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Fever and Flu

by Sebastian Pole(more info)

listed in ayurveda, originally published in issue 146 - April 2008

At the front of every textbook on Ayurvedic treatments comes the chapter on fever. Fever is the first disease discussed in Ayurveda because it can be so serious if not treated effectively, leading to complications such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, wasting and even death. The 20th century saw three flu pandemics around the world which killed tens of millions of people. Normally you do not need to worry, as severe symptoms occur at a rate of less than 0.1% in most flu outbreaks, but the elderly, children or the weak need to be especially careful. As everyone experiences a fever from time-to-time, it is important to know the causes and how to cure it.

Cause

There are numerous ways in which a flu virus can pass from person to person, but they mainly travel through the air after sneezing. Ayurveda firmly believes that the quality of the body’s health and immune system influence whether you are more likely to contract the flu or not. Living a lifestyle that allows for toxic build up and lowered immunity increases your chances. Prevention starts a long way before the flu season because once you have it, flu exerts serious symptoms, making you feel extremely ill.

At the heart of Ayurvedic prevention is diet. Incorrect food and wrong eating habits disturb the digestive system which leads to ‘undigested toxins’ accumulating in the stomach. This create a ‘ toxic terrain’ that is susceptible for infections to occur. These toxins then overflow from the stomach into circulatory system and the exterior of the body.

An incorrect diet is excessive in food that:
•    Is too sweet, sticky, oily;
•    Is taken before the previous meal has been digested;
•    Causes allergenic reactions;
•    Is incompatible (eating milk and fruit together);
•    Is constitutionally inappropriate for the person eating the food (i.e. overweight people eating ice cream in the middle of winter). See one of my other articles on healthy eating to learn more about this crucial subject.

All these above mentioned foods and dietary habits cause the dietary source of ‘toxins’ that cause the symptoms that we will now discuss.

The Signs of an Impending Fever

Essentially you feel lousy; increase in body temperature, chilly, sore throat, body stiffness, muscle aches, headache, disturbed digestion, unusual bowel habits, lack of appetite, fatigue, blocked nose, sneezing, nausea, watery eyes and mental restlessness are common symptoms. Generally feeling unwell, heavy and weak are part and parcel of the flu.

A lot of these symptoms are coming from the effect of our immune system fighting the virus. Certain proteins in the body, known as ‘cytokines’ cause inflammation which can induce headaches and muscle aches1. These symptoms, uncomfortable that they are, really are a positive sign that your body is fighting back.

Treatment

Ayurvedic treatment involves opposing the causes and symptoms of the disease. This means:
•    Clearing toxins;
•    Correcting the digestive fire;
•    Clearing any obstruction in the channels;
•    Reducing the fever and removing malaise;
•    Normalising the dosha.

And this is achieved through:
•    Fasting
•    Sweating
•    Waiting/patience
•    Light diet
•    Bitter drugs
•    Detoxification

1.    Fasting: It’s pretty simple when you have a fever. Most people feel too ill to eat. Take a liquid diet of vegetable broths or just hot ginger water. This alleviates the aggravated dosha and stimulates the appetite;

2.    Encourage a sweat using a simple spicy herbal tea or traditional diaphoretic sweat-inducing herbs like fresh ginger, peppermint, yarrow and elderflower (½tsp of each per cup). Drink at least five cups of this a day during the fever. You obviously need to be careful of the temperature rising too high here; if you are concerned wrap a towel soaked in cold water around your head. I might encourage an Epsom salt bath as well. Use two cups of Epsom salt in a bath. This sweating process has profound effects; it clears toxins, raises the body temperature to a point that kills the virus and then helps to normalize the body temperature, it cleans the digestive tract and leaves you feeling refreshed and renewed;

3.    At the first sign of fever Andrographis (2 caps 3x/day) is a simple and bitter remedy to help assist the body’s own response to the fever. It has been shown to increase the white blood cell count and help the body fight infections;

4.    Ayurveda always uses a mild purgative regime after a fever breaks. This is to expel the remaining ama and correct the digestive system. I often use castor oil (2 tsp at night) or Triphala Plus mixture;

5.    Follow with a preventative regime that will reduce the chances of a reoccurrence. Use a strong digestive formula before meals, such as Asafoetida Plus or Trikatu, to promote digestion and burn out toxins;

6.    Use Chywanaprash after a fever to help rebuild your strength;

7.    Return to a nourishing and wholesome diet.

This Ayurvedic wisdom will see you back to flourishing health from the ravages of fever.

References

1.    Eccles, R (2005). Understanding the symptoms of the common cold and influenza. Lancet Infect Dis. 5(11): 718-25.

Further information

Caceres J, et al. Prevention of Common Colds with Andrographis Paniculata Dried Extract: A Pilot Double-Blind Trial. Phytomedicine. 4(2):101-104. 1997
Cannell, J; Vieth R, Umhau J, Holick M, Grant W, Madronich S, Garland C, Giovannucci E (2006). Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiol Infect. 134(6): 1129-40.
Kligler B, Ulbricht C, Basch E, Kirkwood CD, Abrams TR, Miranda M, Singh Khalsa KP, Giles M, Boon H, Woods J. Andrographis Paniculata for the Treatment of Upper Respiratory Infection: A Systematic Review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Explore (NY). 2(1): 25-9. Review. 2006 Jan.
Potter, CW (Oct 2006). A History of Influenza. J Appl Microbiol. 91(4): 572-579.
WHO, Influenza. Fact sheet N°211 revised March 2003.
For a longer version of this article go to www.pukkaherbs.com ‘latest articles’.

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About Sebastian Pole

Sebastian Pole Lic OHM Ayur HC MAPA MRCHM MURHP is an Ayurvedic practitioner and Herbal Director of Pukka Herbs which offers 100% organic Ayurvedic remedies and teas, produced to high ethical standards, from herbs grown by farmers who are paid a fair wage. For more information, see www.pukkaherbs.com  or Tel: 0117 9640944. Sebastian's clinic is Tel:  01225 466944 or see his website for more information www.sebastianpole.com/

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