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I’m sick, can you make me an onion sandwich please?

By Dr. Jacqueline Chan

It’s that time of year again when many of us have spent Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays recovering from “the cold” or “the flu”. Fortunately, I wasn’t one of them. I heeded the call of the season, didn’t travel too much, kept socializing to the minimum, and went way up on my Vit. D and felt well rested, reinvigorated and ready to go by the New Year. Modern medicine offers us the flu shot and Tamiflu, but even though the flu vaccine is being pushed unceasingly by federal health authorities, it may not be so effective after all, only about 60% effective.  My own personal health choice has been to refuse the flu shot and in 20 years of practicing medicine I’ve never gotten the flu from my patients or other office staff who are sick.  In fact, even though I’m around sick people all day, I’ve never had to take off work for being sick in 20 years. So… what’s my secret?  Well… here’s what I do when I first get sick:

1) Cut out the sugar. Just one teaspoon of sugar will lower the activity of your infection fighting white blood cells by 80% for up to 6 hours.

2) Have some chicken soup! There have been a few studies on the validity of chicken soup to help cure the cold!  In 2000 Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, conducted laboratory tests to determine why chicken soup might help colds, beginning with his wife’s homemade recipe, handed down by her Lithuanian grandmother. Using blood samples from volunteers, he showed that the soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection. Dr. Rennard theorizes that by inhibiting the migration of these infection-fighting cells in the body, chicken soup essentially helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms.

3) Make an onion sandwich! Onions are high in quercetin, a bioflavonoid and potent antioxidant found in plants, where it functions to help them survive harsh weather conditions, warding off infections and blight.  Quercetin has strong antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.  When we “catch a cold”, 80% of colds are caused by viruses.  Viruses overwhelm the immune system with toxins and inflammation depleting the body’s natural stores of anti-oxidants but quercetin can reduce the oxidative damage and stop the virus’s replication system.  Here’s some studies on quercetin:

In a study published in American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology, seven days of pre-treatment with quercetin caused mice to be significantly more resistant to influenza when researchers inoculated them with it after inducing them to exercise to fatigue. The study involved exercise because researchers wanted to see if quercetin supplementation could overcome the temporary immune-suppressant effect of strenuous activity. In fact, it did; the results demonstrated that quercetin neutralized this effect, causing the supplemented mice to be more resistant to influenza.

In a double-blind clinical trial published in 2010 in Pharmacology Research, scientists wanted to explore the effectiveness of 500- and 1000-mg doses of quercetin against upper respiratory tract infections.  Quercetin supplemented subjects over age 40 who rated themselves as physically fit – and who took the 1,000-mg dose for twelve weeks – experienced a significant 36 percent reduction in the severity of respiratory tract infections. They also reported a 31 percent reduction in sick days due to colds.

In a 2012 study published in Phytotherapy Research, researchers treated mice with quercetin for six days after the mice had been infected with Influenza A virus.Viral concentrations in the lungs were found to be an amazing 2,000 times lower than levels in mice that had not been treated. And, the levels were two times lower than levels in mice treated with oseltamivir, a pharmaceutical medication marketed as Tamiflu.  So, onions outperformed the flu medication!

The National Onion Association discussed a recent study from the Netherlands that showed that people who ate onions absorbed twice as much quercetin as those who drank tea, and more than three times as much quercetin as those who ate apples, which are other high-quercetin sources. Red onions are especially high in quercetin, according to the association. Shallots and yellow onions are also good options. White onions contain the least amount of quercetin and other antioxidants. An apple has 10 mg of quercetin, whereas an onion has just over 100 mg.

Quercetin supplements are available in pill, capsule or liposomal form.  Some naturopathic physicians advise a dosage of 1,000 mg of quercetin a day for increased immunity against infection.

4) Take Andrographis.

What if cutting out sugar, drinking chicken soup and eating an onion sand which don’t cut it? My favorite cough, cold, sinus, bronchitis, pneumonia formula is Andrographis Plus from Metagenics. One patient was hospitalized for a week with pneumonia, had been on three weeks of antibiotics and the andrographis took care of it! You have to hop on it FAST. Ideally, in the first 24 hours you feel sick, take some andrographis.

Benefits:

Features Andrographis paniculata, an herb traditionally used in Ayurvedic formulas for supporting upper respiratory, liver, and immune system health*
Delivers (Emblica officinalis), a vitamin C-rich fruit, which supplies antioxidant and revitalizing properties*
Includes a specialized preparation of herbs, including mulberry leaf and apricot seed extracts, traditionally used in Chinese medicine to support lung health*

5) One of the best things to do for a cold is PREVENT one by beginning to increase some immune boosting supplements:

a. The amount of Vitamin. D to 5,000-10,000 I.U. a day.  90% of the U.S. population is deficient in Vitamin. D.  We get our Vitamin. D from the sunlight as it’s absorbed into our skin and then it gets converted by an enzyme produced by our kidney into an absorbable form. Vitamin. D not only helps our bodies absorb calcium, it also helps boost the immune system. Between the months of November to March the sun is low on the horizon (unless you live near the equator) and we don’t absorb enough sun.  Taking that extra Vitamin. D will help us along. You can measure your Vitamin D level by a simple blood draw that helps you know if your levels are optimal or not.

b. Take some herbal mushrooms to boost your immune system.  Mushrooms have properties that help lower our viral load drastically.  My two favorite companies are Econugenics 10 Mushroom Formula or Host Defense.  Ten Mushroom® Formula is a comprehensive blend of organically grown medicinal mushrooms, including Reishi, Cordyceps, Maitake and Coriolus. These mushrooms act synergistically to reinforce the immune system while supporting total-body health throughout the seasons.

6) Try an Immune IV at Marin Natural Medicine Center!

This is a one-hour long IV that will help your immune system finally get you over the hump of the flu and onto vibrant health. It’s loaded with Vit. C, a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system and raises natural killer cell activity, magnesium sulfate which helps with bronchospasm, selenium and zinc which act to stop viral and bacterial replication, B 100 complex, B12, B6 to help the adrenals, thymus extract and the amazing antioxidant glutathione which helps the brain and liver.  Get back on your feet in half the time!

My wish for you is that with these tips you don’t have to get derailed with a cold or flu again this year.