Monday, January 4, 2010

Beating colds and flus the natural way: From the Archive

Cold and flu season is in full swing for those of you in the northern hemisphere, so I thought you would appreciate a rerun of this earlier post.

For many of us, this season means resorting to a pharmacy worth of cold and flu meds. But is this really the best way to beat a cold? According to the FDA in the US, a old wives remedy as simple as honey beat over-the-counter cough suppressants for effectiveness.

So what natural measures can you take to beat colds and flu? Just like the old saying goes:

Prevention is better than a cure

Drink lots of water - according to Victor Sierpina MD, author of 1000 cures for 200 ailments, for your respiratory tract cells to function properly and fight off infection, you need plenty of fluid.

  • drink at least 2 L of water a day (approx 8 glasses)
  • use a humidifier if you have the heater on
  • use a saline nasal spray such as FESS daily

Take probiotics - "friendly" bacteria such as acidophilus (often found in yoghurt as well as supplements) are believed to help your immune cells, the majority of which are in your digestive tract.

  • look for yoghurt that is labelled "live cultures"
  • supplements often contain up to 10 times the amount as found in yoghurt
  • probiotics are especially important if you have been taking antibiotics, as these kill good bacteria as well as bad

Eat well - seems like a no-brainer, but it is amazing how many of us forget that a constant supply of fruit, vegetables and protein are essential to your body's defenses working the way they should.

  • your grandmother told you an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and it seems she was right. Apples (as well as red onions) are an especially concentrated source of the antioxidant quercetin, which is believed to be highly protective of immune functions.
  • make sure you get your 2 fruit and 5 veg daily.

Keep you hands in plain sight - your hands are the major transmitter of the cold virus. Keep them clean, and keep them away from your eyes and nose, which are the main entry points for the virus to enter your system

  • this is especially important when using shared equipment like phones and computers. Wash your hands well after touching these, as the cold virus can survive for quite along time on hard surfaces.

What to do when you know it's about to attack

Keep your nose clean - carry on with the saline nasal spray, or use a neti pot to flush out your nose.

  • the saline solution removes germs from your nasal passage
  • it also removes debris that can prevent mucus from draining properly
  • the salt is also a great disinfectant

Supersize your vitamin C - while getting vitamin C from your diet is important, it will only get you about 200mg if you are consistently eating your 2 and 5. Studies have shown that you need 500-1000mg to help protect against infections taking hold

  • take an ester-C supplement, as well as eating lots of fruit and veges
  • red capsicums (peppers) and blueberries are great sources of vitamin C, even better than citrus

Too late, it's already here

Broken record - keep up with the saline nasal spray! Not only does it flush and disinfect, adding back some moisture helps prevent reinfection.

  • use whether you have a stuffy OR a runny nose
  • use up to 5- 15 times a day
  • a pressurised spray like FESS is better at this stage than a neti pot

Honey, honey - stop coughs in their tracks with honey. Coughs are the body's way of clearing out your upper chest, so let it be when you can, but when you need a good night's sleep, then take two teaspoons of honey (one for children over 12 months). It works by soothing the throat, killing the germs, and helping to block the cough reflex in the brain

  • take neat - having it in a hot toddy, while comforting, doesn't work
  • the darker the colour of the honey, the more effective
  • manuka honey from New Zealand has been proven scientifically to be the most effective of all
  • never give honey to babies under 12 months old, due to the risk of botulism

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