Treating cold and influenza viruses from a naturopathic perspective is a safe and effective approach for the whole family. By utilizing medicinal foods, herbs and home remedies, you can create your own cold and flu first aid kit. Natural therapies are most effective when they are used right away, so you will be prepared the moment a virus strikes.
Did you know that your home is full of immune-boosting medicine and home remedies? Here are some tips when illness strikes:
Rest, Rest, Rest
Do you get sick when you are run down? Your body is telling you to slow down and take care of yourself. Do your work colleagues and school mates a favour and stay home.
Steam inhalations with eucalyptus oil can help clear congestion. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add two to eight drops of eucalyptus essential oil. Place pot on a firm surface and carefully bring your face over the steam covering your head and the pot with a towel. Careful though, the steam will be hot!
Salt is an unfavourable environment for microbes to thrive. At onset of sore throat put 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water and gargle 3 times per day
Drink Warm Liquids
Sip warm fluids like tea or broth throughout the day. Fresh ginger tea can be made by chopping up organic ginger root and letting it simmer in a covered pot for at least 15 minutes. You can also add fresh lemon juice and a small amount of honey.
Eliminate Sugar and Avoid Dairy
Excess sugar depletes the immune system. Try replacing white sugar with honey, maple syrup or stevia and only use sweeteners in moderation. Dairy is a mucous (phlegm) producing food so limit it in your diet while ill.
Food as Medicine - Garlic
Did you know that garlic has natural antimicrobial properties? However, you need to eat the garlic raw to get this benefit. Chop up organic garlic and let it sit for 10 minutes before eating since exposure to air activates the garlic. You can add the garlic to warm soup (but add it at the end of cooking) or mix it into foods like guacamole and hummus.
Food as Medicine – Astragalus
Astragalus membranaceous (also known as Huang Qi) is a herbal medicine that has been used for centuries in Chinese Medicine and its use as a medicine is now supported by scientific evidence. The medicinal compounds of Astragalus are found in the root. Astragalus can be used to support the immune system by simmering the dried root in soup or taking the medicine as an alcohol based tincture. You can find Astragalus root in China town to use in my favourite immune support soup when illness strikes.
Food as Medicine - Immune Supporting Foods
Vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals which support healthy immune function. Organically grown produce tends to be higher in these nutrients since they are grown in nutritionally rich soil without reliance on pesticides or petroleum derived fertilizers. Here are veggies, fruits and other immune supporting foods rich in these important vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin C – Peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, kale, berries.
Vitamin A / Beta Carotene – Carrots, spinach, pumpkin, sweet potato, cod liver oil, broccoli, butter, eggs.
Vitamin D – Sunshine (not a food but important for vitamin D synthesis in the skin). Milk, milk substitutes (almond/rice milk), cheese and butter often have vitamin D added.
Selenium – Brazil nuts, fish, chard, oats, wheat germ, molasses, sunflower seeds.
Zinc – Pumpkin seeds, oysters, chard, meat (turkey, beef).
Dr. Heather’s Prevention Tips
No one can totally protect themselves from these pesky viruses, but these are my favourite tips and home remedies to keep you and your family healthy.
Wash Your Hands
This first one goes without saying but it is so important that I will say it again. To reduce exposure to viruses, always wash your hands before eating and avoid touching your face. Avoid antibacterial soaps which promotes antibiotic resistance.
Get your Sleep
This is the time your immune system rebuilds and repairs itself. You are more vulnerable to illness when you are tired and rundown.
Drink teas and water to keep your body hydrated. Fluids keep your mucous membranes hydrated, which in turn boosts the activity of your immune system. Dehydration can result in overall lower immune functioning.
Avoid Excess Stress
High cortisol levels (the stress hormone) impair the immune system. Take time for yourself and learn stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, exercising or laughing (humour is a grand medicine).
Eat Whole Foods
Unprocessed, whole foods such as whole grains (like brown rice and quinoa), vegetables, fruit, lean proteins (fish and chicken), nuts, seeds and healthy unrefined oils (like extra virgin olive oil) support a healthy immune system. Avoid excess sugar and junk food. Refer to Kathy Smart’s cookbook for recipe ideas. (www.livethesmartway.com)
The changing season makes us more vulnerable to illness. Keep your head and neck covered when you go outside into the cold.