With winter in full swing, cold and flu season is upon us! What are some things you can do to help with the common cold or flu and boost your immunity besides just good R&R?
With a cold or flu, it is essential to drink more fluids to stay hydrated and to help eliminate waste from your body. Soups or herbal teas can be particularly good for hydration along with providing nutrients when your appetite may be decreased.
Short-term fasting within the first 24 to 48 hours of an acute infection may be beneficial. It results in a significant increase in the white blood cells that ingest and destroy foreign material or bacteria in your body. This initial period is also usually when you feel that your appetite is low anyhow, so eating lightly or just taking fluids during this time can be good.
For foods, you should decrease mucus producing foods such as dairy, bananas, and citrus foods to prevent more congestion. Sugary juices and foods like fruit juices and pastries should also be avoided, as they are mucus producing as well. Sugar also decreases overall immunity, making it harder to recover when you eat it during an infection. Typically, a blander diet should be incorporated as it will be easier on our digestion and will give your body more energy to fight off the illness.
Vitamin and mineral considerations
Vitamin C - Taking vitamin C in large does throughout the day (500 mg - 1 g doses every few hours) can help to stimulate our immune system by increasing antibody responses and proliferation of white blood cells.
Zinc - Zinc also enhances the immune system, and taking zinc along with vitamin C at the start of an infection reduces the duration of the common cold.
Vitamin A - Vitamin A maintains the integrity of epithelial and mucosal surfaces, a nonspecific barrier to foreign invaders. It also stimulates the immune system by inducing natural killer cells, increasing antibody responses, and enhancing the ingestion of bacteria by white blood cells.
Vitamin E - Vitamin E also enhances white blood cell responses and protects against upper respiratory infections.
Different herbs can be given depending on the types of symptoms presented. The first two herbs are helpful for most common colds.
Echinacea spp. - Many studies have been done on Echinacea and its uses. Echinacea strengthens the immune system, has an antiviral and antibacterial component, and is most helpful when taken at the beginning of a cold.
Sambucus nigra - This is a great herb for viral upper respiratory infections, as it has potent antiviral and antioxidant properties. The fruit can help with decreasing congestion and decreasing inflammation in the sinuses and throats. The flower helps you sweat and is great for decreasing a fever.
The following herbs are helpful for symptom relief, i.e. for sore throats and different kinds of coughs.
Althaea officinalis, Verbascum thapsus - These herbs are very gentle and are great for soothing sore throats.
Prunus serotina, Tussilago farfara - For dry coughs that can become spasmodic and hard to stop, these herbs help to calm and soothe the cough.
Marrubium vulgare, Asclepias tuberosa - For wet coughs where mucus needs to be cleared, these herbs can be used.
This is just a small sampling of the different herbs and nutrients that can help with colds and flus. There are many, many other natural remedies that are beneficial, but the most important factors for overcoming a sickness still center around rest and diet. Remember to listen to your body when you are ill!