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When you get the flu, here's how to avoid pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses.

It finally happened. A virus caught me after six years of escaping all colds and flu. The flu itself was mild and only lasted three days. But it left me with a cough that just wouldn't go away.

All my life, coughs and mild lung congestion progressed to bronchitis and pneumonia. So at the first sign of the flu, I took everything I've told you about including MycoPhyto Complex for my immune system and Usnea for my lungs. But after a week of coughing, I decided to see my doctor. Not a traditional doctor, but an osteopath. Am I glad I did! She was able to treat my flu without drugs--and the results were fantastic!

You might be surprised to read that an osteopath helped my flu. After all, aren't they just glorified chiropractors? Not by a long shot. Osteopathy has a long history of treating the flu effectively. In fact, during the worst flu pandemic to ever strike globally in 1918, osteopathy greatly outperformed conventional medicine in this country.

Just what is an osteopath?

An osteopathic physician is a licensed medical doctor who treats the whole person by gently manipulating the body, primarily through the musculoskeletal system. This allows the bones, joints, and other structures to move without restriction. The result is that the body is better able to heal itself.

A doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) may be a surgeon, primary care internist, or someone who specializes in this system of manipulation known as osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). The osteopath I saw limits her practice to manipulations. They worked beautifully for me. OMT prevented my cough from progressing to pneumonia.

When I walked into her office, my doctor could tell by the sound of my coughs that I was heading toward pneumonia. I only knew it was impossible for me to take a deep breath without coughing uncontrollably. When I left 30 minutes later, she could find no sign of pneumonia and I could breathe more deeply. Her treatment turned me around in the half hour I was in her office!

Osteopathy and the flu

The flu itself is most dangerous when it turns into pneumonia or another upper respiratory illness. These can wear you down, lower your immunity, and even lead to death. It can allow other infectious agents--like bacteria--to get a foothold and progress to pneumonia, bronchitis, and even asthma.

It's a fact that tens of thousands of people in this country die each year from complications of the flu. How many depends on whom you ask. What's not disputed is that the majority of the fatalities are seniors over the age of 60. Let's look back in history and compare the results of patients who saw conventional allopathic doctors vs. osteopaths.

In the worldwide bird flu pandemic of 1918-1919, 1% of the world's population--nearly 30 million people--died! More than 500,000 people in the U.S. alone succumbed. Osteopathy saved more lives than conventional medicine. Only 0.25% of osteopathic patients died. Once the patients of conventional doctors progressed to pneumonia, their mortality soared to from 33% to 78%! In fact, the death rate of osteopathic patients was one-fortieth that of people treated by conventional doctors.

There were no antivirals or antibiotic medications at that time. Traditional doctors knew only to give their patients cough syrup and aspirin. Osteopathic patients may have been given these same treatments--along with osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). The movement my doctor used to allow me to breathe more easily is called the lymphatic pump. It was the reason so many people survived the bird flu. This movement freed up restrictions in my lungs and helped me avoid pneumonia.

There are many doctors and scientists who predict another deadly worldwide flu pandemic. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has already drafted a plan to respond to one, should it come. Maybe we'll have a bird flu pandemic in our lifetime like the one in 1918-1919, and maybe not. That's not the issue. Both flu pandemics and yearly viruses can be helped by the right kind of doctor: an osteopath.

One thing you can count on: Every year many thousands of people will get one variety of the flu or another. Some of them will die from its complications. This is why I suggest you make an appointment to see an osteopath at the first sign of the flu and ask them to include the lymphatic pump. It could shorten your flu's duration and prevent it from progressing to pneumonia. It can even save your life!

A note to all osteopaths

Tell every osteopath you know about this important one-day workshop in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 25, 2008. Dennis J Dowling, DO, FAAO, past president of the American Academy of Osteopathy is presenting a program, "Avoiding Disaster: Osteopathic Approach to the Flu." DOs can learn how to protect and treat their flu patients, and get five hours of CME credit at the same time. For more information, go to or

D'Alonzo, G.E., DO. "Influenza epidemic or pandemic? Time to roll up sleeves, vaccinate patients, and hone osteopathic manipulative skills," JAOA, September 2004.

Magoun, H.I., Jr, DO. "More about the use of OMT during influenza epidemics," JAOA, October 2004.

National Center for Infectious Diseases Division of Viral and Reekettsial Disease, National Center for Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology and Surveillance Division, National Immunization Program. Prevention and Control of Influenza. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2004;53(RR06):1-40. Available at

Personal communication with Dennis J Dowling, DO, FAAO.

Polozov, I.V., et al. "Progressive ordering with decreasing temperature of the phospholipids of influenza virus," Nature Chemical Biology, March 2, 2008.
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Author:Fuchs, Nan Kathryn
Publication:Women's Health Letter
Date:Aug 1, 2008
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