With winter just around the corner, we can expect to see an increase in patients presenting with seasonal colds and ‘flu. Fortunately for our patients, there are many effective natural remedies we can offer to help them get through this cold and ‘flu season in good health!
Most adults will get at least two colds every year, and children can get up to eight. This is hardly surprising given that there are more than 200 viruses known to cause respiratory tract infections. Although viral illnesses are rarely serious they certainly cause misery and may lower immune defences against more dangerous secondary bacterial infections.
Colds and the ‘flu are caused by viruses. Viruses are essentially strands of genetic material enclosed in a protein coat that penetrate, and literally hijack, susceptible living cells within 10 to 15 minutes of exposure. By exploiting cellular machinery, viruses such as rhinovirus, coronovirus and influenza rapidly replicate and multiply, and then depart the cell to infect surrounding cells. Symptoms do not occur until the infection reaches a critical threshold; however, it is the inflammatory immune response to viral invasion, as well as the virus itself, that causes the familiar symptoms of sore throat, nasal congestion, headache, cough and fatigue of colds and ‘flu..
I guess the cold season can be divided into three sections: preventative, the “oh my lord” stage (men: place statement in capital letters), and the recovery stage. View following link for proof of the man cold.
A lot of people have their own specific routine once the flu season appears, but there are also many things that you can do all year round that can act as preventatives:
- Maintain good overall nutrition – food is your first-line medicine.
- Reduce foods that create food sensitivities like grains, sugars & high starchy foods. These foods stimulate one part of your immune system & can actually reduce your bug fighting immune powers. Think of a seesaw effect.
- Sleep (or the lack of) has the same effect as physical stressors & reduces your ability to effectively mount an immune response. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/04/immune-system-and-sleep-deprivation.aspx
- Bugs love a dry environment so air your house regularly; have water placed in & around your home & work especially with air-conditioned environments.
- Keep your distance from sick people.
- Wash your hands if dealing with the general community.
- Rest & reduce overall stress.
- Exercise (moderate) has been shown to reduce the incidences of sickness. http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/injuryprevention/a/Ex_Immunity.htm
- Hydration – your body maintains a slip & slide effect for viruses via mucosal integrity & it needs to be well hydrated for this effect to occur.
Supplements – most reduce the longevity & severity of flu symptoms
- Astragalus has been shown to be most effective 6-8 weeks before viral infection.
- Vitamin D – individuals with reduced vitamin D levels are 36% more likely to suffer from respiratory infections & six times more likely to get sick.
- Ginseng has been shown to reduce early symptoms by half by increasing white blood cells.
- Himalayan Salt in water supports hydration & can support mucosal integrity.
- Vitamin C supports immune monitoring by white blood cells.
The Flu or “MAN FLU” (“oh my Lord”)
So, you haven’t been able to dodge the flu. Your main aim now is to reduce the severity & the longevity. This is not about treating symptoms through suppression, but more about using techniques and treatments that better allow your body to deal with infection. It’s really important to know the difference between what can effectively treat the flu & what can reduce the longevity & severity of the flu. Most studies show that there are mixed results with using “natural product” as a treatment, but the test results around reducing the severity & longevity are much more impressive. The following article has a great rounded approach http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/colds-flu-immune-system?page=1.
- Manage the fever – from a TCM perspective the less you try & drive symptoms into the body, the better the body will respond. Your body naturally tries to remove pathogens out through sweating, coughing, mucous, bowel function etc.
- Stay out of the cold & exposure to wind – changes in body temperature create a stress response on the body.
- Stay hydrated – remember that you are losing large amounts of fluids.
- Rest – reduce stressors.
- Hot showers – can help clear sinuses & respiratory channels.
- Get a good diagnosis early – often knowing what exactly you have, can give you a much clearer indication around how it should be treated.
- Allow time to recover.
- Reduce your risk of contaminating other – don’t return to work within the first 48 hours, cover your mouth when needed, wash your hands, do not allow other people to share the things you are using.
Recovery will depend on a number of factors, but reducing the severity & longevity of the flu reduces the stress placed on your physiology.
- Keeping fit with regular exercise – Gentle to moderate exercise boosts the immune system, increasing the body’s ability to recover. Try going for a walk in the fresh air, or stretch out your muscles with yoga.
- Low Inflammatory Factors – Reduce inflammatory factors by consuming an anti-inflammatory diet. Saturated fats found in meat, dairy products, refined grains, fried foods and processed meats, all fuel the inflammation process. Anti-inflammatory foods include omega-3 rich foods, including fish, avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil, in combination with a good variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Good stress reserves – Long term stress will deplete stress reserves. Without these reserves, your body is unable to fight off infection. Practise relaxation methods regularly to reduce stress levels. Savouring a warm cup of tea, listening to relaxing music, playing with a pet, or lighting a scented candle, are all simple tips that can easily be included into your day.
- A good nutrient dense diet – A nutrient-rich diet provides the body with the nutrients it requires to heal and fight off infection. Leafy greens, onions, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts), onions, berries, and fresh herbs are all powerful, nutrient-dense foods that are highly beneficial when regularly consumed.
These natural remedies and health tips will help you get through the winter season in good health, or assist in reducing the severity and longevity of infection if you are struck down with a cold or flu. Remember, prevention is the key to health!