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Seasonal Flu? It's Really More "Sugar-Flu"

There is a certain time of the year when a lot of people get runny noses, sore throats, coughs, swollen glands and low-grade fevers. This "flu season" (that's the way it's promoted) runs from about mid-October through the spring.

Although some people truly "catch" a virus, over the years I've observed other situations that manifest the same symptoms. Knowing the cause of the symptoms is key in knowing how to address them.

The first of these occurs when a drop in the temperature begins. Many people's bodies begin a spontaneous detoxification. Many times the body begins eliminating previously ingested dairy products. This frequently results in mucus formation, causing runny noses and productive coughs. Having the body do this is a beneficial process and should be allowed to run its course. Taking an antihistamine or decongestant can stop the process and contribute to a heavier toxic load for the body in the long run.

The next "cause" of flu season is what I call sugar season. It starts with Halloween (or a few weeks earlier if the candy is sneaked earlier), continues through Thanksgiving, gets a big boost at Christmas, continues with Super Bowl parties, gets a big chocolate smooch at Valentine’s Day, and ends off with Easter candy.

If your body is functioning well, when you overindulge in sugar it creates mucus in an attempt to eliminate it right away. Again, this can create a runny nose, a productive cough, etc. I've found that the children in my practice tend to dump the sugar they eat very quickly after they take it in. Most of their parents know that sugar detox is a strong possibility and don't head off to get an unnecessary prescription. If the detox symptoms are really intense, frequently a homeopathic remedy can ease them pretty quickly.

One thing I’ve "always known" is that sugar negatively affects the body's ability to fight infections. In one of my post-doctorate courses I got some specific info on why that is true. A normal, average healthy white blood cell can destroy an average of 13 germs. If you eat a piece of pie (approximately 6 teaspoons of sugar), the white blood cell can only destroy 10 germs. If you have pie with ice cream (approximately 12.5 teaspoons of sugar) your average white blood cell can only destroy 5.5 germs.

An elevated blood sugar level decreases the ability of the white blood cells to work. This explains why diabetic patients generally have a lower resistance to infections (as their blood sugar levels are increased).

With this information it can be more easily understood why the body can be more susceptible to infections that are "going around" if you overindulge during sugar season. When you add other holiday stresses such as shopping frenzy, added financial demands, and the disappointments from unfulfilled holiday expectations or family bickering, it can be ripe territory for viruses and bacteria to take hold and cause their havoc.

If you do have an actual viral or bacterial infection (versus a beneficial detoxification) it is important to differentiate between the two. An antibiotic won't have any effect on a viral infection but will disrupt the beneficial bacteria that you have in your digestive system.

Many doctors are now trained in different methods of muscle testing that can differentiate between these two situations. You could also have a simple blood test or perhaps a nasal or throat swab test to see if you have a bacterial infection. Frequently, even if it is a simple bacterial infection, it can be resolved without antibiotics - if you catch it fast and do things to help your body handle it.

A few years ago I was introduced to an herbal product that I swear by. As far as I'm concerned it is a cure for the common cold and many other things, too. It is a combination of organic mashed garlic, horseradish root, onion, jalapeño peppers and ginger root in an apple cider vinegar base.

Many local physicians’ offices and herbal shops sell a version of this and it is also quite easy to make yourself. The amount of peppers can be toned down some for children or mild-tongued adults such as myself. The instant my body tests positive for an infection I start taking a dropperful every 30 to 60 minutes or so. Annoying cold symptoms that had started are almost always totally gone in less than 24 hours.

When “flu season” rolls around, it is more important than ever to protect and strengthen your body’s immune system. Bacteria and viruses are part of our environment, as they always have been. Using this information, however, you can be aware that some “colds” or “flus” are merely detoxification.

And now you know how to help keep your little white blood cells as feisty as ever, in case you do run into something more “virulent.”

Note: If you have kids, check out “Practical Solutions to Sugar-Ween” in the Health Articles section of my website at