It’s that time of year again when rhinopharyngitis, or better known as the common cold, prey on weakened immune systems and forces its host, that being “YOU and ME,” to slow down and rest. In fact, I am finally well enough to look at my computer screen again as over this past weekend I was visited by a 36 hour bug that in the first round executed the “Colossal Clucth”,
a few hours later it had a “Vise Grip” on my head,
then finished me off with a “Stompin’ a Mudhole,”
However, since then I have been revisited by “The Sleeper” as after any kind of light activity, such as walking to the store, all I want to do is sleep.
(Thank you to WWE.com/classics/ for all the great images)
If you do happen to catch a cold, before you look into the cabinet for last years cold & flu medications, take a read through the following information as I lay out a generic yet effective cold busting and immune boosting strategy.
Strategy To Beat The Common Cold
A compromised immune system creates an optimal environment for a virus to thrive. In my case, I am willing to bet I caught my bug because I had been burning the candle at both ends the last two weeks. I normally go to bed by 9pm as I get up between 4-5am, but I have been working on a number of projects lately and I felt the need to stay up to get them done, therefore my bedtime was pushed back to midnight.
The common cold is virus that affects the upper respiratory tract leading to nasal discharge and sneezing, sore throat, congestion, headache, swollen lymph nodes and often fever. If you experience more than one or two colds per year, it is apparent that a focus on strengthening the immune system is necessary.
“Healthy” individuals should only experience a cold for roughly three or four days. If you are like me and choose not to use pharmaceutical medications, then you are most likely aware that natural remedies are not always the best option for quick relief. Therefore, it is best to start implementing the following tips to prevent such cold and flu’s from forming in the first place. With regards to treating a fever, I prefer and recommend that you let the fever run it’s course without medications, providing the fever is not dangerously high, such as greater than 104?F/40?C.
*The following supplement dosages are general recommendations only and should be verified by your doctor, Naturopath or a nutritionist, that they do not contraindicate any medications you may be taking at this time.
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o Rest – Be sure to get plenty of rest. I know you hear this all the time, especially from your parents and grandparents, but there is a reason I mention this tip first, BECAUSE IT IS TRUE. While at rest our body slips into the parasympathetic nervous state that is necessary for repairing our immune system. Don’t use being sick as an excuse to stay up late in anticipation of just resting the next day. Aim to go to bed no later than 10pm and take full advantage of the body’s natural release of the sleep hormone, melatonin.
o Fluids – Just like “rest,” we have all been told to drink plenty of fluids, again this is very solid advice. Consuming fluids such as fresh pressed green juice, herb and mushroom teas (chaga is great for boosting the immune system), soups and clean water as these all help to hydrate the membranes of the respiratory tract making it tough for viruses to thrive. Fluids also decrease the concentration of solutes in the blood improving white blood cell function and since water is so important for optimal digestion, it is no wonder that the immune system is so closely tied digestive health.
o Vaporizer/Steam – Using of a vaporizer is also highly beneficial in maintaining a moist respiratory tract membrane. If you don’t have a vaporizer, not to worry as you can make your own at home by placing a few drops of essential oils in a bowl and then fill the bowl with boiling water. Grab a towel and drape it over your head while placing your face over the bowl and breathing deeply. My personal favourite essential oil mixture is four or five drops of eucalyptus, and three drops each of spearmint, peppermint and pine.
o Avoid Sugar – When ill, it is best to avoid sugar, even fruit sugar and honey as they weaken the immune system by impairing white blood cell function due to glucose fighting for the same transporter as vitamin C to get into cells. Otherwise, think again the next time you reach for the store bought orange juice.
o Vitamin C – This is a powerful antioxidant that enhances immune function and is also antiviral.
(500-1000mg every two hours. Decrease the dosage if excessive gas or diarrhea occurs)
o Vitamin D – This will help increase T cell functions, buffing up the immune system.
(1000-2000iu/day, taken with fat meal)
o Zinc – Zinc lozenges are great for the relief of a sore throat. Zinc, just as vitamin C is also antiviral. Make sure that your zinc lozenge does not contain mannitol, sorbitol or citric acid as these sweeteners reduce the effectiveness of the lozenge. Instead, look for those sweetened with glycine.
(15-25mg of elemental zinc and dissolve in the mouth every two hours, for up to 7 days)
o Echinacea – High quality Echinacea extract (E. purpurea, 2-4ml fluid extract three times per day.) opposed to Echinacea root, as it has been shown1 to be effective in reducing the length of the common cold.
o Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Omega 3’s are found in flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts and especially those containing EPA/DHA such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and sea algae are your all-star players when it comes to decreasing inflammation. For great EPA/DHA products like NutraSea and NutraVege (plant based) and Omega oils for your pets visit the ASCENTA website.
o Pelargonium sidoides – This has been shown2 to help bronchitis and sinusitis as well as the common cold. (1.5ml three times per day for adults or 1ml three timers per day for children 7-12 years old or .5ml for those six years of age or younger)
Boosting The Immune System
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
……………………………………………….– Benjamin Franklin
Building a strong immune system is essential for not only overcoming viruses like the common cold but for other more life threatening diseases as well. Keeping in mind that all of the above tips contribute to strengthening the immune system but it is important to realize that a comprehensive approach is needed to support the immune system year long.
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o Emotional State and Mental Health – An often under appreciated and overlooked element of ensuring optimal immune function is the role our emotional state and mental health play. I can’t tell you how many times when I was younger that I would will myself to overcome a cold. I don’t carry any scientific proof that a full on cold was actually what I was in for, or if it was actually my “Jedi mind tricks” that were responsible for its quick exit. Either way, on numerous occasions when I started to feel either a scratchy throat or congested sinuses there was usually a friend asking me if I was coming down with something in which I would immediately reply, “no, but if I am getting sick I will kick it in a day.” This confidence and borderline cockiness worked wonders for me but it is also important to note a good dose of laughter and smiles has been shown (albeit, loosely) to help boost immune function too.3 In case you are wondering, yes, I did just tell you to curl up on the couch, throw in Old School and laugh your self well.
o Reduce Stress – To be honest though, as I have grown older (and before my shift to health and wellness), I seemed to have lost the assistance from “the Jedi force,” which is most likely due to the added responsibility of being an adult and having to now deal with greater amounts of daily stress opposed to the few times a week of pre basketball game jitters, a chemistry final or how many Black Russians (the drink) I could buy with $20.00 and still be able to tip the bartender. Stress is said to be the silent killer and justifiably so, as it is to the immune system what kryptonite is to Superman.
o Sugar 2.0 – I already mentioned sugar’s effect on immunity above, but it is worth mentioning again as fruits and honey are beneficial during non cold and flu times.
o Nutrient deficiencies – are another common cause of poor immune function. For example, when we are stressed, especially chronically, our body rapidly burns through B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium and if not replenished through food or supplementation our immune system will not have the strength to ward off viruses thereby being susceptible to things further down the road like adrenal imbalances, chronic fatigue, mental illness and so on. Key immune system nutrients are vitamins A (liver, red pepper, squash, carrots and leafy greens) , vitamin C (bell peppers, thyme, dark leafy greens, broccoli) and vitamin E (nuts/seeds, paprika, dried herbs), B vitamins (whole grains, legumes, dark leafy greens), zinc (oysters, pumpkin seeds and 70% or greater dark chocolate), selenium (Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and oysters) and vitamin D from sunshine (at least a UV Index of 3), cod liver, fish (salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines), eggs and mushrooms. Other great foods that boost immunity are those that contain sulphur such as garlic and onions and anti inflammatory spices like turmeric and ginger.
o Intravenous (IV) Boosters – Another great option is to find a Naturopath doctor that administers Intravenous (IV) boosters as this treatment will saturate your body with all the nutrients needed to beef up the immune systems army, necessary to fight off acute and chronic viral or bacterial infections. The IV’s provide a therapeutic dose of essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids clinically proven to support immune function and accelerate recovery from infection.
In choosing to kick cold and flu’s holistically by supporting your immune system, know that you are doing your body a huge favour by not filling it with pharmaceutical drugs. These cold medications wreck havoc on stomach acid (HCl) and gut bacteria often leading to compromised immunity in the long run. I understand that there will be times when a symptom needs to be suppressed such as the case if you are scheduled to speak in front of a crowd and the last thing you need is to be congested and/or coughing. Do what you need to do then get home and take care of yourself with rest, whole foods and fluids.
If you found this information useful, don’t be shy, send it around to your friends, family and co-workers. After all, nobody enjoys being sick and you’ll be their hero!
1. Schulten B, Bulitta M, Ballering-Brühl B, Köster U, Schäfer M. Efficacy of Echinacea purpurea in patients with a common cold. A placebo-controlled, randomised, double-blind clinical trial. 2001;51(7):563-8
2. Matthys H, Kamin W, Funk P, Heger M. Pelargonium sidoides preparation (EPs 7630) in the treatment of acute bronchitis in adults and children. 2007;14 Suppl 6:69-73. Epub 2006 Dec 20.
3. Mary Payne Bennett and Cecile Lengacher. Humor and Laughter may Influence Health I. Humor and Immune Function. 2009 June; 6(2): 159–164.