The common cold is like an annoying invasion of privacy. Infective bugs multiply and swarm to plague our upper chest, throat, sinuses, nose and head. Virus’ mutate readily, and if our immune system is caught off guard, they set up camp and infect our airways which can lead to a secondary bacterial infection, such as congestion in our lungs.
It’s not just about the aggressiveness of the viral bugs that determines whether we get sick, but also the strength of our immune system. To a large extent our immune system is influenced by the dietary and lifestyle choices we make, and the way we manage stress. It is also important to prevent obvious viral transmissions by regularly washing our hands and avoiding contact with infected people.
Is it a cold or a flu??
Often people think that they have the flu, when in fact they have a cold, with some lung congestion (a secondary bacterial infection). The major difference between a cold and a flu is that influenza has a sudden onset (within a few hours); whereas a cold gradually develops over 1 to 3 days. The flu infects the entire respiratory tract (upper and lower) with marked symptoms such as high fever, severe body aches, and exhaustion. In contrast, the common cold is just down right annoying with mild impacts on energy, chest discomfort, and headache.
So, instead of giving in to the fact that lots of people get sick during winter, we’ve put together some top tips to fight off those colds and flus – keeping you well this winter, and maintaining a strong and resilient immune system.
Top 3 nutrients for immune resilience:
- Vitamin C is proven to reduce the duration and severity of colds. This health promoting vitamin activates, and enhances the number and activity of specialised white blood cells which aid in the prevention of colds and flu. Foods rich in vitamin C include: broccoli, brussels sprouts, all citrus fruit, parsley, guava, paw paw, capsicum, raw cabbage, rosehip, strawberries, and tomatoes.
- Vitamin A enhances our bodies’ natural immune response by supporting healthy mucous-membrane-barriers, which are our first line of defence. This key vitamin helps in the function of white blood cells, such as macrophages (the Pac-men that munch the bad guys), neutrophils (the commanders of the white blood cells that rally up the troops), and NK cells (the bombers). Foods rich in vitamin A include: apricots, butter, carrots, oily fish such as cod and salmon, halibut, green leafy vegetables, liver, mint, and egg yolks. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, so is best absorbed with a healthy fat.
- Zinc is a profound mineral, which is great for the development and function of our whole immune system, and supporting white blood cells. Deficiencies in zinc places ‘stress’ on our body, and cause the release of our ‘stress’ hormones which in turn causes our white blood cells to diminish. Foods rich in zinc include: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, egg yolks, beef, lamb, liver, ginger, herrings, oysters and other seafood in general, and capsicum.
Top herbal medicine performers for boosting your immune system…
Key herbs for the immune system include Echinacea, Andrographis, Astragalus and Poke Root. However, it is important not to self-prescribe due to potential contraindications or interactions. Qualified naturopaths may prescribe herbs based on your individual signs and symptoms.
Herbal medicines with key actions (such as immune system stimulants, stress and adrenal support, and nervous system support) work in concert with cells and hormones to catalyse immune system robustness. Herbs may also alleviate the symptoms of colds and flu, helping us feel better quicker.
Top 10 dietary and lifestyle tips to keep you well:
- Enjoy a large and colourful array of vegetables and fruit. Add a bit of ‘oomph’ to your vegetables with freshly squeezed lemon juice, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, raw crushed garlic, chopped parsley, and olive oil.
- Enjoy freshly chopped garlic regularly (contains the anti-microbial constituent ‘allicin’) and parsley (vitamin C) on your vegetables, in your dips (e.g. hummus, avocado, eggsplant, yoghurt), and in soups.
- Enjoy freshly home-made soups regularly. Add ginger, garlic, fresh herbs such as thyme, basil, and coriander. (Give my Sweet Potato and Red Lentil immune boosting soup a try!)
- Drink at least 2 litres of water every day and add in some freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, or 1-2 tsp of raw, fermented apple cider vinegar (alkalising).
- Enjoy herbal and vitamin C rich herbal teas such as rosehips, ginger & lemon, and rooibos; and nervous system supporting teas such as chamomile and passionflower.
- Reduce your intake of sugar, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, and processed and take-away foods.
- Enjoy Epsom salt baths: Add 1½ cups of Epsom salts into a full warm bath and soak for 15 minutes. Add some essential oils (6 drops of lavender, frankincense, geranium, or eucalyptus; which are all safe to use in the bath).
- Go to bed early to ensure an adequate sleep for recovery every night
- Keep up your exercise to maintain good circulation and the gentle rhythm of detoxing.
- Enjoy some “time out” for you and do something you love.