Preparing for the Flu in 2021 – Tips to Strengthen the Body

By on October 1, 2021

Cold and flu season is upon us, and every household should prepare for more illnesses than last year, especially with schools and businesses opening for in-person instruction and meetings. As I’m speaking to my patients about this year’s flu vaccine, a common question keeps coming up, “How can I make sure I’m protected from the flu virus this year?” My number one response is to get the flu vaccine, and I follow up with a few other tips to ensure the body is optimized for the vaccine. 

Flu Vaccine

One of the most important things adults can do this cold and flu season is to get the quadrivalent flu shot. This is an inactivated (not live) safe vaccine that will immunize adults (and children) for four strains of the flu. It takes 10 to 14 days to get a rising concentration of antibody, which peaks at 5 to 8 weeks and then starts to decline. For this reason, the best time to get a flu vaccine is between now to the end of October.

Many pharmacies and grocery stores have received shipments of this year’s flu vaccine and are offering the shot. No prescription is needed to receive the flu vaccine.

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For adults 65 years of age or over, the senior version of the flu shot is recommended. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the senior version of the flu vaccine provides greater protection for older adult patients and 24 percent fewer flu illnesses compared to the standard vaccine.

A Good Night’s Sleep and Nutritional Supplements

There are several natural ways to set the body up to take full advantage of the flu vaccine. First, a good night’s sleep does wonders to activate the body’s natural immune system and makes the body receptive to the flu vaccine. This means 6-8 hours of uninterrupted continuous sleep.

Second, try to get 5 to 7 servings each day of fresh fruits and vegetables as they are full of health-promoting nutrients. Another source of immunity-promoting food is cooked white mushrooms that stimulate antibody production as well as play an anti-inflammatory role.

Third, nutrients like colostrum from cows and probiotics have been studied for their ability to support the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. Colostrum is a source of protective proteins, immune and growth factors, and prebiotics to help activate and protect immune systems through a healthy microbiome. In a study published in the journal Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis, cow colostrum was found to prime the body’s immune system and support the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. In the study, colostrum consumption (400 mg per day for 2 months) in healthy participants and high-risk cardiovascular patients showed beneficial effects in preventing flu episodes and flu-like symptoms. 

There are several high-quality cow colostrum supplements on the market, including 4Life, Life’s First Naturals, NOW Foods, Sovereign Labs, and Symbiotics to name a few.

Probiotics are well known to help with digestion. What’s less discussed – but just as impactful – is the role probiotics play in immune health. In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the probiotic strain BB-12® enhanced the body’s response to vaccination during a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial that utilized an influenza vaccine as an immune system challenge in healthy individuals. One of the top probiotic brands that feature the specific strain BB-12 is TruBiotics.

Be sure to speak with your health care provider before adding nutritional supplements to your diet.

Masks and Hand Washing

With today’s health challenges, it is important to wear a face mask and decontaminate it daily. Be sure to wash your hands before and after eating. It is better to use antibacterial soap instead of gel hand sanitizers; however, if there isn’t an option for soap and water, use what is available.

Make a point to clean facemasks regularly, and only use disposable masks once. An easy way to decontaminate a reusable cloth mask is to spray it with hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for several hours until it dries. Do not spray the mask with a disinfectant as prolonged exposure of residue buildup on skin can be harmful, and the vapors may be irritating.

The current pandemic coupled with the cold and flu season has the potential to create a “twindemic.” While this did not materialize last year and may not this year, we should be prepared. Be sure to protect yourself and your loved ones by taking the proper steps to stay healthy this flu season.

by Harry Oken, M.D., practicing internist in Maryland, scientific advisory board member for PanTheryx, an integrative digestive and immune health company, and author of BOOM! Boost Our Own Metabolism: A Guide to a Better Life.

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Preparing for the Flu in 2021 – Tips to Strengthen the Body