Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

By Dr. Melina Roberts
Published in Pickering Life Magazine – April 2005

We cannot control our enemies but we can build our defenses and protect ourselves. The causes of colds and flus are not only bacteria and viruses. There are thousands of different strains of bacteria and viruses that enter our environment daily, but it is our body’s internal environment that determines our susceptibility to infections. We will only get sick if our body is out of balance and our immune system is diminished. In order for bacteria or viruses to survive and cause symptoms within the body they need an environment that will nourish them. Our best defense is our very own immune system, which needs to be strong in order to combat infections. It is best to start strengthening our immune system when we are in good health. The human’s immune system can be compromised by physical and psychological stress, poor nutrition, use of prescription drugs and environmental toxins.

How you can boost your immune system:

  • Eat a diet that is high in whole, natural foods including fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, seeds and nuts. Processed foods and a diet high in sugar can be a burden on the immune system. Good nutrition can optimize immune function.
  • Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day. The increased fluids will help to flush out toxins.
  • Get a good night sleep of at least 7-8 hours. This will help to give the body the energy that it needs to fight off any infections.
  • Exercise regularly. This physical activity will stimulate the immune system.
  • Add Echinacea to your health routine. This herb strengthens the immune system in healthy people and is helpful at the onset of an infection. It stimulates the production of several kinds of immune cells that destroy pathogens.
  • Add Astragalus to your health routine. Astragalus is a traditional Chinese herb that is best used as a preventive measure against the common cold.
  • Take Elderberry, a herb that contains compounds that are active against the flu viruses and acts to prevent the virus from invading the respiratory tract cells.
  • Add Vitamin C with bioflavonoids to your health routine. This is a potent antioxidant that has both antiviral and antibacterial properties. This vitamin also plays a role in enhancing the immune system by improving a person’s resistance to infections.
  • Take Zinc, which is trace mineral necessary for the immune system to function properly.
  • Take Selenium, which is a trace mineral that stimulates white blood cells of the immune system.

If you do get sick, you need to aid the healing process by supporting the immune system. Symptoms, such as a cough and runny nose, are the body’s way of eliminating and healing the disease. A fever is the body’s way of producing an unsuitable environment for the infection to thrive. It is important not to suppress the healing process with fever reducers, cough syrups or antibiotics. Antibiotics can actually suppress and weaken the immune system. Instead of attempting to control the symptoms, we need to stimulate the immune system and allow the body to heal itself.

Hot Ginger Tea

Hot ginger tea is a great way to treat a cough. To make the tea, cut up several tablespoons of fresh ginger root, boil it in water for 15-20mins and drink it as a tea. The ginger stimulates circulation and helps to clear your sinuses and lungs of mucous.

Chicken Soup

Hot and spicy chicken soup with lots of garlic and onions is great for when you have a cold or the flu. You can also add vegetables, ginger and hot red peppers. Garlic and onions are wonderful flavour enhancing ingredients, but they also have antiviral and antibacterial properties with sulphur-containing oils that help to fight infections. The hot and spicy property helps the fever to run its course and eliminate the infection. Drinking the soup helps to keep you hydrated. This soup is very nurturing and an excellent treatment when you are sick.

It is important to supply the immune system with what it needs to function optimally. The human body has an amazing ability to fight off colds and flus and enable the body to heal itself, we just need to give our body the right fuels.

Be sure to check with your Naturopathic Doctor before beginning any program that involves the addition of supplements or botanicals to your regimen to ensure that they are right for you.