Hacking your Immune System for the Upcoming Flu Season

It’s coming! Flu season is knocking on our door with the peak months typically starting in December and lasting through February. If the last few years serve as any example, this year will also be above average with influenza-like illness cases, hospital visits and days of work lost.1,2  You can be above average with your response as well. You are a fortress with an innate special forces immune system designed to meet and beat the threat of illness. Give that system the supplies and support it needs to overcome the flu this year.

Vitamin D3

This vitamin might be one’s very best immune boost and defense against the flu. Typically we would create our own vitamin D with sunlight exposure. However, with the days colder and shorter we are staying more covered up. A recent review of 25 controlled studies involving 11,000 individuals demonstrated that those who take vitamin D supplements were less likely to report flu or cold symptoms. It also indicated that those with blood levels less than 10ng/ml are at the greatest risk of illness.3 It is generally agreed upon that 30-50ng/ml is the optimal and safe level for health.4 To reach these levels supplementation is often necessary. Supplementing with 8,000-10,000 iu of D3 per day many be necessary. Specific protocols can be defined after blood level testing.5,6 Vitamin D3 supplementation is also safe for children. In practice I have generally recommended 2,500 iu/day for children and 5,000 iu/day for adults. These amounts may change depending on one’s health history.


Chiropractic, it turns out, is not just for back and neck pain. It has been demonstrated clinically that chiropractic has a tremendous effect on your immune system. Studies have indicated that after a specific upper neck adjustment the immune system will up-regulate.18 Clinically we have seen patients overcome the flu quicker than their friends and family who don’t receive chiropractic.

Essential Oils

There are many essential oils that have beneficial properties when dealing with flu-like symptoms. Many of these are also included in blends that can synergistically work together to ward off infection. These can be administered via diffuser, orally or on the soles of your feet.

Frankincense has recently been in the news as potential cancer fighter, but it is also a potent anti-inflammatory that has benefited those with the flu. Its high levels of boswellia acids are credit with this attribute.

Clove is another oil of benefit because of its anti-inflammatory properties. In addition it has been shown to have good antimicrobial properties making it more potent against the illness.8 It is so impactful that it’s routinely incorporated into immune boosting blends.

Oregano oil is commonly used because of its ability to influence the severity of symptoms. This would be due to its antiseptic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is worth noting that while it is a strong asset in mitigating some of the symptoms of the flu it does sometimes cause stomach pain and nausea.

A diffuser running in the office during this time of year is a health boon for your clients!


Before we had clinical trials and manufacturing facilities for synthetic disease fighting drugs, we had natural pharmacology in the form of herbs. Countless herbs have demonstrated their healing capabilities so well in fact that they were the blue print for many common pharmaceuticals today.

Garlic has been used for centuries to ward of disease and evil spirits. It is believed that the illness fighting properties come from the compound alliin that transforms into a sulphur containing compound when a clove is crushed or chewed.9 These compounds boosts the power of some white blood cells. 9, 10 Garlic can be taken via supplement tablet, crushed and eaten, or combined while cooking. To release the desired properties it is necessary to crush or chew the clove. If you plan to eat directly, start with small portions as garlic can cause an upset stomach in some.

Probably more so than garlic, elderberry has deep historical significance as a treasure trove of healing capabilities. Even the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, called it his “medicine chest” because of its wide spectrum of influence.11 In particular with the flu, it is powerful in reducing the symptoms and duration if taken within the first 48 hours of onset.12, 13 Elderberry, is so powerful that during the 1995 Panama flu epidemic the government used it to fight the disease. More recently studies have demonstrated its effectiveness at mitigating symptoms with H1N1 human influenza virus and H5N1 avian influenza virus.14 You can purchase and use elderberry in many forms; pills, sprays, lozenges, syrups and even tea.

More popular than the above mentioned herbs, Echinacea has the “natural treatment of the flu” discussion spinning in controversy. Though it is the top immune boosting herb in sales, it is clouded with inconclusive or poorly modeled studies as to its efficacy in effecting a change in those with the flu.15 However, due to its sales, one can ascertain that there are many people who, despite what many studies say, have experienced the positive effects of Echinacea on their health. Regardless there are many studies that demonstrate the herb’s ability to up-regulate the immune system.16, 17 What’s more is that it synergistically works will with other herbs like elderberry and goldenseal to be much more impactful.

I can’t say enough that lifestyle and habits around this time of year will play a major role in whether or not you get sick. Consider that the height of flu season is on the tail end of several months of festivities where traditions can drag us in to over eating and junk food snaking. From Halloween through the New Year there are plenty of opportunities to eat more processed and sugar laden foods that will increase your body’s inflammation creating fertile ground for illness. Eliminating sugar and grains from your body is a sure fire way to reduce inflammation and allow your immune system to thrive.

Finally, the flu is a serious contagious illness that may have further complications such as pneumonia. While all of the above mentioned natural remedies will influence an individual’s wellness and to some degree lessen the severity of symptoms; it may be necessary to seek medical care especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions or are pregnant.

  1. Influenza (Flu). (2017, September 22). Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm .
  2. INFLUENZA (FLU) IN THE WORKPLACE. (2017, January 27). Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/flu/activities.html .
  3. Amrein, K. (2017). Faculty of 1000 evaluation for Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. F1000 – Post-publication peer review of the biomedical literature. doi:10.3410/f.727312221.793530613.
  4. Holick MF, Binkley NC, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Gordon CM, Hanley DA, Heaney RP, Murad MH, Weaver CM. (2011) Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. doi: 10.1210/jc.2011-0385. Epub 2011 Jun 6.
  5. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.
  6. Vitamin D Is More Effective Than Flu Vaccine. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/02/27/vitamin-d-better-than-flu-vaccine.aspx .
  7. Chevrier, M. R., Ryan, A. E., Lee, D. Y., Zhongze, M., Wu-Yan, Z., & Via, C. S. (2005). Boswellia carterii Extract Inhibits TH1 Cytokines and Promotes TH2 Cytokines In Vitro. Clinical and Vaccine Immunology, 12(5), 575-580. doi:10.1128/cdli.12.5.575-580.2005.
  8. Chaieb, K., Hajlaoui, H., Zmantar, T., Kahla-Nakbi, A. B., Rouabhia, M., Mahdouani, K., & Bakhrouf, A. (2007). The chemical composition and biological activity of clove essential oil,Eugenia caryophyllata (Syzigium aromaticum L. Myrtaceae): a short review. Phytotherapy Research, 21(6), 501-506. doi:10.1002/ptr.2124.
  9. Rodrigo Arreola, Saray Quintero-Fabián, Rocío Ivette López-Roa, et al., “Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds,” Journal of Immunology Research, vol. 2015, Article ID 401630, 13 pages, 2015. doi:10.1155/2015/401630.
  10. Nantz, M. P., Rowe, C. A., Muller, C. E., Creasy, R. A., Stanilka, J. M., & Percival, S. S. (2012). Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and γδ-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clinical Nutrition, 31(3), 337-344. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2011.11.019.
  11. History of Elderberry. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://www.blackelderberry.info/elderberry-history/.
  12. ELDERBERRY: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-434-elderberry.aspx?activeingredientid=434&activeingredientname=elderberry .
  13. Zakay-Rones, Z., Thom, E., Wollan, T., & Wadstein, J. (2004). Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections. Journal of International Medical Research, 32(2), 132-140. doi:10.1177/147323000403200205.
  14. Fan‐kun Kong, PhD. (2009). Pilot Clinical Study on a Proprietary Elderberry Extract: Efficacy in Addressing Influenza Symptoms. Online Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacokinetics, Volume 5: 32‐43.
  15. Clarke TC, Black LI, Stussman BJ, Barnes PM, Nahin RL. Trends in the use of complementary health approaches among adults: United States, 2002–2012. National health statistics reports; no 79. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2015.
  16. Brousseau M, Miller SC. Enhancement of natural killer cells and increased survival of aging mice fed daily Echinacea root extract from youth. Biogerontology. 2005;6(3):157-63.
  17. Morazzoni P, Cristoni A, Di Pierro F, Avanzini C, Ravarino D, Stornello S, Zucca M, Musso T. In vitro and in vivo immune stimulating effects of a new standardized Echinacea angustifolia root extract (Polinacea). Fitoterapia. 2005 Jul;76(5):401-11.
  18. Selano JL. The Effects of Specific Upper Cervical Adjustments on the CD4 Counts of HIV Positive Patients. Chiro Res J 1994; 3 (1): 32–39.