Stay Healthy this Winter with Natural Cold and Flu Fighters
‘Tis the Season for late night wrap sessions, festive baking, and joyous celebration. Throw in a poor diet, and the inevitable holiday sleep loss, and before you can sing “Let it Snow,” you’ve got the makings of a long, miserable cold and flu season.
Though there are many over-the-counter cough and cold remedies, people are seeking a more natural way to take care of themselves when they are sick. And with good reason. Last year in the US alone there were 987 recalls on prescription and over-the-counter medications, including many used for the treatment of cough and colds.
What’s more, medications commonly used to alleviate symptoms are contraindicated with other prescriptions; meaning many people simply cannot take cold and flu medicine to help them feel better.
Drugs, especially those used for the common cold, do not actually help you to heal, nor do they prevent the onset of sickness in the first place. Pharmaceutical drugs merely mask the symptoms you are feeling in order to allow you to continue with your hectic schedule, offering only temporary relief. Unfortunately, this is in direct conflict with what your body actually needs in order to make itself well – plenty of rest and fluids. There really is no substitute for taking the time you need to feel better.
Enter holistic medicine, a world where the very foods we eat and ways we pamper ourselves have a profound impact on our health and well being. Natural remedies offer a safe alternative to preventing illness, alleviating symptoms, as well as a way to pamper yourself and become more in tune with your body’s needs. After all, luxuriating in a hot bath is as effective as cough medicine for helping relieve chest congestion, but infinitely more fun and relaxing. There are natural remedies that will help you feel better in safe manner and in some cases, even allow you some delicious holiday indulgence (in the name of good health of course).
A quick web search reveals there are more ideas for cold remedies than perhaps you might imagine. They fall into three general categories: healthy lifestyle, herbal supplements and “superfoods” that prevent illness and get you back on track.
A Healthy Lifestyle:
The secret to staying healthy may be as simple as releasing ourselves from the notion that we must eat or swallow some magic elixir in order to feel better. A healthy, active lifestyle will go a long way in preventing illness in the first place.
1. Rest – Your body simply cannot function without adequate rest, and if you allow yourself to get run down your body will respond by forcing you to bed rest at the absolute worst time.
2. Exercise – Twenty minutes to an hour a day of moderate exercise actually boosts your immune system function. And should you exercise when sick? The jury’s still out on this one, however common sense indicates that your body could probably better use its energy stores getting healthy than doing lunges and squats. You might just want to skip the gym for a couple days and rest up.
3. Yoga -Yoga is excellent for strengthening your immune system, but is also a gentle exercise designed to align body and mind. This physical awareness brought about through regular yoga practice will help prevent illness in the first place and unlike some of the more strenuous forms of exercise, practicing yoga when ill can be very helpful in relieving symptoms of a cold (such as sinus congestion and body aches).
4. Hand Washing – This is the one method of preventing illness in the first place that even the most die hard skeptic of holistic health practices cannot dispute. Frequent hand washing, especially before eating or drinking will prevent the spread of germs.
There are those times of the year and periods in our lives where we are more susceptible to illness. The holiday season with all its hustle and bustle is a prime example. Herbal supplements, taken upon advisement of your physician, can be a great way to bolster your immune system and keep you feeling in top shape – even in less than ideal conditions.
1. Astragalus – This herbal supplement usually found as a tea should be taken as a preventive measure (i.e., when you know you’ll be up late preparing for the holidays, or enduring the winter months.). Since you’ll become resistant to its benefits if taken too long, experts suggest a three-week on-off cycle with other immunity boosters such as echinacea.
2. Andrographis paniculata – Studies suggest this cold-buster, taken at first sign of a cold, will ward off common symptoms such as headache, runny nose, and sore throat.
3. Eleuthero – This supplement was formerly called Siberian ginseng. Believed to bolster your ability to ward off infections, it should be taken as a tablet or tea before stressful periods.
While it’s true the use of herbal supplements dates almost back to our earliest history, many people shy away from them. If herbal supplements are not something you’re willing to try, there are plenty of foods you can eat that will quell even the nastiest of germ. We all know about the amazing restorative properties of food and drinks such as chicken noodle soup, hot tea, and orange juice. Here are a few surprising additions to your germ-fighting repertoire:
1. Herbs and spices have a high level of antioxidants, which are proven immune boosters. Oregano in particular is mentioned because it has special antimicrobial properties: oregano leaves are often used as a wrap for food to help prevent spoilage.
2. Peppers – Red bell peppers have twice the amount of vitamin C per gram as many of the vitamin C-containing fruits. Despite some criticism of vitamin C’s cold fighting properties, it’s been proven to diminish the severity and duration of colds. Hot peppers contain capsaicin – the compound responsible for making your nose run and clearing your sinuses.
3. Garlic – Crushed garlic contains a chemical called allicin – an antibiotic and decongestant. Unfortunately, this chemical is broken down during cooking, so for the best results your garlic should be eaten raw or added to food right before serving.
4. Seafood – Once again it’s the antioxidants in seafood that help boost immune system function. Omega 3 fatty acids are powerful flu fighters and anti-inflammatory.
5. Yogurt – Though you should never eat dairy during bouts of vomiting, yogurt promotes healthy bacteria growth in your stomach. This is good news because over 70 percent of your body’s immune function comes from the digestive tract.
6. Chocolate – A dark chocolate with no less than 70 percent cocoa contains theobromine – a cough suppressant. In fact, two ounces of dark chocolate will deliver the same results as your typical dose of cough medicine!
Even with little or no treatment, the average cold runs its course in about 10 days. Those first couple of days can be awful, but remembering this is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and get some rest can help you feel better. With increasing concern over the safety of OTC medications to alleviate cold and flu symptoms, taking a holistic approach to your well being may offer some relief and perhaps even a dose of preventive medicine. You should always consult your physician before trying any new remedies, especially if you are taking prescription medication for other conditions.
Charlotte Bradley is the publisher of YogaFlavoredLife.com and an avid yoga practitioner. She was a student of karate for many years and took up yoga only tentatively after the birth of her sons and a knee injury left her looking for a less high-impact form of exercise. It was love at first pose as Charlotte saw how quickly yoga sped her rehabilitation along. She also found that yogic relaxation techniques lent her proper focus, bringing balance into her life as well as a greater appreciation for how blessed she truly is. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband and twin boys, Charlie and Patty, who keep her on her feet and on the go. Her golden retriever supervises Charlotte’s yoga workouts from a spare mat, with his eyes closed.
Check out all of Charlotte Bradley’s Healthy Lifestyles columns.