Help! It’s winter and historically you know that always end up with a cold or flu. What are some quick, easy and really effective things that you can do this year to prevent getting sick or to nip it in the bud if you do get hit?
Friendly bacteria play a critical role in building up your immune system. Daily intakes of naturally fermented foods such as kefir, miso, natto, sauerkraut, naturally fermented pickles, kimchee, etc have been shown in clinical trials to reduce the frequency and severity of respiratory tract infections such as colds or flu’s. If you aren’t a big fan of fermented foods then taking a probiotic supplement can be helpful but the amounts of friendly bacteria found in a capsule are not anywhere near the amounts available in naturally fermented foods.
For those of us living in Canada, during the winter months (October 1st to May 1st) it is next to impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sun exposure. Supplementing with vitamin D can keep your immune system strong and also provide an impressive punch to any cold or flu viruses that may come your way. Dr. Canell, head of the North American Vitamin D Council recommends taking 50,000 IU’s of vitamin D for several days in a row at the first sign of a cold or flu. You may then drop it back down to the recommended 2000 to 5000 daily dose. Taking a large dose of vitamin D for a few days is safe but such a high dose should not be taken for long periods of time. The rationale for this short term, high dosage use of vitamin D is that it upregulates a naturally occurring anti-microbial peptide which is active against viruses such as the cold or flu virus. Additionally, vitamin D reduces inflammation thus reducing irritation to the lining of the lungs and making them less susceptible to bacteria which can cause pneumonia. Based on several studies, raising people’s blood levels of vitamin D may significantly reduce the risk of contracting influenza.
Vitamin C has been shown to increase the activity of white blood cells in the body. These are the cells which work hard to help your immune system fight off illness. During the cold and flu season a daily dose of 1000 mg can help your immunity. At the first sign of a cold increase this dosage up to 10,000 mg spread throughout the day. If you develop a loose stool then just reduce the dosage to your own bowel tolerance. Reduce your dosage slowly over a few days back to your maintenance level.
Several herbs have shown themselves to be extremely powerful warriors against colds and flu’s. Keeping a selection of herbal tinctures in your medicine cabinet can help you to boost your immune system or fight symptoms once a cold settles in. The following herbs are very useful to have at the ready during cold and flu season: Astragalus, Echinacea, Holy Basil, Lungwort and Thyme.
Numerous homeopathic remedies (either combination formulas or single remedies) have been shown in clinical studies to be effective against the symptoms of colds. Homeopathy is definitely a viable option for those who are not able to take herbal tinctures due to plant allergies or medication conflict concerns and for those who want to avoid the side effects of pharmaceutical over-the counter medications. Either single or combination homeopathic remedies can be taken – if you’re unsure as to what to take, ask for guidance from your homeopath, naturopath or pharmacist.
Good luck and keep up the good fight.