Well, it’s that time of year again. Summer holidays are over, the kids are back in school and the rest of us are back at the daily grind. As we all know, with this return to daily routine comes the ever-persistent, unavoidable cold and flu season. And still, no cure; just constant vigilance, never ending hand washing and, despite all the effort, the very real chance of coming down with a bout of the cold or flu anyway.
So what are we to do? Is there actually any way to stop from getting sick? Is it possible to reduce the severity and duration? Do any of the ‘old wives tales’ and home remedies even work? A look at the popular media will suggest that there isn’t much hope in the fight against common colds and flus. Every year there is a new study contradicting the old studies, new promises about vaccinations and all in all a grin-and-bear it attitude. But there is hope. And you don’t have to suffer for days on end. Combining modern prevention techniques with the remedies of yester-year will greatly reduce both the likelihood and, in case one of the nasty little bugs does invade, the severity and duration of this year’s cold and flu season.
Studies confirm over and over that a diet high in vitamin c will greatly improve the immune system and help prevent colds, flus and other bacteria and viruses from making you sick. While the classic orange juice is an option, the better choice is to eat a diet rich in dark leafy green and red vegetables, as well as fruits with a red or blue pigment such as blueberries and cranberries. Not only will these provide you with a big dose of vitamin C, they will also provide a number of other vitamins, minerals, fibre and other nutrients important not only for the immune system, but overall health as well
As an important component of many immune reactions, zinc is well documented to help promote a healthy and active immune system. Zinc is found readily in a number of unprocessed nuts, grains and seeds. Eating foods that are whole and unrefined (i.e. steel cut oats, sunflower seeds and almonds with skins on) will ensure the body is getting adequate amounts of zinc. Supplementation, with supervision, will also ensure that the body is not suffering from a zinc deficiency, which, due to the Standard North American diet of over processed and refined foods, is far too common.
While there is controversy in the media as to the efficacy of the medicinal plant Echinacea in immune function, many studies suggest that a daily supervised regimen of Echinacea during the cold and flu season greatly reduces the risk of becoming sick. It also helps to reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms if you end up sick. The medicinal components of Echinacea help the body to stop the influenza virus from growing and also reduce symptoms by limiting the amount of symptom-inducing products that are released during the immune response. This not only reduces how long you are sick for but also how bad the symptoms are.
A wide body of research exists on the effects of garlic on the immune system. Garlic contains a number of components, including trace minerals such as selenium, that are important in the proper functioning of the immune system.
Homemade chicken soup really is a type of medicine. The combination of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals from the vegetables, broth and pasta pack a powerful punch for the immune system, help hydrate your body and provide easily digested sugars to help give you energy.
The TV commercials don’t lie. The best way to prevent getting a cold is to avoid all contact with the virus all together. Viruses are most likely to cause an infection when they come in contact with warm, moist areas, such as your mouth, nose or eyes. The best way to stop the spread is to wash your hands often and to avoid touching your mouth, eyes or nose.
If all else fails and you end up sick, the best bet is to stay home and rest. Not only will your co-workers thank you for not infecting the office, but your body will too for allowing it the time and energy it needs to fight the good fight and get better. So take advantage of a day or two off; sit back, put your feet up, grab a hot cup of Echinacea tea and a bowl of chicken soup and rest.