Cold, Flu and You
It’s that time of year again… the temperatures drop, fall and winter weather settles in, and the dreaded cold and flu season comes back around. In today’s episode of Be HEALTHistic, our doctor co-hosts — cardiologist Dr. Steve Sinatra and his son, naturopathic physician Dr. Drew Sinatra — discuss the symptoms to look out for, what you can do to strengthen your immune system, how to minimize the risk for you and your kids, and how to treat these seasonal illnesses the holistic way.
First, the doctors discuss the difference between a cold and the flu and the various symptoms of each. They talk about prevention, and how you can build up your immune defenses to better protect yourself during the high-risk months. Is taking vitamin C enough, or are there other important nutrients we should be taking? Then, Drs. Steve and Drew move on to the great chicken soup debate — does this delicious remedy actually treat your illness, or is it just comforting? And how about fever — is it best to sweat it out and let it break naturally, or try to reduce it with medications? Next, the doctors focus on foods that best support your immune system, as well as the ones you should avoid while you are sick. The hosts also address the overuse of antibiotics, and how (and when) these drugs should be used if you’re fighting a cold or the flu. Finally, they talk about the benefits of jumping into a sauna for a little heat therapy.
You won’t want to miss this informative episode of Be HEALTHistic, where our father-son doctor team arm you with the information, tips and advice you need to fight the common cold and the flu this year.
LINKS & RESOURCES
- Visit the Healthy Directions website for more health and wellness content and information!
- Check out the Healthy Directions Articles Archive, where you can search for specific, health-related content from all of our Healthy Directions doctors and experts.
- The docs mentioned several vitamins and supplements they’d recommend for preventing cold and flu. Check out this information from their Healthy Directions colleague Dr. David Williams, on nutrients for the prevention of the common cold and flu.
- Dr. Steve mentioned colostrum during the conversation, and how it’s beneficial for immunity; you can find more information here. You can also find colostrum supplements and products online, usually in powder or capsule form.
- Dr. Steve talked about a very special chicken soup recipe that he used to include in his newsletter that has been a very popular with his readers and patients over the years. Find out how to make this hot and delicious remedy here!
- Drs. Steve and Drew discussed heat therapy, and how sweating out toxins in a sauna can be helpful in eliminating illnesses from the body. Check out this information from Dr. Steve on the health benefits of detoxing your body with sauna and other modalities.
Steve Sinatra: First is a nip in the air. Maybe your nose starts to run. You try your best to cozy up under a blanket, but sometimes that dreaded four-letter word slips in. It's a cold, or even worse, the flu.
Drew Sinatra: So how do you do everything you can to minimize the risk to yourself and your family? How can you strengthen your kids' immune systems? Is it actually good for you to get sick once in a while?
Steve Sinatra: You'll learn how to avoid catching a cold. What symptoms to watch out for, and the right ways to treat seasonal sicknesses. I'm Dr Steve Sinatra.
Drew Sinatra: And I'm Dr Drew Sinatra. And this is Be HEALTHistic.
Narrator: Welcome to Be HEALTHistic, the podcast that is more than just health and wellness information. It's here to help you explore your options across traditional and natural medicine, so that you can make informed decisions for you and your family. Health isn't a "one size fits all" approach. Everyone has their own needs to Be HEALTHistic. This podcast illuminates the whole story about holistic health, by providing access to the expertise of Doctors Steve and Drew Sinatra, who together have decades of integrative health experience. They'll share with you the best that traditional and modern medicine has to offer, so that you could be more productive and more proactive in managing your overall health. Be HEALTHistic is powered by our friends at Healthy Directions. Now, let's join our hosts.
Drew Sinatra: Hi folks. Before we launch into our discussion today, I want to encourage you to be a proactive member of our Be HEALTHistic community.
If you like what you hear today, and you want to listen to future conversations on all things integrative and holistic health, subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you download your favorite podcasts. Also, check out and subscribe to our YouTube channel, which will feature video versions of our episodes plus video extras you won't want to miss. And finally we have more with me, Dr Drew Sinatra, my dad, Dr Stephen Sinatra, and other healthy directions experts, as well as a robust library of health and wellness content, over on the Healthy Directions site. So visit HealthyDirections.com to explore our database of well-researched content and information. And of course, you can always follow us on our social media channels.
Steve Sinatra: So, Drew, I'm a heart specialist, and I see a lot of people with heart disease, but as a naturopath, I would suspect that a lot of people would come to you for knowledge concerning about strengthening the immune system, or ways how to prevent a cold, or even worse, the flu.
Drew Sinatra: Yeah, they do. I mean, these are all questions that everyone has because we all get sick once in a while. You know, why I like to talk about, are ways to obviously improve immune system function, and also ways, once you are sick, how do you get better faster?
Steve Sinatra: So, can you really say you can prevent a flu? Suppose it's an epidemic, and everybody's coughing and sneezing, and there's viruses out there and everybody's scared, and they're watching TV and trying to find out what to do. Let's be simplistic here, what can a person do to avoid, quote, catching a cold or a flu?
Drew Sinatra: And that's a great question, and there's many different ways I can approach answering this. One, yes, there is the germ theory, right? In medicine, which a germ causes you to get sick — and we know for the flu, yes you're in contact with that virus, or whatever it is, and you get sick. Now, there are ways to boost immunity naturally in the body. And I do think that there are ways to prevent someone from getting this nasty flu that may be coming around.
Number one, let's talk about, okay, so is it a flu? Is it a cold? With the flu, this is more serious symptoms that people present with.
Steve Sinatra: Oh, right. Absolutely.
Drew Sinatra: It's the muscle aches, it's the fever, it's the chills, and your body just feels terrible. You know it, you know it if you got the flu, and it lasts generally a little bit longer than catching a cold, which can be anything from congestion in your sinuses, maybe there's an ear involvement, runny nose, sneezing, but you generally don't get those full body symptoms like the aching and the fever, with a cold.
Steve Sinatra: No, that's well said. And I can tell you from being a heart specialist, I've seen patients after flu season develop cardiomyopathy. In other words, you mentioned it, people with the flu gets aches and pains in their muscles. Sometimes they can get aches and pains in the heart, and later on it manifests itself as heart failure or situations where the patient is going backwards. And rarely it happens, but when it does happen, it's significant and it requires a lot of management and care.
Drew Sinatra: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, conventionally speaking, what conventional medicine has to offer for flu prevention is really the flu shot. What are your thoughts on the flu shot for people?
Steve Sinatra: You know, Drew, I never had a flu shot, but you know, I've written in my newsletters and I've lectured before that, if you are compromised — let's say you're living in a nursing home and you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, so to speak, or you have a little dementia — would a flu shot be good? Most likely, probably. I would recommend it.
A healthy person getting a flu shot? I'm not in favor of that. What I believe, as a physician, is strengthening your own internal milieu, the own environment of the body. So, I would say, let's work on your immune system before we give you a flu shot. But I will say this, if you're used to getting flu shots, and you want a flu shot and if you have a belief that the flu shot is going to take care of you, then so be it, get the flu shot.
Drew Sinatra: I agree completely. There's a subset of the population, the elderly, immune compromised people, that the flu shot can surely benefit. Right? Getting it from? But generally I like to take the approach that you take, which is really strengthen the immune system more naturally. So, let's talk about some of those things.
Steve Sinatra: Yeah, what about vitamin C? I mean everybody hears that, that phrase, vitamin C strengthens the immune system. What do you think about that?
Drew Sinatra: Well, vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that we don't produce in our bodies. And yeah, there are lots of studies showing it has immune-enhancing properties. So I do like to recommend it during this season.
Steve Sinatra: Ditto, I agree. In fact, I take a minimum of a thousand milligrams of vitamin C every day. I actually take my electrolyte drink, and I love it. It's something that I just do every single morning, and I know in my own mind that I'm strengthening the immune system. Not only vitamin C, but vitamin D as well. Vitamin D and C are excellent for the flu. What about all the supplements? What do you like as a naturopath?
Drew Sinatra: Well, I'm big into treating the gut, like we talked about before, and I love products like colostrum, or any of these sort of IGG products out there, these immunoglobulin products, because taking something like colostrum is rich, rich in immune cells. Okay? So, what you're going to do is really support the integrity of the gut. And we know a lot of our immune system resides in and around our intestines. And colostrum, I've found is very effective for boosting overall immunity. I really do like it. So-
Steve Sinatra: So, how do you prescribe it?
Drew Sinatra: Well, people buy generally a powdered form, or if they don't like taking powders, they can take capsules. But generally, it's around one teaspoon twice a day on an empty stomach.
Steve Sinatra: That simple?
Drew Sinatra: That simple.
Steve Sinatra: Any side effects, any heartburn, any indigestion?
Drew Sinatra: Good question. So, there is a small subset of the people out there that take it, who are lactose-intolerant, that react to it. But I'm someone that is generally lactose-intolerant, and I don't react to it. And I find that most patients that are lactose-intolerant do not. But I have had maybe a handful of patients over 10 years react to it. And so, it can happen, but it's pretty rare.
Steve Sinatra: So, colostrum to support the immune system. Well, what about elderberry, echinacea, any of those supplements?
Drew Sinatra: Yeah, those are great herbs to have on board. Echinacea has antiviral properties to it. Elderberry also has antiviral properties, and it has a propensity to support the lungs too, which is good. It acts like a more of a lung tonic, right? So, if you do have, let's say if you've got a cold or something like that, I would definitely bring on some elderberry and some echinacea.
Steve Sinatra: I like inositol cysteine. We talked about this before because it was broken down to glutathione in the presence of selenium and vitamin C, you form glutathione peroxidase, which is the best antioxidant support for the immune system, hands down.
Drew Sinatra: And it's also supporting the lungs, too. So it's a great, great supplement to have on board. Yeah. Now what else do people do besides taking some nutraceuticals, what are some lifestyle things that people can do? Are there foods that we can eat? Are there practices we can do, are there exercises? What do we do to strengthen our immune system? What else?
Steve Sinatra: Well, I remember speaking to an ancient doctor, he was like 90 years old. Years ago, I wrote this in my newsletter — and he used a chicken soup recipe, and he learned it actually from Roman antiquity, from Roman times. I had a conversation with him, and it made so much sense to me.
Literally, Drew, it's like taking a whole chicken, right? Putting about six quarts of water in a pot, boiling, putting the chicken in and cutting up a lot of garlic, garlic has allicin in it, onions, lots of onions. Onions have quercetin in, which supports the immune system. All the volatile oils. You could put some carrots and broccoli, and basically you boil this up. And the secret was, his secret, at a low heat, was boiling this chicken soup cauldron, this recipe, where the cartilage is boiling and basically the bones are breaking down, and you're getting all this essence of the chicken bones inside the broth with the volatile oils.
And you could add some hot pepper to it, or chili pepper or something. But basically when you take this, it becomes fibrinolytic, it lightens up the mucus or tension in your lung, and it frees it up and it helps these people cough and expectorate. It's a natural expectorant. I have to tell you that, when I put this out in my newsletters and when people responded, and they said, "Oh, I caught the flu and this was great, it really helped me, Dr Sinatra, and this was wonderful." So, I use that old ancient Roman recipe from antiquity and I think it's really awesome.
Drew Sinatra: Well, another property that that soup brings, and I've experienced this myself consuming it, is diaphoresis, right? You start sweating when you have this soup, because it's hot, and if you've had some chili peppers in there or whatever it is-
Steve Sinatra: Oh, cayenne pepper.
Drew Sinatra: Cayenne pepper, right? You're going to sweat. And we know that sweating is good, right? It's going to raise your body temperature, the body's natural fever, in a sense. And we know, and we're going to talk about that fevers, this may come as a surprise to people, but fevers are actually a good thing.
Steve Sinatra: Sure. The higher the fever, the more it's going to be, have killing power to, it can be bacteriostatic, bactericidal. Those are the terms we use a medicine, but if it can kill some of these viruses, or bacteria, germs, it's great.
Drew Sinatra: It's, yeah, that's the body's natural attempt to get rid of whatever organism is there. And what I do with naturopathic medicine is, I really try to support the fever as much as I can, but look, there's limitations here, okay. We need to be careful, and our listeners need to be careful here. If your child has a fever of 104, 105 — I mean, they are robust little beings, okay. They are incredible. They can overcome lots of things that we, as adults, cannot. So if they reach 104, 105, yeah, you may want to seek some help there. But generally speaking, if they're at 102, 103, at least with my kids personally, we've had the luxury of not giving them Tylenol to lower fever. We generally support the fever, because we know that supporting a fever is really supporting the immune system, okay. We're building up tolerance and we're getting rid of these infections.
But we do know our limit, too. And I think the viewers listening should be aware that yes, if it's too high of a fever, get some medical help.
Steve Sinatra: Yeah. And basically if the fever goes to 104, 105, a warm, tepid bath can be a way of helping reducing that core temperature as well. But I agree with you. I have a little reluctance about giving pharmaceutical drugs, like Tylenol or Motrin or any of these over-the-counter medications, because, as a physician, I've heard horror stories from people who have taken some of these medications, and look, if you have to use a pharmaceutical drug, let's do it. I'm all in. But if you can use lighter measures beforehand, I'd rather take less riskier options, especially in treating our beloved children.
Again, if you can use a non-pharmaceutical remedy for a high fever, but, Drew, we've got to be cautious here because we don't want to have a child run a fever of 105, 106, and have a febrile convulsion. That's very scary, not only for the child, but the parents alike. So, whatever it takes to get a fever down, including a pharmaceutical, Tylenol or an ibuprofen. Again, we have to strongly consider it.
Drew Sinatra: Yeah, and that's a good point because we didn't want anyone listening to this to assume that the fever is going to run its course and everything, when, look, they can get dangerous, and we need to be really careful around that.
Now we talked about supporting the fever, right? I like to recommend that people bundle up. Something simple they can do during the cold and flu season is bundle up, right? Make sure you got lots of different layers on. In Chinese medicine, they try to protect this layer, this area behind the neck, so wearing scarves or turtlenecks are actually a pretty good option during this time. And I find that that's actually pretty effective for at least preventing someone from getting a cold, is really just bundling up and keeping warm all the time.
Steve Sinatra: Oh, I agree. Now, from the cardiovascular point of view, I can't tell you how many times I've had people with angina go outside into the cold weather, get the cold across their face and their forehead, their ears, and all of a sudden an anginal attack was precipitated by the cold. So you make a very, very good point here.
I mean cold is a, it can actually precipitate a chest discomfort episode that can lead us down to possibly even a heart attack. So I'm glad you mentioned that.
Drew Sinatra: And another, let's call it a low-hanging fruit here that we should definitely discuss, is diet. Something as simple as the foods you're eating can help protect your immune system and support your immune system. So, let's say, number one, I'd say for avoidance would be, what? In your situation, what would you recommend for avoidance of foods? Anything?
Steve Sinatra: Oh, sugars.
Drew Sinatra: Sugar.
Steve Sinatra: I mean, viruses, bacteria. They love sugar. Yeah. Avoid sugars. Take a lot of fluids. Certainly garlic and onions. We talked about that. And again, in World War II, garlic was Russian penicillin. There's so many, I mean garlic has, not only has it killed bacteria and viruses, but even some parasites, as well. Garlic is an amazing nutraceutical to use. Certainly, it is one nutraceutical to support the immune system during the winter months, when these colds and flus are more apparent.
Drew Sinatra: I'm so glad you mentioned that soup recipe, because I think in general, too, when people eat more cooked, warm — let's call them soup-foods, okay. Or different types of stews, or soups, during the winter season. That's another great way to just support digestion and support immunity.
Steve Sinatra: No, I agree. I agree. And a bottom line here, Drew, and the takeaways that we need to give our listeners, is that you don't have to get sick. Okay? But the reframe here is that, look, if you do get a cold and you're blowing your nose every few minutes and the mucus is coming out, you know the reframe here is, when you do have a cold, you're replacing that natural epithelial layer in your upper respiratory tract, and you're taking out the old and you're replacing it with a new epithelium layer.
So, the reframe, and anybody who has a cold is that, "Hey, I'm relinquishing the old and I'm getting new cells here, and this is even going to strengthen my immune system even more." So I really like the reframe of a cold in the sense that, you're going to make your immune system stronger going forward.
Drew Sinatra: Yeah. And if you get sick, here's the deal. You might need to take off a couple of days from work. If you've got a cold, you might need to stay home. You rest, you hydrate, you eat well. You take some nutraceuticals, some supplements that are going to help support your immune system, and you'll get better. Okay? You'll definitely get better, and your immune system has just had this amazing workout, and now you're going to be strengthening it from going forward.
Steve Sinatra: No, I agree. And, touching on this nutraceutical support, I have to tell you, I think the mushroom combinations here, the shiitake, maitake mushrooms, the cordyceps, any of these mushroom combinations, I think what they do is they strengthen natural killer-cell activity, and whenever you do that in the body, you're supporting the immune system.
So, for our listeners, we talked about some takeaways of giving echinacea and feverfew. Well, a little bit of, I mentioned the feverfew for the first time, but basically when we take some of these supplements, or these food varietals we talked about, consider a mushroom preparation.
One of the preparations I like, you can get it online, is the AHCC preparation, which contains some of these mushroom varietals which support the natural killer-cell activity again, which again supports the immune system.
Drew Sinatra: Yeah, I'm happy you mentioned that. Now, we got to talk about something that is obviously, our listeners need to be aware of, and that is antibiotics. They're amazing medicines, but in my opinion, they can be typically overprescribed. And, especially during the season, I can't tell you how many times a patient has had a cold, or an ear infection, and they're given antibiotics, which is really not the best time to take it, because most cases of cold are viral.
So, I just want to make it clear that if you are going to take an antibiotic, really, talk to your doctor it and ask, "Is this a viral condition? Is this really a bacterial condition? Why are we taking this?" And if you are going to take an antibiotic, make sure you're replenishing the gut flora afterward.
Steve Sinatra: Absolutely, couldn't agree more. Well said, Drew.
Drew Sinatra: All right, three takeaways I want our listeners to go home with here are, if you do get sick, hey, it's not necessarily a bad thing. I look at it as, if you get sick once or twice a year, that's okay. There's a problem if you're getting sick every single month, and that needs to be looked at.
Number two would be, there's so many different preventative things that we can do, right, to strengthen our immune system, to combat these viruses and such. So, there's a lot to do there.
And three, if you do get sick, right? There's lots of different ways to speed up the recovery.
Steve Sinatra: Absolutely, Drew, and again, I just want to emphasize the sweating, using the blankets like we've talked about before. But I have to tell you, I remember I had a cold last year and I went in my infrared sauna. And again, I have this belief that, if you go into a hot environment with a viral infection or a bacterial infection, and you raise that core temperature, this in itself can be bactericidal or bacteriostatic to those invading organisms. So, heat therapy really works. I just want to emphasize that again, because even if you don't have a sauna at home, if you sweat out the cold or the virus, I think that's a remarkable way of, again, getting rid of the illness.
Drew Sinatra: Yeah, and if you're going to do the sweating, whether it is through a sauna, whether it's bundling up underneath your covers and inducing a sweat, make sure that you're replenishing with water, proper hydration, electrolytes if you need them. Some people like to do the warming teas, even a ginger tea is going to help you. So, make sure you're hydrating, because you don't want to get a headache. You don't want to feel dehydrated when you're sick. That's the worst feeling in the world. So, make sure you hydrate.
Drew Sinatra: Before we wrap up, I wanted to share our Wellness Wisdom for the day. We've been talking about colds and the flu today, and one of the points we discussed was the importance of a fever, and why it's actually a good thing for our bodies. A fever is the body's natural attempt to get rid of whatever organism is causing harm. So, you want to support the fever as much as possible, because we know that supporting a fever is really supporting the immune system.
We're building up a tolerance to these infections, but there are limitations, of course. If you, or your child, has a very high fever, say 104 or higher, or you're really suspicious that something bad is going on, it's important to get the proper medical treatment.
So, how do we support a fever, in parents or kids, without being totally miserable with the chills, aches and sweats that come along with it? In the spirit of using more natural solutions versus over-the-counter medications to ease fever symptoms, there are a few nutraceuticals that I recommend to my patients, including vitamin C, zinc, probiotics, and vitamin D.
And here are some additional suggestions that can help. Drink plenty of fluids, to help prevent dehydration. Eat light foods, that are easy to digest. Get plenty of rest. Take a slightly warm, not cool, bath or apply damp wash cloths to the forehead, chest, or back of neck. Dress in layers, so that you can manage your comfort level. And some things that we like to do in our family is a warming socks treatment, and making a spicy chicken soup.
We will provide links to all this information on our website. Hopefully, some of these tips will help you navigate you, or your child's, next fever with less misery.
Drew Sinatra: Remember everyone, if you liked what you heard today and you want to be an active member of the Be HEALTHistic community, subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you download your favorites, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. You can also find more great content and information from us, and the Healthy Directions team, at HealthyDirections.com, as well as on our social media channels. Check it out.
All right, well that's it for today. I'm Dr Drew Sinatra.
Steve Sinatra: And I'm Dr Steve Sinatra.
Drew Sinatra: This is Be HEALTHistic.
Narrator: Thanks for listening to Be HEALTHistic, powered by our friends at Healthy Directions, with doctors Drew and Steve Sinatra. See you next time.
We hope you enjoyed the show. If you have any comments, show or guest ideas, please send us an email at [email protected].
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