Immunity – Colds & Flus
Why be Concerned?
With the kids back to school and sharing everything…here come runny noses, coughs, achy bones and fevers! In Canada cold and flu season is from November until April. 80% of Asthma aggravations are caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold, so prevention is a good system of asthma management. With that being said the average number of colds for adults per season is two while for children five to eight.
What is the difference between a cold and flu?
In general colds are milder and slower to start. The symptoms we all know are fatigue, sneezing, coughing and a running nose. You may also have muscle aches, a scratchy sore throat, watery eyes and a headache. As the cold worsens your nasal mucus may turn from thin and watery to yellow and thick. The duration is from 3-7 days on average.
Flus caused by the influenza virus start suddenly and hit hard. Your fever may go as high as 40C (105F), with weakness, dry cough, runny nose, chills, muscle aches, severe headache and a sore throat. The fever may last for 3-5 days. After the main flu symptoms disappear you may still feel weak and tired and keep coughing for up to three weeks. Flus are most common in outbreaks the spring and winter. The flu virus changes often and about every 10 years it undergoes major changes leading to more severe outbreaks.
What causes colds and the flu?
Viruses cause colds and flus. Colds maybe caused by over 200 different viruses. The flu on the other hand is caused by just a few viruses each year.
What are the Health Connections?
The body is very smart in its innate ability to rebalance and return one to wellness. Often our bodies will choose to allow a virus that is commonly present in the environment to become active to force us to rest and heal. It is normal to have 1-2 colds per year as an adult that last 3-7 days and are mild, for children 5-8 per year as their immune systems get primed. For example we all know how easily a cold sets in after a stressful period like exams. So it is important to allow our bodies to rest, rather than always pushing through it.
There are times that we need to look at one’s whole health. If one is getting excessive colds or flus, OR the recovery time is slow it is an indicator of weak immunity, excess management of stress and sleep irregularity. The immune system is connected to the following:
Phase 1- The Nervous System – Balance of Sympathetic (States of Energy) and the Parasympathetic (States of Rest, Healing, Growth and Digestion) Phase 2- The Adrenal Gland 1 and 2. Adrenal 1 fight and flight hormones, Adrenal 2 fatigue and recovery Phase 3 Digestion– up to 70% of Immunity can be related to digestion Phase 4 Thyroid, Ovaries/Prostate, Liver Phase 5 Chronic Inflammation – Cytokine Syndrome- Achiness, Fatigue Phase 6 Weak Immunity – Frequent Colds, Flus, Strep, Allergies, and Asthma
For details of each phase see Newsletter April Allergies, Asthma and Eczema
Do antibiotics help? And What about the flu shot?
No antibiotics are for bacteria whereby the common cold and flu are caused by viruses. With the addition of free flu vaccines in Ontario many of you are asking should I get the flu shot. In Naturopathic philosophy we focus on host strength and improving immune function. Recognizing that we also focus on individual care, no one answer is right for all, so please discuss your situation with our individual Naturopath.
What are our Natural Treatment Options?
Canadians spend over 300 million dollars a year on over the counter cold and flu medicines yet these will not cure the cold or flu. Natural options have been found to prevent and reduce the duration of the cold or flu.
A few of the common Natural Options include:
- Washing your hands– Research shows that by washing your hands-for at least 10 seconds with soap and water you can reduce the microbes on your hands by up to 90%. It is estimated that this translates to the reduction of colds and flus by up to 16% and diarrhea by 50%.
- Rest– This is what your body needs and by pushing yourself you don’t allow the adrenals to reset leading in the future to more serious health concerns
- Drink plenty of fluids- which help to thin mucus allowing better and faster drainage
- Vitamin C– assists in the relief of cold symptoms and to help the body fight the infection. Add fruits like citrus, kiwi and strawberries to your next salad.
- Echinacea- Research shows that Echinacea can help prevent the common cold by up to 58% and when used in combination with vitamin C by up to 86%. Echinacea is also an excellent blood purifier thus facilitating the cleaning of dead cells and other debris through the lymphatic system for removal. A high quality tincture will give you a slight numb or tingly feeling when held at the back of the tongue.
- Garlic-has microbial properties and helps boost the immune system. Allisyn is one of the plant kingdom’s most potent antibiotic.
- Onion is a close relative of Garlic and has similar properties.
- Ginger has antiviral, pain relieving and antioxidant properties. It is valuable for preventing and treating colds, sore throats and inflammation of mucus membranes. Ginger is great added to hot drinks and fruit smoothies.
- Goldenseal-is both antiseptic and immune stimulating, increasing blood supply to the spleen. The spleen is the body’s staging area for the fighting cells in your immune system. The berberine present in goldenseal activates macrophages (special white blood cells) which destroy microbes.
- Licorice-contains antiviral compounds that induce the release of interferon, the body’s own anti-viral constituents. It is an expectorant and anti-inflammatory making it excellent for stubborn coughs and lung infections.
- Sage-soothes sore throats as it has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. For an inflamed throat and hoarseness use a hot sage infusion or gargle with sage, apple cider vinegar and honey mix
- Peppermint– is an expectorant thus aids in coughs, it also reduces fevers by inducing sweating and cooling the body.
- Yarrow-has anti-inflammatory properties, great for fevers and a hot yarrow tea will promote sweating.
- Acidophilus-is recommended to take all cold and flu season. 70% of immunity is related to digestion and thus by promoting the right friendly bacteria for the upper GI and lower GI one can promote optimal health of the bowls and thus immunity. Over 400 distinct species of micro-organisms inhabit the various regions of the human digestive tract, making up nearly four pounds of every individual’s total body weight.
- Homeopathic Prevention– individual programs are available to stimulate your thymus gland (immune gland), your immunity to the flu virus and strengthen your lungs, with your Naturopath that begin in the fall and carry thru to the winter on a weekly basis
- Homeopathics-Oscillococcinum/Dolicoccil/Mucoccocinum are remedies that stimulate one’s immunity specifically for the flu. Often after taking these remedies one will experience a fever then feel much better shortly after.
Many more options exist. We recommend having your health individually assessed to ensure that any of the above products are right for you and do not interfere with any existing health conditions or medications that you are taking.
of the liver and Vitamin C a potent antioxidant. Honey is also a great option for sore throats with winter around the corner and topically for wounds. Its benefits in these areas are due to its natural anti-inflammatory action and its different phytochemicals that are aseptic towards some viruses and bacteria. With all that and at 40% less calories than traditional sugar it’s no wonder honey is such a great wellness food!
Natural Encyclopedia by Pizzorno and Murray Excellent overall Natural Treatment approaches