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What you need to know about flu season and how to avoid a twindemic


By: Justin Ceravolo, pharmacist for Cypress Pharmacy

With the resurgence of new COVID-19 variants, the message to get vaccinated for the flu is loud and clear. The sooner, the better.

The typical flu season peaks from December to February, with 40 to 50 million flu illnesses, 800,000 hospitalizations and between 30,000 to 60,000 deaths annually.

However, last flu season could hardly be considered typical amid the year of COVID outbreaks and heightened safety measures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu activity hit historical lows for the 2020-21 season. And while that may sound like a big win, it also has health officials concerned for what’s to come.

What’s Coming?

Reduced population immunity due to the lack of flu activity could mean more severe outbreaks and an earlier than normal start for the 2021-22 season, according to the CDC.

As new COVID cases continue to climb, stakes are higher for flu patients due to limited hospital capacity, and the looming threat of coinfection.

That’s why it’s vital to schedule your flu shot appointment early before viruses begin to spread. It takes approximately 14 days after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide the adequate amount of protection.

Flu Amid COVID

One of the major challenges of having influenza circulating among the coronavirus is their overlapping symptoms, which include fever, chills and body aches, along with upper respiratory symptoms, pneumonia, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

While there are a few symptoms they don’t have in common – like losing your sense of taste and smell – people should get tested for both flu and COVID if symptoms arise.

Scientists are still studying the severe and deadly impacts of coinfection among patients with both flu and COVID-19, assured that vaccinations are the best option for developing immunity against any dangerous disease.

Vax Facts

According to the CDC, flu vaccination prevents tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year. During the 2019-2020 season, studies show the flu shot prevented an estimated 105,000 flu-related hospitalizations.

Last flu season, out of an abundance of caution, receiving the influenza and coronavirus vaccines at the same time were not recommended. But with further research, this guidance has changed.

In fact, the CDC revealed it is safe and effective to get both shots on the same day, which is co-administered to different arms to reduce pain and swelling.

The CDC recommends annual flu shots for all people ages 6 months and older, with rare exceptions, and is fully covered by most health insurance plans without the need for copayment. And despite common misconceptions, the vaccine cannot cause flu illness. Some may experience soreness at the injection site or a headache, stuffy nose and sore throat that generally only last for a day, however, most people have no symptoms after getting the shot.

While the flu shot was once not recommended for those who were allergic to eggs, the CDC now advises that even people with egg allergies should receive an annual flu shot. To avoid any confusion, it’s important to consult a health care professional, pharmacist or credible source with any questions on the flu vaccine.

Staying protected

So, how will this year’s flu season pan out? The answer depends on us.

Along with the most common practices to prevent the spread of viruses – washing your hands and covering a cough or sneeze – take other important precautions to reduce your risk.

  • Get vaccinated
  • Practice social distancing
  • Wear a face mask in public, indoor settings

As flu season begins to move in, now is the time to roll up our sleeves for better health.

Can Vitamin D Reduce Covid-19 Infections?

Vitamin D

Currently, we are in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic. From all indications, it appears that vitamin D has a potential role in reducing the risk of respiratory tract infections, including the coronavirus and seasonal influenza.

Through several mechanisms, vitamin D has proven to have the ability to lower viral replication rates and reduce concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which produce the inflammation that injures the lining of the lungs. Observational studies and clinical trials reported that vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of influenza as well. Its positive impact on the immune system is undeniable. Functional medicine physicians and healthcare providers knowledgeable in nutrition suggest the following vitamin D3 supplement levels to reduce the risk of infection from Covid-19 and influenza. Consider taking 10,000 international units per day of vitamin D3 for a couple weeks to rapidly raise vitamin D concentrations, followed by a maintenance dose of 5,000 international units per day. The goal should be to increase vitamin D concentrations above 60ng/ml. For the treatment of people who become infected with Covid-19, higher vitamin D3 doses might be needed. Randomized controlled studies and clinical trials with a large population should be conducted to evaluate these recommendations further.

How Does Vitamin D Affect Immune Health?

Vitamin D is vital for the proper functioning of your immune system, which is your body’s first line of defense against infection and disease. The vitamin plays a crucial role in promoting immune response. It has multiple properties, including being both anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory. It is known to enhance the function of immune cells, including T-cells and macrophages, that protect the body against various pathogens.

Lower levels of vitamin D have been directly linked to an increased risk of respiratory diseases, including tuberculosis, asthma, and COPD, as well as viral and bacterial respiratory pathogens. This known fact, obviously, puts individuals with any of these conditions at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. What’s more, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with decreased lung function, which may affect your body’s ability to fight respiratory infections. Prolonged vitamin D deficiency has been well documented in clinical studies to be linked to severe diseases such as all types of cancer, depression, and autoimmune diseases like Lupus, for example.

Can Taking Vitamin D Protect Against Covid-19?

At this time, there is no cure or specific treatment for Covid-19. There are no studies to my knowledge that have investigated the effect of vitamin D supplementation or vitamin D deficiency on the risk of contracting the new coronavirus. Still, studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency can harm immune function and increase your risk of developing respiratory illnesses. Vitamin D supplements have also been shown to reduce mortality in older adults, which we have learned, are at the highest risk for contracting coronavirus. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to have your provider test your vitamin D levels to determine whether you have a deficiency of this vital nutrient.

More About the “Sunshine Vitamin”

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient essential to the health and functioning of your immune system. It enhances white blood cells that are necessary parts of your immune defense. When skin is exposed to sunlight, the cholesterol (fat under the skin) makes vitamin D, giving it the nickname the “sunshine vitamin.” We can also get it from dietary sources. Foods that provide vitamin D include fish like salmon, sardines, and trout. Also, legumes, eggs, beef, and extra virgin cod liver oil.

It is essential for many other health reasons, including:

  1. Increasing the absorption of calcium and phosphorous in the small intestine for healthy bones
  2. Improving the nervous system and brain health
  3. Immune system enhancement supporting B and T cells to fight infections
  4. Strengthening lung function
  5. Helping maintain healthy blood pressure and regulating blood sugar in diabetics. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicated individuals with lower vitamin D had higher levels of systolic blood pressure and, in type II diabetics, lower levels of insulin resistance.

Vitamin D3 is considered to be the most natural form of vitamin D and also the best absorbed.

Lifestyle Medicine and Vitamin D

While Big Pharma rushes to develop an FDA approved treatment or vaccine for coronavirus, there are lifestyle measures that can naturally boost the immune system that you can proactively implement into your daily regimen immediately. Here are my favorites…

  1. Stay hydrated – this keeps your lungs moist and mucus flowing to clear the lungs and minimize infections.
  2. Drink green or black tea – these teas contain tremendous antioxidant polyphenols that support immune system function while fighting off free radicals.
  3. Get good quality sleep – this is one of the most crucial self- practices to maintain a healthy immune system, and keep hormones in balance.
  4. Limit sugar intake – eliminating or reducing inflammatory foods like sugar helps build immunity and allow for faster recovery if infected. A study out of Loma Linda University in California stated that excess sugar-reduced white blood cell function by as much as 40%.
  5. Keeping stress and anxiety in check – mindfulness, deep abdominal breathing, meditation, prayer, listening to music, mild exercise to release endorphins is also crucial.
  6. Laugh more – A study from Harvard Medical Center showed that humor might still be the best medicine by boosting the immune system.
  7. Maintain social network and family relationships – remotely, studies confirm staying socially connected keeps the immune system happy and intact.
  8. Keep a positive mental attitude – this is a powerful tool as the brain responds to healthy thoughts. Feed your brain what it needs. You have a choice of what you put into your mind. Thoughts are things. They matter.
  9. Acceptance– Let go of things out of your control
  10. Take targeted nutritional supplements that have anti-viral and immune-supportive properties. These include :
    1. probiotics – 70% of your immune cells reside in the digestive tract
    2. vitamin C
    3. vitamin D3
    4. immune support herbal formulas with medicinal mushrooms, astragalus, and olive leaf extract
    5. zinc
    6. elderberry
    7. glutathione
    8. turmeric
    9. CBD oil

Maintaining a healthy immune system is crucial, not just in this current pandemic, but every day. Consider practicing some of the above lifestyle tools today. Your body and mind will be grateful!

Best Practices to Avoid Viral Illnesses

best practices

We believe that a pharmacy should not only take care of you when you are sick but prevent you from getting sick in the first place.

There are several simple best practices that health experts say are beneficial to avoiding many illnesses, particularly important during cold and flu season.

Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, coronavirus and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are spread by cough, sneezing or unclean hands.

Cold and flu viruses may be spread by indirect contact. For example, someone who is sick sneezes onto their hand and touches a doorknob, only to potentially transmit the virus to the next person who touches the doorknob. Viruses that cause colds and flu can survive on common surfaces for up to 72 hours.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), handwashing, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing can help prevent infections and even help prevent skin and eye infections, including:

  • Reducing the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-40%
  • Reducing diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%
  • Reducing respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%
  • Reducing absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57%.

Correct handwashing is the key to getting the most protection from germs. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Handwashing is still highly preferred. If hand sanitizer is unavailable for purchase, there are recipes to make your own online.

Here are steps recommended by the CDC for effective handwashing:

  • Rinse hands under clean running water if available. The temperature of the water does not appear to affect microbe removal.
  • Use soap to wash hands because it helps to lift soil and microbes from the skin, and people tend to scrub more thoroughly when using soap. Studies show that antibacterial ingredients are not necessarily more beneficial than plain soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap, including the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails, where high concentrations of microbes are often found. Lathering and scrubbing creates friction, which helps lift dirt, grease, and microbes.
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds, the equivalent of humming the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice or singing the ABC song (30 seconds).
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. Some recommendations include using a paper towel to turn off the faucet after rinsing, but there are no studies to show it improves health.
  • Dry your hands on a single-use or clean towel or air dry them.

In addition to protecting yourself from becoming ill, the CDC says frequent, effective handwashing helps the whole community stay healthier. Preventing sickness reduces the amount of antibiotics people use and the likelihood that antibiotic resistance will develop. Reducing the number of infections by washing hands frequently helps prevent the overuse of antibiotics – the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Handwashing can also prevent people from getting sick with germs that are already resistant to antibiotics and that can be difficult to treat.

Other tips for avoiding illness include:

  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick. Adults with the flu can spread it to others starting the day before they first feel sick – and up to 5 to 7 days after they first feel symptoms. Children may be able to spread the flu for even longer than 7 days. If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. (Your fever should be gone without using fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – whether or not you have the flu. Throw the tissue in the trash. Coughing into your elbow will also reduce the virus that could cling to your bare hands and be transmitted to others.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, and nose, allowing germs to get into the body.
  • Clean surfaces and objects that may have germs on them, like doorknobs. Use hot, soapy water or a household cleaner.
  • Taking targeted immune-boosting vitamins and supplements like zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, and selenium during high-risk periods can also protect against the onset of viral syndromes.
  • Studies show probiotics with proper strains balance intestinal bacteria and increase immunity.
  • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Water can help strengthen your immune system, keeping the illness at bay. If you do get sick, water flushes your system, rehydrates you and washes out the toxins.

You have probably seen people wearing face masks in public places. The CDC does not recommend that people who are not sick wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illness. Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of illness to help prevent the spread of disease. Wearing a mask when sick is especially important around people whose immune system is compromised or the elderly.

Most importantly, stay informed. Knowing what precautions you can take and where to go to get credible information, such as the CDC at cdc.gov or World Health Organization at who.int is the best way to make plans to protect yourself and others.

Cypress Pharmacy’s staff of caring professionals is always available with answers and information regarding your medication and wellness questions. However, our professionals are not equipped to test for or diagnose Coronavirus. If you have symptoms of a viral illness including coughing, shortness of breath or fever, please consult your nearest medical professional.

Learn what vitamins & supplements are best for you in order to stay healthy with a FREE consultation.

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Dark Chocolate Hits Top 5 Immune Products

dark chocolate

Did you know that dark chocolate is now considered to be a powerful antioxidant and may help you during the cold and flu season?  Considering that the flu season appears to have more new cases this year compared to last, dark chocolate might just be your new “rescue remedy”.

Thanks to its unique, rich and sweet taste, the sales of dark chocolate from the best chocolatiers continue to soar rapidly across the country and around the globe. Most people do not realize the health benefits that can be generated from such great tasting “medicine”.

Nutritional Studies Tout Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

There is a growing number of natural health studies demonstrating the health benefits of dark chocolate consumption.  Small studies presented at the Experimental Biology 2018 conference and published in the FASEB journal from Loma Linda University in California, indicated the positive effects of dark chocolate on overall general wellness.  From this, it was determined that the chocolate containing (70%) cacao concentration or more had the highest impact on various health conditions.  In other words, the higher the concentration of the cacao, the better.

Some Salient Facts About Chocolate

Chocolate is made from Theobroma cacao tree seeds.  It is now acknowledged scientifically that higher concentrations from the seeds produce the highest amount of antioxidants.  Antioxidants, as you recall, help fight off free radicals.  Free radicals may cause damage to your DNA and other cell damage which includes causing a normal cell to change and become an abnormal cell.  Additionally, this may manifest as some form of chronic disease including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.  Milk chocolate, on the other hand, has not shown the same health benefits.  It also contains less iron, magnesium, and naturally does not contain the antioxidant levels needed.

What Are the Experts Saying?

From all indications, it appears that dark chocolate is now one of the top food supplements to boost the immune system, as well as provide other anti-aging properties.  A study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggested its ability to lower cholesterol and decrease LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or what is known as our “bad cholesterol”.

A study out of Harvard Medical School showed a positive effect on cognition and memory decline specifically.  Another clinical study from the British Medical Journal indicated cardiovascular improvement and reduction of heart disease by 33% with regular consumption of dark chocolate.  More research published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition showed its potential to boost available oxygen in athletes.  Scientists believe the success of dark chocolate is due to it containing flavanols known as epicatechins, which can boost nitric oxide levels in the blood.

All of this is good news for chocolate lovers, but even most impressive is the noted benefit it has on increasing the expression of genes involved in the activation of T-cells.  As you may know, our T-cells are also known as T- lymphocytes and are the white blood cells that help us fight off all types of infections, whether, bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic.  Furthermore, other benefits of eating the dark chocolate before bedtime can improve sleep by helping to relax the nervous system utilizing the magnesium present in the chocolate.

Dark Chocolate, Nutrition, Immunity, And Genetics. What’s the Connection?

Understanding that chocolate has the potential to increase the expression of certain genes involved in boosting the immune system via white blood cell and T-cell activation, it is most interesting relative to fighting off the enemy and entourage of germs, for preventing infections and reducing the autoimmune response.  Researchers are just now beginning to understand how genes affect nutrition and overall immunity.  It turns out, the probability of contracting many diseases is or can be influenced by genetics.  The association between a healthy balanced diet, nutritional supplementation, exercise, and chronic diseases including cancer is well-known.  Nutrients supplied by food are known to be important variables in gene expression throughout the body.

What Have We Learned So Far?

  1. The immune system declines as we age, making us more susceptible to various diseases and pathogens.
  2. Immune system health is closely related to stress, frequency of exercise, and nutritional status. Poor intake of vital nutrients including supplements that enhance the immune system is associated with depressed immune response and increased rate of disease.  Knowing that 90% of adults are nutritionally deficient, immune-boosting nutrients including dark chocolate can make a difference.
  3. The immune system has two primary defense mechanisms: natural, which uses white blood cells and physical barriers to protect against disease, and acquired, in which, specialized cells generate antibodies to defend against specific pathogens.
  4. Inflammation is caused by multiple factors including microorganisms, physical stress, tissue death, and inappropriate immune response. In addition, knowing that nearly 70% of inflammation comes from the gut with its abundance of serotonin receptors, dark chocolate could prove invaluable to individuals who are diagnosed with leaky gut ( when small pores or openings in the lining of the gut allow toxins and bacteria to flow directly into the bloodstream.

Supporting a Healthy Immune System

A healthy immune system becomes ever more important as we begin to age.  Seniors are at high risk due to multiple factors related to metabolic, hormonal, increased prescription drug use, digestive disorders, and stress-related nervous system dysfunction.  We know that a healthy immune status is closely associated with good nutrition, a healthy diet, moderate exercise, hydration, stress reduction, and quality sleep.  Many times, sleep is overlooked.  Studies show a direct link between insomnia and increased incidence of infections due to poor immune response.  Older people are especially at risk, due to the majority of them with histories of some type of sleep disorder.

Maybe, this holiday season, toss the guilt aside, and indulge in a therapeutic dose of dark chocolate, the “sweetest immune booster”, and fight off the flu the 2020 way.

Tips for Staying Healthy During Flu Season


Flu season arrives during the Fall just in time for the holidays, and it lasts until Spring. It is no coincidence that the number of illnesses such as colds, pneumonia, and the flu drastically increase during the fall months when family and friends all come together.  During the recent flu season, over 40 million people in the United States got sick and over 60 thousand people died. Numbers have not significantly improved from previous years before which means that too many people are still risking their lives every year by not properly protecting themselves from contracting these illnesses. Contracting a cold or any other respiratory-related illness increases our chance of also contracting the much more serious influenza virus. Furthermore, getting older, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, and other medical conditions cause our immune system to become weaker. So, what can you do to protect yourself during the flu season?

Many of us may know that eating healthy, exercising, drinking plenty of water and taking Vitamin C and Zinc will help our immune system and allow us to recover faster when we are sick. There is another key player that most people do not know about, and it is called a probiotic. A probiotic is a supplement that consists of healthy microorganisms or healthy bacteria that supply our intestines with health-promoting microbes. These microbes find their home in the mucous membranes of our respiratory system and help support our immune system in the fight against the foreign invaders that lead to infections. Studies have shown that patients taking a probiotic blend had a 75% reduction in flu and flu-like illnesses and a nearly 40% reduction in colds compared to patients that took a placebo (pills with no active ingredients).  The studies also showed that patients with an active respiratory illness who took a probiotic supplement experienced a reduction in duration and severity. When selecting a good probiotic, it is highly recommended to choose a product that also contains a prebiotic blend. Prebiotics serve as fuel for probiotics, supplying the probiotics with nutrients that the healthy bacteria need in order to survive and flourish.

Experts from Fullscript, an online dispensary for over-the-counter supplements, also stress the importance of taking supplements containing Beta-glucans and Colostrum. Beta-glucans can be mainly found in fungi and oats and play an important role in lymphocyte function. Colostrum is found in the milk of mammals during the first 72 hours of their baby’s life and is high in antibodies. These two supplements, along with the other supplements mentioned, will result in a decreased chance of getting respiratory infections and reduce the duration of current respiratory infections.

Another very important precaution we can take in order to protect ourselves during the flu season is to get a flu vaccination! There are many misconceptions about the flu shot, which have caused many people to avoid getting their yearly vaccination. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has investigated these misconceptions and posted their results on their website. Let’s review some common misconceptions:

Can the flu shot give me the flu? 

Flu vaccinations are only made in two ways, either with inactivated(dead) forms of the virus or with a single partial live gene, which causes an immune response but cannot cause an active infection, because only a full virus can cause influenza.

Do I really need to get a flu shot every year?

YES. The CDC recommends annual vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older due to the possibility of change in the previous year’s influenza strain and the fact that our immune systems change and can be compromised at any point each year.

The flu shot causes me to get sick.

It is possible to get a slight fever, headache, and muscle aches for just a couple days after getting the flu shot. However, the most common reactions to the flu shot include redness and soreness only at the injection site. For anyone with a phobia of needles, just remember that influenza immunization has been approved for everyone 6 months of age and older. The needles used for influenza immunizations are so small that patients may not even know when their doctor or pharmacist is giving them the shot if the patient is looking the other way, and it only takes seconds to receive.

I got the flu shot and still got the flu.

The flu is often confused with flu-like illnesses, such as a cold or other respiratory infection; therefore, see a doctor before drawing any conclusions. Since full immunity does take two weeks after getting vaccinated, it is possible that someone can contract the flu either right before getting immunized or during the two-week gap period. Again, this is why it is very important to take the correct supplements in order to protect yourself from contracting the flu and other respiratory illnesses.

I never get sick; therefore, I do not need to get vaccinated.

Think of vaccination like insurance. No one wants to get sick, but in the rare case that you come into contact with the influenza virus, wouldn’t you like to be covered? Our immune system is constantly changing and unfortunately gets weaker as we get older. Most insurance companies pay for the full cost of the vaccination, and it only takes seconds to receive. Furthermore, a healthy unvaccinated person can contract the virus and never get a full-on infection, but they can transmit the virus to another person. Therefore, vaccination not only protects you but also anyone else you come into contact with.

To do a quick recap, here are the quick recommendations to keep you healthy, especially during the flu season.

  1. Eat healthy and drink plenty of water
  2. Take a daily Vitamin C supplement
  3. Take a daily Zinc supplement
  4. Take a daily Probiotic containing a prebiotic blend
  5. Get Vaccinated every year

Following these recommendations can help ensure a healthy flu season for you and for anyone around you.

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