The cold and flu season is here and it is important to protect your body from invading germs. There are many natural ways to boost the immune system, and to treat your symptoms if you do become ill. Dr. Andrea Gansner has put together a terirrific handout with everything you need to know to survive the cold and flu season, naturally.
Causes of impaired immune function
• High stress
• Lack of sleep
• Decreased physical activity
• Poor diet
• Impaired digestion
• Lack of exposure to sunlight General Tips
• Wash your hands frequently throughout the day – this may sound simple but it is really important! Especially after blowing your nose. Washing your hands frequently greatly decreases the risk of viral spread. Avoid touching mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) with unwashed hands. Avoid close contact to those you know are sick
• Avoid sharing food and drinks with others
• Sneeze & cough into your elbow crease
• Work to manage stress
• Avoid cigarette smoke
• Drink alcohol in moderation
Herbs to BOOST immune function
Echinacea purpura (Echinacea) at the first sign of Cold:
• Tincture or capsules best
• There are children’s formulas available in glycerin form (sweet) of Echinacea and Goldenseal
• Take for 2-3 days, to help fight off cold before it takes hold
• Follow instructions on the supplement label for dosage or talk to your naturopathic doctor
Astragalus membranaceus (Astragalus)
• Is used to strengthen and support the immune system to better prevent colds and flus.
• Activates T cells, increases T cell cytotoxicity, increases phagocytosis
• Slows replication of viruses
Lentinula edodes (Shitake)
• Protective/prophylactic against most strains of influenza
• Increases phagocytotic activity
Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)
• Used for 4000 years in TCM to improve general health
• Treats fatigue and stress
• Immunomodulatory, and increases resistance to stress
• Antiviral, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal
Immune Boosting tea
- 4 cups water
- 6 peeled garlic cloves, cut in half
- Approximately 1 ½ - 2 inches of peeled fresh ginger, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
• Bring to boil, cover, turn down and simmer for 5-8 minutes.
– Add honey to taste.
– Add juice of 1 lemon.
– Add a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
• NOT for children under 1 year of age, contains honey *
Herbs to take when you are sick!
When looking for herbal treatments, choose formulas with these herbs – combinations of immune boosting and antimicrobial. Can use in pills, tinctures or teas.
Sambucus nigra (Elderberry)
• Anti-viral and anti-inflammatory
• Study found it resolved flu sx in 2-3 days vs. 6 days for controls
• Prevented replication of several strains of Influenza types A and B
• Reduced mucous production, and improved sx of influenza
Berberis aquifolium (Oregon Grape)
• Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory
Plantago lanceolata (Plantain leaf)
• For cough (anti-tussive), also antibacterial
• Soothes irritation of the throat and bronchi
Eupatorium perfoliatum (Boneset)
• For cough, also antibacterial
• For deep muscle/bone pain, intermittent or constant fever
• Immune stimulatory
• For cough (anti-tussive), expectorant, immunostimulant
• Good for chest pain, persistent wet cough
• Vitamins A, C, E: Mucous membranes, immune support, antioxidant. Vitamin A (caution in pregnancy)
Food sources include carrot, squash, broccoli, kale
• Vitamin C: Adults 500 mg 1-4 times daily, Children 200-300 mg 1-3 times daily. Can have up to 5 grams per day to boost the immune system.
May cause loose stools
• Zinc lozenges: great for relief of sore throats. Antiviral, MOST people deficient
• Intravenous multi-vitamin, multi-mineral infusion to optimize health which we offer at our clinic
• Gargles – are antimicrobial and astringent
o Salt water gargle: gargle with 1 tbsp salt in warm water to help clear mucous and bacteria from the mouth and throat
• Steam inhalation
o 2-3 drops of essential oil in bowl with boiling water
Eucalyptus, tea tree, rosemary, thyme
o Helps reduce congestion in the nose and sinuses
o Create a tent by draping a towel over the head to prevent the escape of vapours, and inhale for 5-10 mins
o Can use in children only with supervision
• Humidifier w/ eucalyptus oil: Hydrates dry irritated throat
o Great for children at night for cough and congestion
• Contrast hydro on the chest: to assist in mucus expectoration and cough productivity
o 2 mins hot, 1 min cold, ending on cold
Dietary recommendations for good immune health
• Eat regular meals to stabilize your blood sugar
• Never skip breakfast
• Limit simple sugar consumption. Bacteria love to feed on simple sugars! Weakens immune system, decreases number of WBCs and reduces their ability to kill viral or bacterial infections.
• Maintain an ideal body weight. Obesity is a risk factor for influenza
• Increase intake of bright/colourful veggies: Fruits and veggies are high in antioxidants (Vit A, C & E), Zn, bioflavonoids o A lack of nutrients decreases the immune response
• Incorporate garlic and onions into your diet: Contain alliin and quercitin, two immune-modulating and immune boosting phytochemicals that are scientifically proven to contain antiviral and antibacterial properties
• Remove preservatives, artificial sweeteners and colourings, flavourings, sodium
• Avoid refined/allergenic foods – can increase inflammation in the body
• Get plenty of fluids. Allows for improved lymphatic circulation. Dry respiratory tracts have been shown to produce a much more hospitable environment for viruses to invade than a moist environment. o Water is also very important in the function of white blood cells o Optimally you need to drink half an ounce of water for each pound of body weight to thin mucus secretions. (at least 8 cups/day)
• Decrease caffeine intake – causes increase in cortisol leading to a decreased immune system
• Incorporate good sources of protein into your diet: o Lean meats, eggs (if not sensitive), and legumes o Ensuring adequate protein is essential to produce antibodies and white blood cells that are responsible to fight off bacteria
• Nuts are a good source of protein and also contain high amounts of arginine, an amino acid responsible for regulating immune function • Eat fish 2-3xweek: especially cod, contains high amounts of vitamin D, a nutrient that is key to optimal immune function
• Incorporate food sources of probiotics: Fermented foods help to feed the good bacteria in the gut:
– Plain yogurt: contains acidophilus and lactobacillus for optimal digestive health and thus immune function.
– Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
– Kimchi (Korean spicy cabbage)
– Tempeh (a fermented soybean product)
- Should say contains “Live” or “Active” cultures
I hope these tips help keep you healthy this season.
All recommendations and tips are suggestions only. In order to follow-up with the advice given, it is strongly suggested that you contact your health care practitioner regarding your specific health and concerns.
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