Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
As we are in the thick of cold and flu season, here are a few tips and tricks, home remedies and natural medicines to keep yourself and your family healthy.
With basic immune system maintenance via natural medicine, you can avoid ever getting sick in the first place, and with basic immune support, you can get over it much quicker than usual.
The flu vaccine has been in the news a lot recently due to many unfortunate side effects and several studies challenge its efficacy.
It’s also important to note that getting a virus should not be viewed as a failure. If you get a cold or flu around once a year, that is actually a sign of a healthy immune system, and a sign that it’s time to slow down and take care of yourself. There is no reason to worry if you get sick once per year. I tell my patients only to look closer at the immune system if they either never get a cold or flu, if they get multiple rounds per year, or it lingers longer than a week or so.
Basic facts: Colds and Flus
- Hundreds of different viruses can cause a cold.
- Colds are usually milder than the flu, last only a few days to a week, and rarely have serious consequences.
- Symptoms may include sore throat, runny nose, congestion, and cough.
- The flu can have stronger symptoms such as fever, body aches, headache, vomiting and diarrhea, and can last for several days to weeks.
- Sometimes pneumonia develops after the flu, and if you are sick for a week or more or develop shortness of breath, consult a doctor right away.
- Viruses enter the body through mucous membranes - eyes, nose, mouth.
- Wash hands frequently and avoid touching your face.
- Colds are contagious for the first three days, and the flu for around 7. Avoid those who are ill, and if you are ill, stay home!
- Personal Prevention
- The principles for avoiding a cold or flu and the principles for staying healthy overall are one and the same:
- Eat a rainbow - plant-based foods highest in protective antioxidants and minerals. (Vit. A, C, Zn, Se)
- Protein - your body needs protein to make white blood cells which fight infection and antibodies which flag bacteria and viruses for destruction.
- Avoid sugar!! Sugar is inflammatory and suppresses the immune system for 30 minutes after consumption.
- For additional protection, take a high-quality multivitamin daily, ideally with whole food extracts.
- Staying hydrated keeps the mucous membranes moist and therefore keeps your immune barrier intact.
- This is especially important in often dry indoor air, and especially before traveling!
- Recommended intake of water is 1/2 your body weight in ounces daily. (For a 120-lb person, around 2 liters or 1/2 gallon daily).
- Add 1 cup for each caffeinated or alcoholic beverage, and 1 cup per hour of exercise.
- Sleep is extremely important!
- Sleep is the time where your body rests and repairs itself, and that includes your immune system as well.
- Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep reduces the production of important immune signaling molecules called cytokines, and also reduces numbers of infection-fighting immune cells.
- Mild to moderate exercise appears to stimulate the immune system, while overtraining can suppress it.
- The bottom line: 30 minutes of moderate-intensity or interval training 5 times a week is a good level for health and immune system maintenance.
- Stress Relief
- Stress weakens the immune system.
- Anti-stress activities and ‘down time’ deserve just as much priority in our schedules as any other, and even more so during the holiday season. Active stress release strengthens the immune system.
- Holidays, which should be joyful, can be a hard time for everyone. Be kind, be understanding, and reach out to those in need, and especially when you are in need.
- Gratitude - Being grateful for what and who you have can be difficult when you’re feeling down. Everything takes practice. If you name 5 things every day you are grateful for, even if they’re small things, eventually you will start to find reasons to be grateful and happy.
- Better yet, do this exercise with a friend. Discuss every day what you are grateful for, and what you want to create to make your day great.
- Multivitamins are important for the optimum function of the body. Many vitamins, minerals, and cofactors are needed to maintain the immune system.
- Vitamin C - Do believe all of the hype. Vitamin C is important for just about every tissue in the body, and can shorten the duration of a cold or flu.
- Vitamin D - Deficiency is common, despite living in sunny Southern California. Vitamin D is an important immune support factor, amongst many other very important functions. Make sure to have it tested if you have not already, and make sure that you are taking the correct dosage if so.
- Probiotics - I can’t say enough about probiotics. It is estimated that up to 80% of the body’s immune system resides in the gut. A healthy intestinal tract is a healthy immune system, is a healthy body. Not all probiotics are qual - purchase them from a qualified practitioner to ensure quality. Eat plenty of fermented foods also - yogurt or kefir, kim chee, kombucha, and raw sauerkraut.
- Echinacea - Works best at the early onset of a virus, and is less effective when the illness has already developed.
- Andrographis - Can be used to shorten the duration of colds, flus, and sore throats.
- Elderberry - Has been shown to be effective for the virus that causes swine flu.
- Oscillococcinum - Can take several pellets 1 x/week during flu season for prevention. Make sure it was produced this year.
- Specific homeopathic remedies can be prescribed acutely for colds and flus and when the right remedy is found, can be extremely helpful for symptoms. Consult your naturopathic doctor or homeopath to select the right remedy for you.
If you do fall ill
There are many options to shorten the duration of the illness:
- Glutathione nebulizer treatment - helps to inhibit viral replication in the respiratory passages, accelerating recovery.
- Vitamin C - dose low and frequently, as the body absorbs a limited amount at a time. Powder is best, as it is potent and can be sipped over the course of the day.
- Ginger ‘sweat therapy’ - Boil 4 tablespoons of sliced fresh (or frozen) ginger root in 6 cups of water for 10 minutes. Drink after a hot shower, go to bed with plenty of covers, sleep, sweat, and feel better on waking.
- Homeopathy - see your practitioner.
- Rest, rest, rest!
The bottom line is: Trust your immune system. Treat it right and it will treat you right too.