Some natural health advice for beating H1N1 from Canadian experts

by Viet-Lien (Alice) Hoang

24/09/09

Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine is like my Bible,” said Jennifer Cormier, as she purchased her usual apple cider vinegar; she takes a teaspoon of it every day to cleanse her body.

Cormier described herself as a big believer in healthy living; hemp seed oil is among her favourite items at Healthy Planet, an organic store located in Markham, as she “can’t go without her daily fix of hemp butter on flax seed bread.”

While medical doctors advise us to cough into our sleeves and use hand sanitizer as preventive measures for the H1N1 flu virus, many people like Jennifer Cormier are listening instead to traditional healers who encourage maintaining a balanced lifestyle, an important factor in achieving good health.

A recent article from CBC.ca says that according to 2005-2006 figures from The Fraser Institute “about two-thirds of Canadians have used alternative medicines or therapies at some point, and in total spent about $7.8 billion out of pocket on visits to alternative health care providers, herbs, books, vitamins and medical equipment.”

Cormier said that she hasn’t done anything differently to try to stay safe from the H1N1 flu virus above and beyond what she normally does to promote good health.

“I don’t wear a face mask, but I do sanitize my hands, which has always been a habit of mine anyway,” Cormier said.

She is interested in remedies that will not only heal her physical aspect, but also her mind and spirit.

“Instead of going to the doctor who will give you a prescription for an over-the-counter drug, I simply resort to my ‘Bible’ and make visits to places like The Big Carrot Natural Food Market and Essence of Life Organics to get natural and organic products to make my home-made remedies,” she said.

Anishnawbe Health Toronto is dedicated to healing Aboriginals’ physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional states through holistic practices.  The health organization’s website, aht.ca, says that traditional healers, elders, and medicine people teach the importance of living in balance and harmony with all of creation; their songs, dances, stories, prayers, and ceremonies introduce “many dimensions of healing, growth, and development.”

With mounting concerns about the H1N1 flu virus, particularly in remote and isolated regions, including First Nation communities in Northern Manitoba, traditional healers are looking to work with scientists and medical doctors on the idea of combining natural remedies and Western medicine. Dr. Chandrakant Shah told The Canadian Press that the combination could work to create a “synergy.”

“First Nation communities in Northern Manitoba are actively discussing what role traditional practices might play in pandemic planning,” said David Thomas, Health Canada’s media relations officer.  “We respect the value of traditional healing and continue to work towards comprehensive and holistic approaches to addressing H1N1 that draw from both clinical and traditional practices.”

Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients for keeping our immune systems strong and resistant to viruses and diseases, said Dr. Cindy Wan (she’s asked us not to publish her real name) , a family physician in Scarborough.

People living in the high Arctic are more susceptible to certain diseases, as they lack the nutrients which their traditional diets once had; they also suffer from Vitamin D deficiency due to low UV rays; but it would need to be confirmed scientifically whether or not Vitamin D is an issue, Wan said.

Foods such as flax seed and fish, particularly salmon and cod, are rich in Vitamin D; in addition to having two servings of fish a week, taking a tablespoon of fish oil daily is also beneficial, Wan said.

Wan said that while other foods, like yogurt and cheese, are also a source of Vitamin D, the amount of nutrients that are processed are not sufficient, and a greater quantity of the particular food would be needed to meet the daily recommended intake of the nutrient.

People tend to overlook simple preventative measures that should be taken to protect themselves from contracting the H1N1 flu virus, Wan said.  Mental health and physical health are interrelated; by reducing their stress levels, people are likely to improve their overall well being, while exercising can help relieve stress, and naturally make them more resilient to illnesses, Wan said.

Although Wan has never used traditional medicine herself, she knows of people who have used them with success.

“I do believe that natural remedies are beneficial.  I suppose it’s just that I’ve never been really ill to actually use it for myself,” Wan said.

For colds and sore throats, she recommended taking natural lemon and honey mixed in warm water, which is a simple enough remedy that can be made at home.

She suggested that the best we can do right now to protect ourselves from the flu, like trying to avoid any other illness, is to maintain good hygiene and a strong immune system through exercise and a balanced, nutritious diet.

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