I love the onset of cooler weather, cold, crisp, clear mornings are a welcome respite from the long Aussie summer. But as temperatures plummet and we dig out the slippers, blankets and woolly jumpers, we also need to brace ourselves for cold and flu season.
There’s a lot we can do to help protect ourselves from the viral onslaught.
Remember that colds and flu are mostly caused by viruses, and antibiotics for a viral infection will not be effective. Natural approaches when used appropriately offer relief that is effective, affordable and with minimal side-effects. Here are a few simple ideas to keep you and your family well this Autumn and Winter.
Back to basics – the power of handwashing
Frequent handwashing will help keep a virus at bay and prevent it spreading. A normal soap and hot water is all that is required. Teach your children to cover their mouths with their arms (not their hands) when coughing or sneezing.
Reduce simple sugars
Sugar is known to impair immune system function so it’s important to reduce processed sugary foods such as lollies, sugary cereals, flavoured milks, fruit juice, soft drinks and alcohol.
Building immunity with nutrients
The nutrients vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A and zinc have all been proven to significantly influence multiple components of immunity in the prevention and treatment of the common cold. If your levels are low it will cause a loss of anti-viral defence and you will suffer more colds, more often. As naturopaths we evaluate your nutrient status through your symptoms, diet and by appropriate pathology testing.
Eat nutrient rich foods
Adequate nutrition is vital to immune health so making the change to a whole foods diet with good quality protein and plenty of vegetables is very important to protect us from getting sick. Ensure you include foods rich in:
Vitamin C and beta-carotene – good sources include kiwi, citrus fruits, berries, carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, pumpkin, spinach, red capsicum and tomatoes.
Zinc – pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, eggs, seafood, oysters and beef.
Vitamin D – oily fish such as herring, trout, mackerel, sardines and eggs. A daily dose of cod liver oil provides naturally-occurring, safe levels of vitamins A & D and is a great source of omega-3s too.
Warming herbs and spices
These have powerful properties to help boost immunity, some are anti-viral and eliminate congestion and toxins. For example, turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon and cloves. The power-packed ginger root and garlic can easily be added to home remedies. Garlic is a superior antimicrobial and immune enhancer that when crushed and eaten raw protects against many infections. This year I am trying my hand at making our own home remedies – see our Recipe section if you fancy making some homemade remedies.
Supporting your immunity through supplementation
A daily dose of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) has been shown to reduce the likelihood of colds and flu, reduce antibiotic use, and school absences in children. As an acute dose, adults can take 1000mg vitamin C every 3-4 hours.
Research shows that zinc lozenges taken at the first sign of symptoms can stave off the initial infection stage of a cold. Dissolve in your mouth slowly over 30 minutes.
Immune supporting herbs
Herbs to consider for flu prevention include echinacea, andrographis, astragalus, siberian ginseng, elderberry and medicinal mushrooms such as reishi and shitake. We have an extensive herbal dispensary and tailor-make herbal tonics to support your individual needs.
Drink plenty of fluids
Drink plenty of water, bone broth (See our recipe section) and herbal teas to prevent dehydration. YEP tea is a blend of yarrow, elderflower and peppermint and is traditionally effective for use during a cold. Drink a cup several times a day at the first sign of a cold or flu. Add manuka honey to help soothe a sore throat.
Gargle with salt water
The mild antiseptic qualities in salt not only soothe sore throats but help wash away any residual bacteria. Use a large pinch and no more than half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. Finish the entire cup and repeat twice a day or more often if needed.
And most importantly remember to take it easy – rest and sleep allow our immune systems to go to work in their defence functions.
Book in an acute consultation
We offer acute consultations that can be organised at short notice, call 02 9949 4411 or book here
Important note: Infants less than three months old or anyone immune-compromised should seek medical help. If you are on medication or are pregnant or breast-feeding seek guidance from your healthcare professional before taking any supplements. In children, any required supplements and herbs will need to be individualised based on height, weight and age.