With winter comes the cold and flu season. Although a flu shot may protect you against certain strains of the influenza virus, the best defense against both influenza and the common cold is your immune system.
The immune system is complex, including different armys of cells to identify invaders and activate other cells, as well as cells to fight the invader and clean up and debris they leave behind. A cold or flu usually begins with a viral attack, which then leads to a lowered immune system, allowing bacterial overgrowth and flu-like symptoms. It is therefore important to act quickly upon the first sign of infection, as this will help to reduce cold duration and severity.
There are hundreds of studies on foods, herbs and nutrients which help to boost the immune system. Read below to find out what you can do to naturally help to fight off colds and flu’s.
- Eat a varied diet high in vitamin C rich foods such as blueberries, strawberries, bilberries, raspberries, blackberries, lemons, oranges, kiwifruit, broccoli, red cabbage, capsicum, chilli and grapefruit. Vitamin C has been shown to enhance the function of T-Cells and phagocytes, which help with immune function. For best results eat vitamin C foods raw as heat destroys vitamin C easily.
- As soon as you feel the start of a cold, eat 2 cloves of raw garlic a day. It is best to consume it crushed (or chewed if you are brave) as this helps to release the antibacterial compounds. Garlic has been shown to be anti-viral, antibacterial and immune boosting.
- Probiotic foods have been shown in multiple studies to benefit immunity. Including organic plain probiotic yoghurt can help to improve your good bacteria levels in the digestive tract. We have 2-3kg of this bacteria in our intestines and colon serving the function of modulating our immune function.
- Have lemon, ginger and honey tea. Yes, this old remedy works as the ginger loosens mucous, the lemon is high in vitamin C and bioflavovoids which increase immune function, and honey is antibacterial and soothing to the throat. To make put a few thin slices of ginger root in a cup, pour hot water over, squeeze 1/4 lemon juice in plus the skin and 1 teaspoon raw honey. Seep until cool enough to drink.
- Avoid sugar. Sugar gives bacteria something to feed on an weakens the immune system.
- Drink plenty of filtered water. Keeping hydrated is an important part of the healing process. Drink at least 2 litres of water a day.
- REST. Rest allows the body to repair itself. By having adequate rest you will help your body recover and shorten the duration of your cold.
- Take quality nutritional supplements at the right dose for best results. Vitamin C can be taken at the dose of 500mg every hour until symptoms reduce. This dose has been shown in studies to have the best absorption rates. NB. In case of diarrhoea, reduce dose to 500mg ever 2-3 hours.
- Nutritional and herbal medicines are very effective in reducing cold duration and improving symptoms. Book an appointment with our naturopath to combat colds and flus or to prevent them from happening in the first place!
- Steam inhalations can be useful to releive symptoms, and are easily made by inhaling a hot infusion or adding a couple of drops of essential oil to a bowl of hot water, then covering head with a towel over the bowl. Use an infusion of elderflower for clear, thin mucous, fenugreek infusion for thick mucous, a couple of drops of thyme oil for an unproductive cough or yellow/green mucous, and the more well know eucalyptus oil to clear the throat and sinuses.