Published on Mar 05, 2018
We are still in the thick of cold and flu season. Unfortunately you can’t live in a bubble or maintain a five-foot distance from a subway sneezer during rush hour or for that matter do anything about being seated right in front of someone with a bad cough on your flight. But what if you haven’t been dressing warmly enough in these cold temps?
Your mother probably nagged you as a child than you care to remember: “Dress warmly, you don’t want to catch a cold!” and the all-too-common “If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll get sick!” These may sound like old wives’ tales, but it turns out they are now supported by science.
Yale researchers have discovered that the common cold virus can reproduce itself more efficiently in the cooler temperature found inside your nose than at your core body temperature. Sleep is imperative to a healthy immune system, and it’s not just about the hours you clock on the pillow; it’s essential to have uninterrupted, quality sleep. Research demonstrates that immune cells known as T-cells get depressed and inflammatory hormones go up if we are sleep deprived. This combination leads to the greater risk of developing a cold or flu.
In a season like this one, chances are that you will likely come down with a cold or flu and, with it, the most annoying symptom of all: the nagging cough.
Let’s begin by setting the record straight. Getting sick doesn’t necessarily mean that you are unhealthy. The indicator of how healthy you really are at any given time is how quickly you get better, and I’ve got some tips on how to help you recover in record time. But first things first: What’s the difference between a cold and the flu?
COLD VS. FLU
A cold and the flu often get lumped into the same bag. That is because they do share similar symptoms. Both colds and the flu bring on coughing, headaches, and chest discomfort. The key differentiator is really the intensity and the abruptness of onset.
The flu is irrefutably quicker to hit, and causes a high fever for several days, major body aches, extreme fatigue and weakness. It will put even the healthiest of us horizontal for up to a week and can be life threatening in the elderly and the immune compromised.
Unlike the dominant strain of flu for the year (this year it was H3N2), there are more than 200 cold viruses that can knock you out. Common ones are known as the Rhinovirus, Coronavirus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (or RSV), and parainfluenza (which is not real influenza). There are also a lot of viruses that doctors haven’t identified. Researchers estimate that about 30% of colds are caused by unknown viruses and bacteria. No matter the bug you’re dealing with, the best way to recover from it is to boost your natural defences using optimal nutrition, hydration, rest, and natural remedies proven safe and effective.
FLU WITH A BACTERIAL INFECTION
The flu can also induce a superimposed bacterial infection, in which case a doctor may choose to prescribe antibiotics even when they think what you have is viral. If you do take antibiotics this season, once completing the prescription, it is very important to follow up with a few weeks of supplemental probiotics.
More broadly speaking, probiotics are known to boost your immune system by improving your gut health. Your gut is where 80% of your immune system lives! Take them daily this season. My recommendation is to take the DDS-1 and HN019 strains, something that contains 50 billion colony forming units (CFU’s), and has shelf stability to the date of expiration on the label.
HOW TO TREAT THAT NAGGING COUGH
Whether you’ve got a cold and/or the flu, it can—and usually does—translate into a nasty cough, which is one of the most frustrating and persistent symptoms, often lasting for many weeks.
People—especially parents—are looking for a natural, safe and effective product to treat themselves and their child’s cough and cold symptoms. There are very few choices for children, especially since OTC formulas including the ingredients dextromethorphan and guaifenesin were deemed unsafe for children.
Helixia Cough Prospan for adults and kids is a naturally sourced and clinically proven OTC cough syrup made from the extract of the ivy plant. This great-tasting honey flavoured syrup works to relieve cough symptoms and loosen mucus & phlegm to free up airways. I’ve been using it with my patients and in my own practice with great success for years. To ensure this product is right for you, always read and follow the label.
HOW TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Because it is now late into the winter season, it’s been a while since you’ve had a good dose of vitamin D from the sun. So, check your levels with your family doctor by asking for a blood test for 25OHD. Most of us are vitamin D deficient at this time of year, which leaves the immune system compromised. The average person needs about 3,000 IU of vitamin D daily, which should be taken in the form of supplemental fish oil or a fatty meal (like fatty fish) for the best absorption.
Keep in mind that exercise is great for your health and general well-being, but did you know that performing vigorous exercise coincides with your immune system taking a dive for about 30 minutes after your workout?! To prevent contracting a cold or flu virus during this window while your immune system is temporarily compromised, make sure to wash your hands following your workout—especially if you’re at a public gym (it’s a cesspool in there!). I prefer classic soap and water, but if you can’t find soap, hand sanitizer is a good option. Make it a habit to wash your hands many times a day wherever you are.
THE POWER OF SOUP
Eating or drinking too much sugar or refined foods curbs immune system cells that attack viruses and bacteria. This effect lasts for many hours after downing a couple of sugary drinks. One powerful solution is to eat soup!
Research shows that astragalus root (a Chinese herb used to ward off flu), has powerful immune-enhancing properties. The sliced, dried root is available in specialty health food stores, Chinese grocery stores, and herb stores. It adds a pleasant, sweet taste when simmered in soups. Shiitake mushrooms, onions, and turmeric spice also naturally boost immunity. Garlic and onions have natural and powerful antiviral and antibiotic effects, and ginger and turmeric are natural anti-inflammatory agents. Replace traditional pasta noodles, which are immune suppressing, with black bean or shirataki noodles, which are carb free! Here’s a recipe that I call “Immunity Soup.”
(SERVES 8 TO 10)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 lg Spanish onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
2 pieces astragalus root, either dried or freshly chopped into large cubes (roughly 1×1 inch)
8 cups organic mushroom or chicken stock
2 tbsp tamari
2 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cups scallions, diced
1/2 cup chives, diced
1 pack Black bean or Shiitake noodles which can be purchased at www.zeroodle.com
YOUR GET-BETTER-STAY-BETTER CHECKLIST
A lot of the popular wisdom about cold and flu season (yes, Mom, we’re talking to you!) has turned out to be largely true. Bundle up. Get lots of rest. Know your cold bug from your flu symptoms. Treat your family’s cough with naturally sourced cough syrup that is safe and effective. And do what you can to keep your immune system fortified so that you’re better equipped to make it through until spring arrives. Until then, soup’s on!