By Dr. Summer Beattie | So I didn’t get a chance to read the book I mentioned last month, by author David McRaney, called You Are Now Less Dumb. So while I can’t formally review it for you, I am still putting the premise into action, both as a parent and a professional – I’m allowing myself to see things differently than I had believed them to be, and all of a sudden I have had to act differently, big changes and small! However, I also had the experience of watching an example play out that made me appreciate that sometimes critical review of both our beliefs and the supposed evidence will leave our perceptions and assumptions intact and validated.
I’ll share an example that I’ll try to keep from getting too technical, because the conclusion may just help get you through this nasty cold and flu season we are in the midst of.
A Naturopathic Doctor posted in a professional chat group about an article a patient had brought to her questioning the wisdom of trying to boost immunity through natural therapies during cold and flu season. I had the opportunity to watch a group of like-minded doctors question their long held belief about immunity – innate vs. acquired and how natural therapies impact wellness and healing in dealing with something like a common cold or the flu. Despite having been authored by an ER doctor from one of New York’s more well known hospitals, it wasn’t a well written article that the patient had brought in. Lacking was any specificity when discussing which natural therapies were actually in question (though links embedded in the digital version did lead to a list of therapeutic interventions that included mostly food and nutrient remedies). The article also poked fun at a certain famous TV doctor (“America’s Doctor”, who does sometimes make himself an easy target, I’ll admit!) The author accused the celebrity physician of panhandling “expensive placebos” and then stated that “even if they did work- you wouldn’t want them to!” The article presumed to explain that these remedies all work by increasing the inflammatory response of the innate immune system when exposed to the cold or flu virus – these innate immune responses would include things like fever, cough, mucous production, and body aches. He purposed that this whole system is archaic, ineffective at fighting infection and not to be encouraged. He then (in the embedded link) sited some articles posted at the Cochrane Library (a reputable collection of medical articles) as reference that these various remedies do little to no good in preventing or treating the cold or flu. Instead he concludes, it is the acquired immune system that does all the work. He concluded that the best course of action, should you contract a cold or flu virus was to suppress innate immune response symptoms and just wait. At the very end, he did mention four actually important and useful preventative measures:
1) wash your hands
2) keep a balanced diet
3) maintain good sleep habits
4) minimize stress
It was an encouraging exercise to watch my peers thoughtfully address this patient’s concern over this article. They too posted links to published research archived in the US National Library of Medicine Pub-Med Central Resources showing how things like Vit. C actually show a positive regulator of T-cell maturation (a primary component of the acquired immune system) and how zinc plays a role in T-cell activation. N-acetylcysteine stimulates natural killer cell activity; it is not inflammatory. One doctor listed some of the following modalities used to support immune function and balance:
Warming sock treatment
Far infrared therapy
Hydrotherapy (compresses, contrast showers, humidified air, etc.)
Homeopathy, Cell Salts
Antimicrobial Essential Oils
Antiviral herbs in tincture, pill, tea or whole food preparations
Phytonutrients and culinary plants and spices
If you do have flu symptoms, see your primary care Doctor or Nurse Practitioner right away. Tamiflu (an anti-viral medication) may be appropriate and is often most effective if started within about 48 hours of symptoms, and has been reported to work well in the type of flu presenting with high fever and severe body aches.
Juneau has some great resources for combining natural and standard medical care. Because as one of my colleagues said, the problem truly is that it is too complex an issue for an “article”. There is both right and wrong in the article and very little discussion of the middle, which is where the value to most people lies. I was excited to see the openness to question our paradigm, and see the stories of actual patients they are caring for validate many natural therapies. I also greatly appreciated the doctors who combined prescription drugs with natural therapies and co-cared for patients with other practitioners of different perspectives. After all, it is the result we get from our action that matters most. The beauty of a holistic approach to health and wellness is you can blend the best of both curative and symptomatic relief to tailor a plan optimal to you. Most of these natural remedies really are not expensive if done at home. You personally may not find one modality helpful while another person does. Sometimes just one little thing makes a huge difference or you may find that you need a combination of remedies. In my experience, natural remedies have a synergistic effect when used together. Remember, you really should start preparing for flu season long in advance by getting your nutrient status and overall vitality in optimal condition.
A 100oF or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
A cough and/or sore throat.
A runny or stuffy nose.
Headaches and/or body aches.
Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
Dr. Summer Beattie, ND is a graduate of Bastyr University. She has over 8 years experience as a Naturopathic Doctor specializing in women’s health with an emphasis on environmental medicine. Having served two terms on the board of directors for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, she has also worked in the medical aesthetics field since 2008. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or