Beat the Cold and Flu Season

With the circulation of colds and various viruses this season, many of us are worried about being next. Hearing “Ahhh CHU!” sends us backing up, surreptitiously looking for cover and wishing we’d worn a facemask, or maybe not even left the house. No one wants to deal with a cold, flu, or worse COVID-19, but what defenses do we have? The world’s most common ailment still defies a cure, and the flu vaccine is only moderately effective in preventing the flu because of the constant mutations of the influenza virus. There is no known prevention, treatment, or vaccine for COVID-19.

Before the advent of modern vaccines and antibiotics, medical practitioners had to rely on so-called “home remedies,” which included herbal medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy and nutrition. Some of these remedies will be discussed as effective methods of warding off symptoms of these common ailments. There is no cure for the common cold or the flu, but there are many methods to repel these diseases as well as treatments for them should you succumb.

The best offense is a good defense. If your body’s defenses are strong, you are much more likely to be able to quickly fight off any unwanted “invaders” and avoid becoming ill. If you live a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, a healthy diet, limited vices (such as smoking, candy, or alcohol consumption) and well-managed stress, you are far less likely to succumb to frequent colds or the flu. More precisely, exercise for a minimum of 30-45 minutes daily, eat a diet rich in fiber (fresh fruits and vegetables) and whole foods (grains, beans) and avoid fried and processed (packaged) foods. Particularly avoid foods high in sugar, as sugar tends to suppress the immune system, thereby rendering one more susceptible to infections. Drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of water daily, as water helps your body eliminate waste. Finally, find effective ways to manage your stress, whether through exercise, meditation, acupuncture, massage, counseling, or finding nourishing things to do such as volunteer work. Stress reduces the immune system to a barely functioning system.

Specific Tips for Maintaining Health

  • Frequent hand washing, particularly if you have had contact with someone who is ill, serves to reduce the number of “germs” present on your hands. In addition, always use clean dishes and utensils rather than sharing with an ill loved one.
  • Fresh Air is one of the wonderful nature cures. On these beautiful warm days, get outside and enjoy the sun. Open your house up for a couple hours during the day.
  • Hydrotherapy is a system of healing that can be used to stimulate circulation and the immune system and improve digestion. An in-depth discussion is beyond the scope of this article, however simply ending your showers with 15-30 seconds of cold water will feel invigorating and will help achieve your goal of disease prevention.
  • Vitamin C should be included in your daily diet in doses of about 2-3 grams. When ill, the dose can be increased up to 9 grams daily. As well as acting as an antioxidant, vitamin C has been shown to actually increase the “phagocytic activity” of white blood cells, which are responsible for killing germ-invaders.
  • Vitamin D is “the sunshine vitamin” because it is made in your skin with sun exposure. This fat soluble vitamin is extremely important in a healthy immune response. Low levels have been associated with increased incidents of allergies along with more frequent infections and some types of cancer. Through the winter at our northern latitude, we generally suggest a “maintenance dose” of 1,000-2000 IU daily. If frequent colds are a problem, we can check your serum level of vitamin D to make sure your levels are between 50-70.
  • Resting frequently during the day is helpful. This allows your body and mind to partially recuperate from the little daily stressors that add up into large stressors. Additionally, people often only breathe deeply when resting and sleeping. Perhaps surprisingly, deep breathing helps decrease your stress level as well.

Despite great preventative measures, illness can still set in. If it does, follow the above suggestions while sleeping and resting as much as possible. Illness tends to linger when you try to continue your daily routine with as much vigor as when you’re healthy. Also, if you retain your appetite during your illness, it is important to eat simple, easily digestible foods such as vegetable soup, steamed vegetables and rice, or a small amount of cooked cereal such as oatmeal or amaranth. The energy needed to digest heavy meals diverts much needed energy from the immune system… energy needed to fight an illness. It is imperative that one stays well hydrated through illness since fluids aid the body in flushing toxins out of the system. Try adding a pinch of sea salt and/or a squeeze of lemon or lime to your water.

It is most important to care for your body’s innate ability to heal by supporting a fever. A fever is a body temperature greater than normal, which for many people is 97.3 to 98.6. Therefore, a temperature of 98.8 may well be a fever if the person’s “normal temperature” is 97.3. Try to avoid the use of anti-pyretics such as aspirin, Tylenol, and ibuprofen. These drugs lower fever, which is the body’s major method of killing a foreign invader. If a fever is too high (103+ and not coming down with a tepid bath), then a dose may be appropriate. As a fever is developing, intense muscle aches can be relieved by raising the temperature slightly with a bath or wrapping up in a blanket with a hot pack. There is some concern that ibuprofen could worsen some symptoms of COVID-19, but doctors are not yet in agreement whether this is accurate. (www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/coronavirus-resource-center)

Most microbial and viral organisms have a specific temperature range in which they can exist and are killed at higher temperatures. Support a fever between 101-102 °F using tepid baths to lower the temperature if necessary. A prolonged fever of greater than 104°F is cause for concern, and medical advice should be sought.

Fever appears to be one of the first signs of COVID-19. The fever in and of itself is not cause for concern. Should a fever develop, instituting the supportive measures outlined here immediately is the best place to start. Should a cough or shortness of breath develop, we urge you to call your health care provider immediately who can review what symptoms you are experiencing and whether you need to be evaluated at a medical facility.

Specific Tips for Treating Illness

  • Herbs can be very helpful both preventatively and to speed recovery once an illness has descended. A few of our favorite “immune modulating” herbs that are generally appropriate to use preventatively are Echinacea, Astragalus, Eleutherococcus, and Sambucus. These can be boiled and served as hot or cold tea, and flavored to taste. The specific herbs and doses chosen depend upon the symptoms present.
  • Antioxidants such as selenium, vitamins E and C, glutathione (NAC is converted to glutathione), and beta-carotene act as “garbage trucks” and help “take out the trash” when one is ill. A good antioxidant formula can be found in most health food stores and should be taken several times throughout the day while ill. Zinc can be used short-term and is especially helpful with sore throats. Do not exceed a dose of 50 mg daily without consulting a doctor. It is available as lozenges, in multi-mineral formulas, and most multi-vitamins.
  • Homeopathic remedies can be very helpful if taken for specific symptoms. These are inexpensive remedies that can be found in most health food stores. 3-4 pellets should be stirred into 4-6 ounces of water and taken by mouth away from food by 20 minutes. At the first sign of flu-like symptoms try homeopathic Oscillococcinum. If there is the sensation of intense bone pain try homeopathic Eupatorium, while Gelsemium is useful with a gradual onset of symptoms along with great exhaustion and fear. Byronia is particularly useful with a very dry and painful cough. Lycopodium is particularly useful if gastrointestinal upset and shortness of breath is also present with flu-like symptoms. There are thousands of homeopathic remedies which a trained practitioner can suggest based upon specific symptoms.

Try thinking of an illness as an opportunity to rest, meditate, read a good book, do an art project, or watch a movie. The more we support our body in its quest to achieve a state of health, the faster we will journey through an illness.

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