Winter time is here! I can't believe it!! But the colder weather is beginning to set in. For many this is the time for warming up around a log fire, cosy ugg boots and flannelette pjs, warm baths and herbal tea by the boat load...or is this just me?? For others the darker side of winter and the colder months rears it's ugly head with constant colds, flus, aches, pains, infections and perhaps even mood disorders with the change of weather. A trip to the doc might have you return on a course of antibiotics "just in case" a bacterial infection sets in or you are told "it'll pass, just go home and rest...nothing more to be done about it" when in actual fact there are a multitude of things that you can do to help not only to ease your suffering throughout the acute phases of illness but also to strengthen your immune system to prevent falling ill over and over again!
Signs and Symptoms
Acute coryza, or the 'common cold' generally lasts between 7-14 days, symptoms include tiredness, malaise, sore throat, tender lymph tissue and you may also be blessed with a blocked or runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing...all the fun stuff right?!
The influenza virus can have an incubation period of 1-3 days and symptoms can include sudden onset of fevers, shivering, aching muscles and joints, headaches, throat pain and coughing. The influenza infection can hang around for weeks and can leave a person feeling quite debilitated post infection. The good news is there are so many traditional, natural remedies that really do work that you can implement right away to help ease discomfort and aid your body in recovery.
Prevention of course is always the best form of medicine and so ensuring that you are getting enough sleep is key for your immune system. Consuming plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and clean, filtered water is also a great way to give your immune system the head start it needs to fight off any nasty pathogens. People who consume a probiotic and prebiotic rich diet have been shown to have a decreased risk of upper respiratory tract infections, i.e colds and flus. What are prebiotic and probiotic foods?....I'm so glad you asked! Fermented and cultured foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, lactofermented vegetables, kombucha and kefir are some examples. Prebiotic foods feed your good bacteria and come from fruits and vegetables, so to ensure your feeding the good guys down there once again ensure your daily diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables....easy!
Key Naturopathic Treatment
Down to the nitty gritty....what to do when you do fall victim to the dreaded cold/flu that seems to be making the rounds.
- Slow down| adequate, quality sleep at night through proper sleep hygiene techniques as well as time to rest and relax through the day is important to allow your body the time it needs to recuperate.
- Healing foods | such as bone broths, nutrient rich soups, loads of vegetables, plenty of fluids (especially water and herbal teas) will ensure your body is receiving the nutrients, hydration and building blocks it needs to support proper immune function.
- Nutritional supplements |research has shown specific nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D and zinc all play an important role in immune modulation and decreasing the risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) (Prasad 2009 & Khoo et al. 2012) and significantly lower risk of URTI's developing into something more sinister like pneumonia (Meydani et al. 2007). Quercetin has been shown to block viral replication and may protect the lungs from damaging free radicals (Hechtman, 2011). Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants such as N-acetyl-L-cysteine, glutathione, resveratrol, ascorbic acid, catechins and quercetin 3-rhamnoside have been shown to decrease inflammatory responses in the acute stages of disease as well as inhibit the proliferation of influenza virus (Calder 2010, Uchide & Toyoda 2011).
Please note: it is always best to seek the direction and support of a qualified health practitioner when starting any nutritional or herbal supplementation to ensure you're receiving good quality, therapeutic doses that will not interact with any other supplements or pharmaceutical medication you may already be taking.
- Herbal medicine | there are a so many amazingly beneficial and fast acting herbs that can be utilised in the treatment of colds and flus and immune support. Your natural health practitioner, naturopath or herbalist is qualified to mix up tonics, tinctures, decoctions and infusions that can target the infection, helping to support the immune system in fighting off the infection whilst helping with symptom management. Herbs such as Echinacea, Yarrow, Marshmallow root, Licorice, Astragalus, Andrographis, Elderflower, Thyme, Ginger, Garlic, Cayenne, Peppermint and Chamomile...just to name a few, have different properties specific to each plant that will support the immune system, speeding up recovery whilst also decreasing severity of symptoms such as sore throats, nasal congestion, headaches, sleeplessness, fever and malaise.
Please note: it is important to remember that although fevers are an important part of the bodys' immune response to fight the 'bad guys' they should not be taken lightly especially in the case of neonates, the elderly, pregnant women or immune compromised patients and if fevers persist medical supervision should be sought out.
- Lifestyle |rest, relaxation and appropriate sleep habits are essential to a fast recovery. Don't suppress or ignore your body trying to tell you to slow down..if this happens over and over again your body will eventually start screaming at you to slow down through more chronic inflammatory conditions that will be much harder to overcome. I know its silly to say "just don't stress" or "stress less" but what is important is to have good stress management techniques that work for you to help you deal with your particular stressors effectively.
Getting your daily dose of sunshine and exercise is important for the prevention of both colds and flus but also the 'blues' which affect many in the colder months when the days are shorter. In the acute stage of illness it can be nice to lay out in the sunshine or go for a relaxing walk for 20 minutes or so each day.
- Essential Oils | essential oils can play a really beautiful part in helping you to recover more quickly by providing the antimicrobial, decongestant, antiviral, immune modulating, soothing and calming effects. Whether you use them in a diffuser, humidifier, a few drops added to a bath or face steam, or make up your own vapour rub blend (without all the nasty stuff added) they can be so beneficial and bring on improvement in a short amount of time.
For more information or to make an appointment at the clinic feel free to contact us here http://www.rachelbonellonaturopathy.com/contact
Here is a link to the essential oils I like to use https://www.mydoterra.com/rachelbonello/#/
I hope you have found this information useful, i'd love to hear from you if you have any questions or useful tips you'd like to share please pop your comments below!
Here's to a happy and healthy winter for you and your family xx
- Bath soak
Add to warm running water 1/2 cup magnesium flakes (or epsom salts), add 3-5 drops each of essential oils; lavender, eucalyptus (not in pregnancy) and frankincense. I like to sip on a warm herbal tea of chamomile, yarrow, marshmallow root and echinacea whilst soaking in the tub for 20 minutes or so...then rug up and get cosy in bed for an early night. This does wonders for speeding up recovery!!
- Sore throat remedy
1 tablespoon slippery elm powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
1/2 cup raw honey
Mix together, store in glass jar. Take 1 tspn as needed to help sooth a sore throat.
- Chest rub
1/2 cup of olive oil, almond oil or fractionated coconut oil
10 drops eucalyptus essential oil (use only 4 drops for babies and very young children)
10 drops rosemary essential oil (omit for babies and small children)
10 cyprus essential oil
10 drops frankincense essential oil.
Place essential oils into glass jar top with oil. Apply as needed to chest and soles of feet during times of colds and flus.
- Immunity roller bottle blend
10 drops tea tree essential oil
10 drops oregano oil
Place essential oil into a glass roller bottle, top up with olive, almond or fractionated coconut oil. Rub onto soles of feet, across chest and up and down either side of spine during acute phase of colds and flus.
- Antibacterial 'non-toxic' spray n wipe
3 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
20 drops lemon essential oil
Mix all ingredients together and keep in a glass spray bottle.
Calder PC. Clin Nutr. 2010 Feb;29(1):5-12. The 2008 ESPEN Sir David Cuthbertson Lecture: Fatty acids and inflammation--from the membrane to the nucleus and from the laboratory bench to the clinic. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19931231
Hechtman, L. (2011) Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier: Australia
Khoo AL, Chai L, Koenen H, Joosten I, Netea M, van der Ven A.Translating the role of vitamin D3 in infectious diseases. Crit Rev Microbiol. 2012 May;38(2):122-35. Epub 2012 Feb 5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22304022
Meydani SN, Barnett JB, Dallal GE, et al. Serum zinc and pneumonia in nursing home elderly. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86(4):1167—1173. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
Prasad AS. Zinc: role in immunity, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2009;12(6):646—652.
Uchide N, Toyoda H. Antioxidant therapy as a potential approach to severe influenza-associated complications. Molecules. 2011 Feb 28;16(3):2032-52. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21358592