For many reasons, people are beginning to distrust the flu shot. It wasn’t always available, yet we survived the flu for generations before. What causes the flu, and how did people address it in the past? Is it truly an inevitable part of the cooler season? This article explores how to fight the flu naturally, helping your body fight the flu by taking a holistic approach. It’s all about supporting the immune response and focusing on your overall health and well-being.
What is The Flu?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by the influenza A or influenza B virus.  According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 5% to 20% of Americans get the flu each year.  The flu is distinguishable from the common cold by the sudden onset and greater severity of the symptoms.
The influenza virus can manifest in many ways, with mild to severe symptoms. Most people recover from the flu within 1-2 weeks. However, young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions may develop severe flu complications, such as pneumonia.
The mainstream understanding is that the flu is highly contagious and can spread through water droplets.
Symptoms of The Flu
Some common flu symptoms include: 
- Fever or chills
- Sore throat
- Congested nasal passages (“stuffy nose”)
- Runny nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Some individuals, particularly children, might experience vomiting and diarrhea
Keeping track of the symptoms is helpful for diagnosis.
How is The Flu Diagnosed?
The flu is diagnosed based on symptoms and confirmed through specific tests. Doctors and other providers usually identify the flu by considering a person’s symptoms and the prevalence of influenza in the area at that time. However, there are specific tests available to confirm the presence of the influenza virus: 
- Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests (RIDTs): Healthcare settings tend to use these tests. They involve a nasal or throat swab to collect a sample. The results are available within about 15 minutes. While quick, these tests may or may not be correct.
- Molecular Tests (RT-PCR): These tests are more exact and sensitive in detecting the influenza virus. They involve a similar swab sample, but analysis occurs in a lab. Results may take longer (a few hours to a few days) but offer more accurate detection.
Doctors may use these tests if the illness is severe, there’s a risk of complications, or during flu season or an outbreak. Healthcare providers may also need to rule out other illnesses with similar symptoms to confirm a flu diagnosis. In some cases, especially during flu season, a doctor might diagnose the flu based solely on the symptoms and prevalence of the virus in the community.
The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare
At The Wellness Way, we talk about the mainstream perspective on healthcare versus our perspective, referring to these methods as the “fireman approach” versus the “carpenter approach.”
Mainstream “fireman” doctors have two tools (treatment options) to take care of people: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out during a surgical procedure. The hose represents using medications to extinguish the “flames”: inflammation, pain, and other symptoms.
Wellness Way doctors are more like carpenters: They assess the current state of the body with testing and then create a personalized plan to rebuild using nutrients from foods and supplements. Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are some other natural therapies that support healing.
While these things are considered “complementary medicine” or even “alternative medicine,” scientific research backs up their effectiveness.
Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to The Flu
In most people, the flu is mild enough that it doesn’t call for medical interventions. Doctors may simply suggest hydrating and using over-the-counter nasal sprays and decongestants for phlegm and sinus issues. Because the flu is viral and not bacterial, antibiotics aren’t helpful. Instead, doctors will prescribe antiviral drugs like Tamiflu.
Medications for The Flu
Adding antiviral drugs within 48 hours (2 days) of symptom onset only shortens the duration of the flu by a day, but it’s worth it for some people. There are several antiviral drugs for the flu: 
- Neuraminidase inhibitors: These drugs work by inhibiting the neuraminidase enzyme, which the flu virus uses to spread throughout the body. The most famous example is Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which is taken by mouth. Zanamivir (Relenza) is inhaled and peramivir (Rapivab) is used in IV form. Zanamivir can cause problems in those with egg allergies.
- Endonuclease inhibitors: Endonuclease inhibitors disrupt the replication of the virus. Baloxavir marboil (Xofluza) comes as an oral medication.
- Adamantanes: These antiviral medications only work for influenza A. Amantadine (Symmetrel) and rimantadine (Flumadine) are two examples.
- Over-the counter (OTC) medications: Mild pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin IB) may also be recommended for body aches. Decongestants and throat lozenges may be used for cold symptoms.
These drugs are used currently, but viruses can develop a resistance to them, and they do have adverse side effects. Researchers are always working to develop new antivirals or find drugs they can repurpose. They are also constantly working to develop universal flu vaccines. However, we know drugs and vaccines are rife with harmful side effects, which is why there’s an interest in natural products and home remedies for the flu.
What Causes the Flu? Traumas, Toxins, and Thoughts
At The Wellness Way, we think differently! Influenza or “the flu” is a common infection affecting the population each year. It tends to take us down when our immune response is suppressed by the physical, biochemical, and emotional stressors we encounter daily.
Traumas (Physical Stressors)
Traumas or physical stressors can be acute (like a car accident) or chronic (like being in a physically abusive relationship). Examples of traumas that could contribute to the flu include:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual assault/rape
- Car accidents
- Severe illness or infection
- Having a baby
These physical traumas may set off a state of chronic stress within the body. The result may be an infection like the flu.
Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)
Toxins are biochemical stressors in the body. Examples of toxins that could contribute to influenza include:
- Sugar – Excessive sugar consumption can contribute to the flu by lowering the immune response.  A 2022 review study confirmed that metabolic syndrome (associated with diabetes) is a risk factor for severe flu symptoms. 
- Vaccines – Read more about those here: Reasons To Avoid Flu Shot.
- The flu shot does not protect against the flu! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) admits the flu shot hasn’t had an effectiveness of over 60% for years. Its efficacy during the 2022-2023 flu season was up to 54%, which means you’re still almost 50-50 on whether or not you get the flu. 
- Smoking – Past and current smokers are at higher risk of complications from the flu. 
- Medications – Immune-suppressing medications may also increase the risk of getting the flu. Examples include prednisone, autoimmune disease drugs like methotrexate (Trexall, Xatmep) and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), and TNF inhibitors also used for autoimmune diseases like adalimumab (Humira) and infliximab (Remicade). 
- Metal toxicity – Heavy metal exposure is a possible risk factor for viruses like the flu. Mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic may all increase risk by affecting airway inflammation and function, the ability to clear mucus, and other processes. 
- Food allergies – Healthy foods can act like toxins if you’re allergic to them. Continuing to eat foods you’re allergic to can lead to chronic inflammation, poor digestion, and immune imbalance, creating the perfect environment for a viral infection like the flu. 
- Gut dysbiosis – Intestinal dysbiosis (imbalanced gut bacteria) may also contribute to flu susceptibility by altering the immune system. 
Traumas and toxins are made worse by negative thought patterns and emotional stress.
Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)
Don’t underestimate the power of your thoughts. Emotional stress is just as powerful (or more powerful) than physical and biochemical stressors in triggering inflammation and imbalance. Emotional stress can come from the following:
- Relationship issues – Relationships can turn toxic, leading to chronic stress. Prolonged stress can lead to dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which can, in turn, affect the immune defense against viruses.
- Financial stress – Financial struggles can lead to dysbiosis and chronic infections due to the long-term effects of stress and cortisol.
- Watching the news – The mainstream media rarely focuses on the positive. Regularly exposing yourself to bad news increases fear, worry, and overall stress.
- Feeling overwhelmed – Stress from significant life changes, like a recent marriage, a new baby, graduation, a divorce, or even moving to a new city, can lead to gut dysbiosis and an increased susceptibility to viral infections.
- Holding a grudge/pent-up anger – Holding a grudge creates stress in the body.
- A death in the family or a close friend – Grief is another form of stress that may create imbalances in the body.
- Military combat – PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) or PTSD from other causes can create a chronic sense of dis-ease in the body.
- Witnessing violence or a natural disaster – Being a witness to a mass shooting, murder, accident, or natural disaster is another potential cause of PTSD that may cause lasting imbalances.
The cumulative effect of these traumas, toxins, and thoughts can create inflammation and increase the risk of dis-ease anywhere in the body.
The Wellness Way Approach to Viral Infections like The Flu
At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. We don’t just address symptoms; we run tests to find out what’s going on behind the scenes. Chronic inflammation and infections can increase the likelihood of coming down with the flu.
Essential Tests for Assessing Gut Health and Viral Infections
- TWW Viral Panel: Access Custom Viral Panel
- Gut Health Test: Genova GI Effects with Parasitology
- Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test
Your Wellness Way practitioner will order more tests based on what he or she considers most relevant based on your health history.
Dietary Changes for Those Avoiding or Fighting the Flu
First, focus on lowering sugar intake and improving digestion to support your immune response. That means avoiding food allergies and following a personalized nutrition program, as the Wellness Way practitioner recommends. Here are some general dietary guidelines for those avoiding or fighting the flu:
- Chicken soup! Chicken soup may help with nasal congestion. Researchers from the Nebraska Medical Center studied a recipe that included chicken, onions, sweet potato, parsnips, turnips, celery, and parsley to see if it could support the immune system. They discovered chicken soup had anti-inflammatory effects, which may be why it seemed to reduce flu symptoms. 
- Hot beverages – According to a 2008 study from Wales, hot drinks like tea worked better than room-temperature drinks to relieve flu symptoms like runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chills, and fatigue.  Even hot water with honey, lemon, and cinnamon may be helpful. Bone broth is one of our top recommendations.
- No sugar or processed foods – Both increase inflammation and contribute to gut dysbiosis. Ultimately, they negatively affect the immune response and open the door to infections.
- Gluten-free, mostly grain-free – Gluten is known to aggravate the gut lining, contributing to chronic inflammation throughout the body.
- Consume an overall low carbohydrate, non-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods, which supply nutrients, antioxidants, and food for a healthy gut microbiome. 
- No cow’s milk dairy products – Goat and sheep’s milk products may be better tolerated. In fact, they may even be beneficial for lowering inflammation in the gut, which makes up a large part of the immune response. 
- Avoid high omega-6 vegetable oils, like corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed oil, sunflower, grapeseed, and others, which can alter the omega-6 to omega-3 balance to be more inflammatory.  Instead, use fruit oils like olive, coconut, avocado, and palm oil or animal fats like beef tallow, bacon grease, and duck fat.
- Eat omega-3-rich foods – Wild-caught salmon, herring, sardines, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds provide omega-3s and help lower inflammation. 
- Follow a Personalized Nutrition Program based on your food allergy test results.
- Add specific nutrient-dense foods: Add Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for enhanced nutrition. Liver is nature’s multivitamin, according to Dr. Patrick Flynn.
- Focus on antioxidants – Including things like turmeric, green tea, berries, dark chocolate, green leafy vegetables, and other foods rich in phytochemicals helps keep inflammation under control. They also support a healthy microbiome. 
A healthy diet can reduce inflammation and support gut health, but supplements can go further to support the immune response.
Supplements for Those Avoiding or Fighting the Flu
Herbal supplements and other nutritional supplements can support the body in overcoming infections like the flu. While everyone is different, some supplements The Wellness Way may use to support those fighting the flu may include any of the following:
- Megabiotic Formula – Probiotic supplements like this blend of highly researched strains can help keep infections and inflammation under control in the gut and throughout the body. Bifidobacterium bifidum may help balance the immune response, enhancing the body’s ability to fight the influenza virus. 
- Green Tea Extract – Green tea is a rich source of a polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has antiviral activity against the flu and other respiratory viruses.  Our Green Tea Extract capsules have EGCG and other green tea polyphenols.
- Elderberry Tincture – Black elderberry, with its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects, may reduce flu symptoms and shorten its duration. 
- Echinacea – In a 2013 study, a standardized echinacea extract interfered with virus replication and was helpful for respiratory tract infections. 
- Mushroom Immune – Medicinal mushrooms like turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) support immune function and may protect against the influenza virus. 
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is crucial for supporting the immune system and overall health. Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels may contribute to a healthy immune response, potentially reducing the risk and severity of various infections, including viruses like influenza. 
- Zinc – Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a pivotal role in various bodily functions, including immune health. Those who are zinc-deficient are at greater risk of influenza viruses. 
- Vitamin C – Megadosing vitamin C before or after the onset of flu symptoms greatly reduces symptoms compared to pain meds and decongestants. 
Each person is different – herbal medicines that work for one individual may not work for another. Part of that is due to body chemistry, including genetics and allergenic responses, and part is due to what imbalances set them up for the flu.
Lifestyle Changes & Complementary Therapies for The Flu
These lifestyle changes and therapies are helpful for health in general and may help reduce the duration, symptoms, or likelihood of coming down with the flu.
- Regular chiropractic care – If your posture is poor and your nervous system is affected, it can create stress and inflammation, affecting the immune response.
- Essential oils – Certain essential oils like eucalyptus oil and those high in menthol and camphor can help to open breathing passages and reduce coughing.  Peppermint oil is high in menthol, and rosemary oil has camphor. Vapor from tea tree oil and eucalyptus essential oils had strong antiviral activity against influenza A. 
- Saltwater gargle – Gargling with salt dissolved in warm water may is a home flu remedy that may help to break down mucus in the throat and relieve irritation and congestion. 
DISCLAIMER: Many of these should be a part of a normal daily lifestyle. The Wellness Way is not giving any medical advice. These are simply A Different Perspective on what you can do. You’re more likely to have a healthy immune system when doing these things regularly. These supplements and therapies are not a replacement for any medication. We are carpenter doctors and practitioners, not firemen. If you want medical advice, ask your fireman doctor.
Be a well-informed patient! Here are some resources for learning more about inflammation, the immune response, and fighting the flu.
Educational Resources for Learning About the Flu or The Immune Response
Videos & Webinars Related to The Immune Response or The Flu
Articles Related to The Immune Response or The Flu
CDC Rebrands Flu Shot, Launches ‘Wild to Mild’ Campaign Targeting Pregnant Women and Parents
Reasons To Avoid Flu Shot
Effective Ways To Survive Cold And Flu Season – Without Getting A Shot!
Forget the Flu Freak-Out: Real Health for the Flu Season
CONNECT WITH US
We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today to get thorough testing and start on your health journey. We are here to help!
- Influenza – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
- 5 Tips: Natural Products for the Flu and Colds: What Does the Science Say? | NCCIH (nih.gov)
- Flu Symptoms & Complications | CDC
- Diagnosing Flu | CDC
- What You Should Know About Flu Antiviral Drugs | CDC
- Harmful effects of high amounts of glucose on the immune system: An updated review – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Influence of Nutritional Status and Physical Exercise on Immune Response in Metabolic Syndrome – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Interim Estimates of 2022–23 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness — Wisconsin, October 2022–February 2023 | MMWR (cdc.gov)
- Smoking increases the risk of infectious diseases: A narrative review – PMC (nih.gov)
- Immunosuppressants: Definition, Uses & Side Effects (clevelandclinic.org)
- Toxic metal exposure as a possible risk factor for COVID-19 and other respiratory infectious diseases – PMC (nih.gov)
- Food Allergies: The Basics – PMC (nih.gov)
- The Role of Gut Dysbiosis in the Loss of Intestinal Immune Cell Functions and Viral Pathogenesis – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The effects of a hot drink on nasal airflow and symptoms of common cold and flu – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Archaea and fungi of the human gut microbiome: correlations with diet and bacterial residents – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Reviewing the Benefits of Grazing/Browsing Semiarid Rangeland Feed Resources and the Transference of Bioactivity and Pro-Healthy Properties to Goat Milk and Cheese: Obesity, Insulin Resistance, Inflammation and Hepatic Steatosis Prevention – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids And Inflammation – You Are What You Eat! – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The Immunomodulatory and Anti-Inflammatory Role of Polyphenols – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The effects of polyphenols and other bioactives on human health – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Immunomodulatory and prophylactic effects of Bifidobacterium bifidum probiotic strain on influenza infection in mice – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Specific formulation of Camellia sinensis prevents cold and flu symptoms and enhances gamma,delta T cell function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Efficacy and safety of Echinaforce® in respiratory tract infections – PMC (nih.gov)
- β-Glucans from Trametes versicolor (L.) Lloyd Is Effective for Prevention of Influenza Virus Infection – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The Role of Zinc in Antiviral Immunity – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The effectiveness of vitamin C in preventing and relieving the symptoms of virus-induced respiratory infections – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Essential oils in the treatment of respiratory tract diseases highlighting their role in bacterial infections and their anti‐inflammatory action: a review – PMC (nih.gov)
- Antiviral activity of tea tree and eucalyptus oil aerosol and vapour – ScienceDirect
- Respiratory Tract Infections and its Preventive Measures among Hajj Pilgrims, 2010: A Nested Case Control Study – PubMed (nih.gov)