Colds and flu are viral infections that are not limited to appearing just in the colder months, any weather change, environmental change or even diet change can drop immune resistance as our body acclimates, resulting in infection!
As they are viral, they are unresponsive to antibiotics, which only treat bacterial infections. Taking these during a viral infection, not only suppresses your immune systems ability to fight the virus itself, but puts us at a much bigger risk of antibiotic resistance and super bugs in the future. For more information see this fantastic website. Letting colds and flu be resolved by the body, with the support of diet, rest, and natural remedies, is a great way to develop immune strength and natural resistance. And leaving antibiotics alone when we don’t need them, ensures that they will be effective to save lives when they *are* needed. Of course, if things get serious, or if you’re worried about anything, always consult your Doctor, complications can arise, and you do not want to get all your medical advice solely from the internet!
So, here is my survival guide to control symptoms, reduce the viruses lifespan, and hopefully prevent them from spreading to our fellow humans! Print it out, pin it on the fridge, and share it with your friends.. if you so desire (;
The Vitamin C Trick
I’m excited to share this with you, as it works every time in my experience, provided you catch the virus at the first signs of any ‘immune malfunction’. We are talking about those slightly sore throats, tickling coughs, brain is two sizes too big, we can’t keep our eyes open, we are walking through mud, feelings.
You may also want to bust this out if you have been feeling run down in general, have encountered someone who is sick, have been somewhere crowded or polluted, or are about to go travelling.
- Take 1000mg of vitamin C every hour for five hours. Then, for three days following, take 1000mg three times a day.
- After these three days, take a maintenance dose of 1000mg daily, until you die.
Yep, you heard me. Until you die. This is a vitally important vitamin that we do not gain nearly enough of through fresh food or synthetically
laced fortified processed foods. Fruits and vegetables produce vitamin C in their last phases of sun ripening, if they are picked before they are fully ripe, like most of our produce is, then they contain very little to none, vitamin C. Yet, our crazy lifestyles these days, require much higher amounts than food alone can provide us. Some might even say a daily maintenance dose of 1000mg is not enough, but I shall leave that to your own fabulous autonomy, and self investigation to decide how much you would like to take daily.
This vitamin protects and stimulates our immune system, it is a powerful antioxidant, and is an integral part of collagen formation, healing the skin and bones. It is also a blood thinner, which is helpful if you’re travelling, preventing DVT. But please note this, and talk to your doctor about taking high doses if you are on any prescription blood thinners. Although, it does makes a much safer alternative (and has many other obvious benefits), to taking Aspirin as a general blood thinner, if that’s something you practice.
If you have *already* caught a cold or flu, you can still follow the above procedure, but then, instead of taking *1000mg three times a day, for three days*, take it for the duration of your symptoms. This extra immune activation, and free radical destruction, will ensure that your symptoms are minimised, and you recover quicker. Your skin will also look amazing. Truth.
You don’t have to take all of these listed here, but a combo of the ones that appeal to you will help a great deal.
- Garlic oil; is a great anti-viral, it is also an antibiotic, so will protect from secondary bacterial infections. It increases the production of white blood cells, oxygenates the blood, helps with headaches, cough, intestinal upset, and really clears the respiratory system & sinus, making it an indispensable part of cold and flu treatment. It has so many benefits, that I recommend some extra research. NB: it is also a blood thinner, and so can cause excessive bleeding if you’re already on blood thinning medications. Do not buy ‘odourless garlic’, as it has virtually no active properties, and is therefore useless.
- Pro-biotics; are a must. As we know, they restore the healthy gut bacteria balance, which plays a huge role in immune system support. If you have gotten sick, then chances are, your gut flora is pretty weak in the first place. If you have been on antibiotics, your body will be desperate for this supplement. No, eating yoghurt and fermented foods is not enough in this case. My favourite over the counter brand at the moment, is the Faulding’s supplement, which is handy as it doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge. However, Naturopaths and some chemists will stock much stronger, practitioner only probiotics, which are worth the extra bang for your buck.
- Olive leaf extract; this seems to be hit or miss for some people, but in my opinion, it really depends on the quality of the product you are buying. As with garlic oil, it is a powerful antimicrobial, so if you don’t fancy the idea of smelly garlic burps, then this could be the alternative for you. It fights viral infections very well, reducing the replication of viral and bacterial cells, and helps to control fevers.
- Zinc; Is most essential to the body in so many different ways. In this case; immune function, it cannot be over looked. Make sure your supplement also contains Magnesium and B6 for optimal absorption and function of Zinc. If you want to check if you are deficient in this mineral, it is a good idea to ask your chemist or Naturopath if they offer the Zinc Tally test. By swilling a small amount of liquid zinc in your mouth, and deciding how foul you think its tastes on a scale, will alert your medical professional to how deficient, or non-deficient you may be. Blood serum tests don’t hold very reliable conclusions for mineral deficiencies, so this is a great way to monitor your Zinc levels.
- B Vitamins; It’s always best to take the B vits together, as a ‘complex’ in the same tablet, which most good brands you can get from the chemist provide. Natures Own Maxi B is great, Blackmore’s are also reliable, but practitioner only supplements will be better, yet usually a touch more expensive. They offer immune and nervous system support, cell regeneration/healing, and provide energy for the body at a cellular level, which enhances general energy and wellbeing.
- Green powders; such as Spirulina, chlorella, barley grass and wheat grass, may be a food you would like to add to your diet, via smoothies, or in pill form. These plants are high in vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes, which will support your immune system, and also help the body convalesce.
There are many herbs which support and repair the immune system. The reason there are so many, is that there will always be one that is more *specific* for the symptoms you are experiencing, along with the idiosyncrasies of your immune system and body type. Being a herbalist myself, and understanding the specific art that is herbal prescription, I will always recommend that anyone sees a fully qualified and experienced herbalist over self-medicating. Especially if you want the optimal effect of how powerful and amazing herbal medicine can be, and not just a haphazard dabble. However, here is a list of some of the most common ones you will see available and some things to note about those herbs.
- Echinacea; is great for upper respiratory viral infections; tonsilitis, laryngitis, sinusitis etc. But please note, if you have an allergy to Ragweed plants, this will be unsafe for you. It is also unsafe for anyone with an autoimmune disease, it will exacerbate these diseases. I even go so far as to not prescribe it to anyone who has a family medical history of autoimmune conditions. I also do not like to recommend it for supporting the immune system in cancer patients.
- Astragalus; is one of my favourite herbs for restoring the immune system. It is very effective in increasing all immune supporting cells, at initial stage creation ie. the liver and bone marrow. It warms the body up and ‘recharges’ the spleen. It should not be taken while you have acute symptoms, this will only make your condition worse. It should be taken after you’re ‘better’ and want to restore your body and immunity to optimum. It is specifically used after long-term illness or severe viral infections, such as any Epstein-Barr virus (most commonly Glandular fever). This is also a good one to turn to if you get reoccurring illnesses/infections.
- Cats Claw (uncaria tomentosa) (not to be confused with Devils Claw (harpagophytum)); Is a generally safe antiviral, immune supporting herb to use for anyone, while you have a viral infection, and to ‘boost’ immunity after the symptoms have gone. It can be used to support the body through most Cancers, also AIDS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Herpes, Shingles, and can alleviate bone pain.
- Horseradish; is another popular component of herbal immune support supplements. It can help with fevers, cough and achy joints, but may irritate the digestive tract, especially if you have a pre-diagnosed digestive issue.
Herbal teas are great for colds and flu, as they keep you hydrated, warm up the respiratory and soothe the throat. It is a very weak form of herbal medicine, so the cautionary aspects are lessened to nil. Make sure you brew the herbs for 5-10 minutes, in a covered cup or teapot with a lid.
- Chamomile, passion-flower, vervain/verbena, valerian, licorice root, catnip, peppermint; all have soothing and antispasmodic effects to the digestive tract and respiratory. They help reduce cough, while still allowing the lungs to clear, help with stomach pains, and soothe the nerves for a good sleep.
- Rooibos, oolong, green tea, white tea, rosehip tea; are all high in antioxidants, which help the body to heal faster.
- The traditional Lemon & Raw (or manuka) Honey tea is also effective. You may like to add some grated fresh ginger, and/or a half cinnamon stick to your tea, for extra herbal awesomeness.
- Slippery Elm; is a herb that is the ultimate in soothing, hydrating and reducing inflammation to the mucous membranes of the body. Break open a capsule or two, and add the powder to your tea to soothe and heal your throat. It will also heal any ulcers or irritation in the rest of the stomach and intestinal tract.
Keep your diet simple and easy to digest while you are sick. Make lots of soups, stews, smoothies, juices, roast and steam fruit and veg, all from fresh and preferably organic produce. If you’re too sick to move, employ a good friend or family member to help you make up a big batch of soup and stew to freeze down. It’s ok to ask for help, I promise!
Avoid processed foods, dairy, sugar, caffeine, even gluten.. anything that will compromise your immune system and prevent you from healing as fast and completely as possible.
My post on autumnal foods and eating, will provide you with more information and advice on diet requirements for the immune system.
Essential oils / Aromatherapy
Breathing in 100% pure essential oils can be one of the best feelings and healing modalities to utilise while you are sick. You can use an oil burner, air diffuser, or even place a small bowl of water with a few drops of your selected oils, next to a heater or radiator. If you are out in public or at work, and still want to benefit from aromatherapy, you can saturate a piece of paper or tissue with oil to keep on hand, or place a few drops in an empty vial, to sniff at your leisure, clearing your sinuses and head. *All essential oils are antiseptic*, burning them can help keep the air clear of airborne spores, preventing the spread of infection.
- The best antiseptics and antivirals are; Lemon, pine, lavender, bergamot, eucalyptus, rosemary, tea-tree, orange, petitgrain.
- Frankincense, sandalwood, mandarin, chamomile, geranium, ginger, black pepper, are all also great for colds and flu symptoms.
Research your favourite smelling oils, and get creative blending which oils you would like to work together for desired effects. You don’t need to make it complicated, you can use just two or three oils, whatever feels and smells good to you. If your budget only allows for one oil to be bought and used, make it eucalyptus, or lemon. Keep citrus oils in the fridge for longer life
Last but not least…REST!
The body heals when it is asleep and fully resting. If you’re sick, you need more sleep and rest than you would usually. Sadly, our society doesn’t have much allowance for rest and the other necessary conditions that go hand in hand with healing sickness. Rest and self-care are a must when we are run down, I can’t reiterate this enough! Make yourself a priority, get the medical certificate you need from your doctor to have a 3-5 days off school or work, and cocoon yourself in bed. Ask for help from family or trusted friends, and to take care of the kids for a while, if applicable, even for just a few hours a day so you can get some extra sleep. These things are common sense, but sometimes when we are sick common sense goes out of the window, especially if we are so used to taking on a lot of responsibility. We forget how to ‘stop’ and slow down.
Not so coincidentally, our immune system drops when we have been over working and over stressing ourselves. Our body literally forces a ‘rest’ upon us. Getting sick is a great way to weed out necessities on the ‘to do’ list and rearrange our priorities. Reflecting on what is bringing us down, or stressing us in our lives, helps us to realise what may have triggered our sickness in the first place. Our body is constantly sending us information on a myriad of levels, what is it that you may have been ignoring?
Above all, listen to yourself and what your own body is saying it needs to be well.
Much love and healing,
Sami Lou x0
Photos; Me & Morguefile.
#Pharmaceutical brands mentioned in this post may only be availale in Australia.