This time of year, I see plenty of bronchitis patients — so many, that sometimes it seems like a small miracle I don’t get sick myself.

coughingWhen they come to me first, I’m almost always able to knock the infection out fast, often within just a couple of days.

Trouble is, many of them don’t come to me first. They’re new patients who come to me after a conventional doctor has tried to treat them — tried, and failed, because the mainstream has just one approach for bronchitis: antibiotics.

Using antibiotics to treat bronchitis can be like sending someone out to play baseball with a hockey stick. It’s the wrong tool for the job — because most cases of bronchitis are viral, and antibiotics do nothing to fight viruses.

The latest research on more than 2,000 bronchitis patients shows just how futile these meds are, as the patients given the powerful antibiotic drug amoxicillin had the exact same symptoms and recovery times as the patients given a placebo.

The only real difference came in side effects, because amoxicillin packs a few that should be familiar to any antibiotic user — including stomach symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea.

Those are bad enough in the best of times. Fighting off nausea and diarrhea during bronchitis, however, is an extra layer of misery — and one that’s clearly unnecessary since the drugs don’t work against viruses in the first place.

That’s why antibiotics should be a last resort, for cases where there’s reason to suspect either a bacterial infection or pneumonia. For everyone else, natural therapies and even plain old rest can be so much more effective for bronchitis.

Herbal extracts such as ivy or elderberry help to reduce the cough while simultaneously loosening up phlegm so you can get rid of it. Believe it or not, chicken soup can also do the same thing — so mom was right to give it to you when you were sick as a kid.

I’ve also found a number of homeopathic remedies to be highly effective — but the one you’ll need may depend on the type and severity of your symptoms. A holistic doctor can help you choose.

For chronic cases of bronchitis, I’ve seen many patients benefit from medicinal mushrooms, including Cordyceps sinesis and reishi. For more on that, pick up my book, “The Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms.”

I also screen patients with chronic bronchitis for environmental or food sensitivities, which can cause or worsen the problem. Make an appointment to see me at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine, or visit a holistic physician near you.

For one more way to fight respiratory infections — especially recurring ones — keep reading.

Avoid respiratory infections with this common vitamin

Imagine a bad cold that keeps coming back — one that returns so frequently that you buy your tissues and cold meds in bulk at the local warehouse club.

That’s life with a chronic respiratory tract infection, and it’s every bit as miserable as it sounds.

But cold meds won’t help you beat this condition. Even prescription antibiotics won’t help — but anyone given these drugs can tell you that, because they end up taking them again and again and again.

In one new study out of Sweden, patients with recurring respiratory infections were on the meds for more than a full month out of a year — 33 days on average — while also taking a placebo treatment.

Clearly, there wasn’t much of a placebo effect here. But just as clearly, the antibiotics didn’t bring much to the table, either.

A second group of patients, on the other hand, took something other than a placebo — and this was something that really did help. These patients spent 50 percent less time on antibiotics (16 days) over the course of that same year.

They were also 63.5 percent less likely to need antibiotics in the first place, and had 25 percent fewer symptoms overall.

So what was this miracle treatment? It wasn’t a new drug — it was one of the very same immune-boosting treatments I recommend to my own patients, especially the ones who battle recurring respiratory infections and other similar illnesses.

It was ordinary vitamin D.

The patients in the new study were given 4,000 IUs a day, or what the media refers to as a “high” dose.

But that’s not high, especially for patients in a sun-starved region such as Sweden. Most people will need a minimum of 2,000 IUs a day — even in sunny regions — and as much as 5,000 IUs a day, depending on their needs.

Your own holistic doctor can help you figure out how much you need as well as the best way to get it.

God bless,

Dr. Mark Stengler