A question that is worth asking yourself right now is “am I well enough to weather winter?” If you build your health before winter arrives you are more likely to get through it without falling victim to lots of colds or worse, the flu.
During these last weeks of Autumn a really nasty flu/cough/virus arrived alongside the change in weather, and people have been struck down with it all around, including me. It seems to be tagged as ‘flu’ but mine was more of a really nasty cough & cold. Most of the viruses that look and feel like flu are in fact not, with probably less than 20% actually being flu. But this does not stop the others from being downright unpleasant and highly contagious.
Preparing your health for winter really needs to begin as soon as the weather begins to change from summer into autumn, with a careful plan to bolster your immune system. But if you have not prepared yourself and have already had a taste of the illnesses that lie ahead this winter then there are still various tactics you can use to help you get through with minimum damage.
While aspirin or other medications may make you feel better because you can forget your symptoms for a bit they only suppress the symptoms and don’t actually make you better any faster. For that you need to look at other options, as well as making a few changes right now.
When my family catch the flu or any other cough or cold we all reach straight for the best selected Homeopathic remedy, because they are so effective against viral infection (unlike Antibiotics which we would avoid anyway). This is what I took this week to get rid of the bout I have just had fast. Homeopathic remedies are great as they reduce the unpleasant symptoms such as aches and pains or headache dramatically as they clear up the infection. But to get the fast, complete resolution the choice of remedy needs to be made individually – the remedy that did it for me may not be the same as the one you need. So if you would like to use this wonderful treatment head off to a Homeopath or else look for a short course to learn how to home-prescribe for acute illnesses yourself.
While there are many great Homeopathic medicines that are awesome for the flu, it is much better not to catch the flu in the first place.
PREVENT THE FLU
Here are some steps you can take to help prevent getting the flu. It is really important to make sure you follow these steps if you have come into contact with someone who has flu. But when flu is doing the rounds you can bet that you have been in contact with sufferers, at work, the train, the shopping centre, at school, or anywhere you have been.
Rest Get plenty of rest. Your immune system recharges itself while you are asleep. When you are overtired your system is not strong enough to fight off infection. Try for eight solid hours a night.
Water Drink enough water as it improves the function of every system in your body
Nutrition Increase fresh fruit and vegetable in your diet, preferably organic if you can. Fresh organic produce in a rainbow of colours is packed full of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are crucial for maintaining your immune health. Add spices such as turmeric, oregano, cinnamon and cloves have high ORAC scores http://www.oracvalues.com which equates to high levels of antioxidants. Adding a high quality daily multivitamin will fill in any gaps in the full range you may have.
Exercise Get regular exercise. Exercising for 30 to 60 minutes a day improves your immunity although it is not known exactly why. But it does need to be regular and consistent exercise, running occasionally won’t do a lot. However don’t overdo it as too much exercise makes you more susceptible to infection.
Hygeine Wash your hands often, especially before eating. You need to use warm water and soap and to really lather up. This is one of the best ways to avoid contracting the virus. Also, try not to touch your mouth, nose or eyes to prevent the virus entering your system.
Sugars Cut back on sugar and grains in your diet as they are both very weakening to your immune system.
The time you need to take steps if you want to fight the flu off is at the very first indication you are coming down with it because this is when the strategies work their best. Don’t just do a few things, you need to fight the virus off on all fronts by adopting every strategy you can – nutrition, sleep, exercise, supplements, calm.
Take some time off to rest up and recuperate. It is much better to rest for one day rather than getting sick for much longer, simply because you pushed on when your body was telling you to slow down
There are a number of supplements you can take to help to prevent flu which improve your immunity and help your mucous membranes stay healthy.
Vitamin D Most importantly get on to Vitamin D. It produces antimicrobial peptides in your body to kill viruses as well as bacteria. Huge numbers of the population are deficient in this crucial vitamin and because the source is sunlight their levels drop even further during the winter when sunlight is scarce or weak. 2000 IU a day has been found to keep flu away.
Vitamin C Adding a Vitamin C supplement during the flu season will provide your immune system with lots of extra power when it comes to warding off viral illness, as it acts as an antioxidant in your body. You can find it in many foods including lemons, limes, oranges, red pepper and broccoli.
Beta Carotene (Vitamin A) Vitamin A also acts as an antioxidant. It is of huge benefit to dramatically increase the amount you take each day if you do fall ill. Food sources are orange and yellow foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin as well as broccoli and dark green vegetables.
Zinc Strong immunity is dependant on good zinc levels but many people are deficient in this trace element, as the body has no way to store it. It increases production of infection fighting white blood cells and helps your immune system release more antibodies. If your levels of zinc are low you will be much more susceptible to infection. Your natural health practitioner can test your levels for you.
Vitamin E Another antioxidant, it improves immune function. If you have Hypertension make sure to take a water soluble version. Good food sources are olive oil, almonds, avocado and spinach.
Vitamin B6 Vitamin B6 deficiency leads to a weakened immune system. Vegetarians need to be particularly careful as most sources of B6 are animal foods.
Selenium It has been found that viruses tend to mutate easily into more damaging forms that lead to flu-related lung damage in people who are deficient in Selenium.
Olive Leaf Extract is a very effective immune system builder
Probiotics Studies show that long term use of lactic acid bacteria can protect against flu infection.
There are many herbs that support and boost your immune system and help you stave off the flu, while also helping the mucous membranes, such as Astragulus membranaceus, Hydrastis Canadensis, Sambucus nigra, Shitake mushroom and Garlic. Echinacea is useful for the first twenty-four hours of the illness.
Garlic is one food that really gives you a huge boost. If you take your garlic as a food you need to know these first. The health benefits of garlic are destroyed by cooking, much better if it is raw. You need to be able to smell garlic for it to work – odour free tablets are useless. The inside of the clove needs to be exposed to the air to be effective, so cut or crush the clove before you eat it. You should take two cloves a day. If you cut it up very small and swallow the bits with water or tea they will be easier to eat. Often when I need some garlic I squeeze the cloves right on the top of my pasta or casserole after I have served it and just eat it with the first mouthful. That way it is raw so still effective but the taste is masked by the taste of the food. Chew on parsley after taking garlic to avoid ‘garlic breath’
Reishi, Shitake and Maitake mushrooms have been used medicinally by the Chinese for over 6,000 years as they are excellent for increasing white blood cell activity to better fight off infection. There are many great mushroom supplements in tablet form available as well as the liquid herbs.
IF YOU STILL CATCH THE FLU
If in spite of taking preventative measures you are unfortunate and do catch the flu, here are some suggestions to help ease the flu symptoms a bit.
- Hot water bottles or heated wheat bags are great for sore, chilly patients
- Hot baths with Epsom salts: Put 1-2 cups of salts into a warm bath and soak . This helps draw out inflammation and ease muscle pain
- Gentle massage can help increase circulation
- Vitamin C in a powdered form in juice or water is easier to swallow than tablets and will ease inflamed mucous membranes as it passes over them.
- Chicken soup can be good as it helps replace electrolytes plus has other healing properties
- If you feel nausea ginger or chamomile tea may help
- Here are some nice herbal recipes for the symptoms of viral colds and flu, including a Cold & Flu Tea and a Sore Throat Gargle
And don’t forget, when you start feeling better it is important to remember that you are more vulnerable than normal and so you should take things a bit easier for a while, cutting back your schedule and keeping down your stress levels.
What’s your best tip for combating the flu?
All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site.
- Time to think about Zinc! (purevitamins.com.au)
- Fighting the flu naturally with some tips from Dr. Helen. (ecostore.com.au)