Easy, natural ways to make sure you don’t spend half of winter sniffling under your doona.
Respiratory infections such as the “common” cold and influenza can occur at any time of year but are most common during the winter months. It is estimated that approximately 4.5 million Australians experience a cold at least once per year.
Colds and flus are not the same. Influenza is much more serious and in some cases can be life threatening. Most people who are relatively healthy will recover from a bout of influenza within a few days, however, if you don’t look after your immune system you will be susceptible to a relapse or to catching the next infection circulating in your environment.
How can I prevent colds and flus?
There are many things you can do to improve and maintain a healthy immune system which will reduce the likelihood of succumbing to an infection. Colds and flus are very contagious and spread from person to person via a droplet in the air from sneezing or coughing. You can become infected by touching a contaminated surface or by shaking hands then transferring the virus to your mouth, eyes or nose.
Tips for you
- Wash your hands frequently, particularly if people around you have symptoms of cold or flu
- Try to avoid crowded places as much as possible during the flu season
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains. This ensures that you get the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are essential for a healthy immune system
- Eat adequate protein. This can be obtained from animal sources such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy foods or from plant sources such as legumes, tofu and tempeh
- Have lots of onion and garlic for their antimicrobial properties. Ginger and chili are very warming foods and can be beneficial in the cooler months
- Get plenty of sleep and make time for relaxation and enjoyable activities
- Engage in moderate exercise at least 4 times per week to improve immunity and aid elimination of wastes though the circulatory and lymphatic systems
- avoid processed foods
- minimize or avoid alcohol and caffeine as these leach valuable nutrients from the body
Take Action Early
- If you have a cold or flu infection you need to take precautions that will prevent its spread and reduce its severity and duration
- If you begin taking the appropriate herbs and nutrients immediately you can prevent the infection taking hold
- Always cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough
- Avoid close contact with other people
- Take time off, rest and stay warm. Give your immune system a good chance to deal with the infection quickly and efficiently
- Eat nutritious foods and have plenty of fluids – home made soups with vegetables, ginger and garlic are great as they are nutritious and don’t take much energy to digest
- Avoid cold drinks and foods, fatty foods and foods containing sugar and artificial additives
- Keep in mind that dairy foods will increase mucous production
Herbal & Nutritional Medicines
- There are many herbal and nutritional medicines that improve immunity and help the body fight infection.
- Echinacea is one of the most well known herbal medicines for improving immunity and fighting infection. It was traditionally used by the Native Americans for this very reason and the traditional use is now supported by scientific and clinical studies.
- Elderberry and elderflowers are traditionally used to treat colds and flus. It has an antiviral activity against a number of influenza viruses and probably also enhances the immune system. Other herbs that improve immunity are Andrographis, Cat’s claw and Pau d’Arco.
- Important immune enhancing nutrients include vitamin C and zinc. A deficiency of these nutrients depletes the immune system and leads to an increased incidence of infection. B complex vitamins are great for general health and immunity while vitamin A is essential for healthy mucous membranes which line the respiratory tract.
- If you are feeling a cold coming on then make some of the powerful Immune Booster Drink and nip it in the bud!
Immune Booster Drink
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh ginger
- Pinch of fresh chili
- 1-2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
1-2 teaspoons Manuka honey
Add boiling water and cover for 10 minutes. Rug up, stay warm and enjoy two cups. This will encourage a mild fever and induce sweating. Fever is one of the first defenses against infection and will help to relieve symptoms.