vitamin C in conjunction with bioflavonoids dramatically helps to increase absorption and bioavailability. 

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 stimulates sweating, a natural detox mechanism that can help to reduce 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 that 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 your level of cytokine proteins that create inflammation, while increasing your level 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 every day not only helps fight the flu, but also increases 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. 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 medications, it would be a good idea to talk with a trusted healthcare 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!