Sunday, November 7, 2010

Getting Through the Cold and Flu Season

Proper immune system function is essential for good health. During the cold and flu season, it is especially important to support the immune system for the prevention and treatment of infection and illness.

Here are some natural remedies that are effective in supporting the immune system:

To prevent a cold or flu:
  • Eat a variety of whole foods and plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables. Avoid refined, processed and packaged foods - these foods are nutrient deficient and will not provide your immune system with the support it needs.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water  will help to flush unwanted bacteria and viruses from the body. It will also help to thin mucous secretions, which will help to improve congestion in the lungs, sinuses and nasal passageways.
  • Eat foods rich in zinc such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Zinc is an important nutrient for immune system function. Pumpkin seeds (choose raw and unsalted) are especially high in zinc content.
  • Eat foods rich in Vitamin C: apples, citrus fruits and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts. Vitamin C is fantastic for immune system support.
  • Avoid sugar. Sugar has the potential to suppress the immune system for up to 12 hrs. 
  • Consume beneficial bacteria: Keifer is an excellent source of probiotics and is much higher in acidophilus and lower in sugar than yogurt. Other fermented foods, such as unpasturized sauerkraut are also sources of probiotic bacteria. 
  • Consume garlic. Garlic has fabulous antimicrobial properties when eaten raw. To obtain the most benefit from garlic, chew a raw clove or consume immediately after crushing.
  • Support lymphatic system movement with contrast showers and daily dry skin brushing. This will aid in the circulation of the immune system through the body.
  • Get plenty of sleep. The body is only able to heal and repair itself if we allow it the time to rest.
  • Find effective ways of managing stress. The cortisol that our body releases during times of stress will inhibit immune system function.
  • If you suffer from frequent infections, your immune system likely needs some additional support. Your Naturopathic Doctor can prescribe natural remedies for improving your immune system function and preventing infection.
For the treatment of a cold or flu:
  • Consume plenty of fluids: water will help to flush unwanted bacteria and viruses from the body and chicken noodle soup and soup broth will provide the body with important vitamins and minerals.
  • Try a steam inhalation to loosen sinus and nasal congestion. Pour boiling water into a glass bowl and, with your face over the bowl, cover your head with a towel. Be cautious not to burn yourself with the hot steam. Allow your sinuses to drain and gently blow your nose afterward. Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to the water to enhance the clearing action.
  • Flush your sinuses by doing a nasal rinse. Use a netti pot with a salt water solution and flush daily until congestion clears.
  • Gargle with salt water to stop the spread of bacteria and viruses in the throat. This is especially helpful after being exposed to others who are sick.
  • Try a warming socks treatment. Do this as soon as you feel the symptoms of a cold or flu coming on and you will notice a dramatic improvement in the length and severity of your illness. This treatment supports lymphatic system function and helps to improve symptoms of congestion including headache, fullness in the ears, cough, stuffy nose and sinus blockage.
  • Drink ginger tea with lemon and honey. Ginger is an excellent antimicrobial. Ginger tea can be purchased or made at home by grating fresh ginger into boiling water. You may also consume raw ginger by adding it to salad dressings, smoothies and other foods.
  • Treat a sore throat by crushing 1/4-1/2 tsp of garlic into 1 tsp of honey and consuming immediately. Garlic will kill any bacteria and viruses in the throat and the honey will soothe the soreness.

For additional support in the treatment of cold or flu, check in with your Naturopathic Doctor for individualized prescriptions for natural alternatives to antibiotics and over the counter cold and flu medications.

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