Helen Padarin

Preventing and treating colds and flu

Preventing and treating colds and flu

Notice how some people exposed to contagious infections ”catch” the bug, while others don’t? That’s because there’s more to cold and flus and other common infections than the microbes.

Notice how some people exposed to contagious infections ”catch” the bug, while others don’t? That’s because there’s more to cold and flus and other common infections than the microbes.

As we’ve mentioned when talking about fermented foods and leaky gut, it’s very much about the terrain.  That is, what kind of state are your cells in?  Microbes are natures cleaners and decomposers.  They return us to the dirt!  If something is in a state that needs cleaning, they’ll move into do their job.  Have you ever noticed how cold and flu seasons often occur after festive periods?  Over Christmas and new year, and again after Easter are some of the busiest times for seeing people in clinic with common upper respiratory tract infections.  This is due to a number of reasons, but partly because the body is going into detox mode.  Think about the symptoms of a cold or flu – fever, sweating, sneezing, coughing up phlegm, nasal mucous, more frequent urination – all examples of “stuff” leaving the body.  Have you also noticed how after a cold or flu, if you’ve been able to rest and ride it out rather than suppress the symptoms with medications, that you actually feel better – more energy, clearer mind – than you did before you got sick?  All that “stuff” leaving your body feels good (afterwards at least! Maybe not while it’s happening!).

So one reason we get colds and flu is because we need to detox.  This is why when people progress on the wellness journey they find they are less prone year by year to succumbing to such infections, or if they do they’re much milder and shorter lived.

Allergies and sensitivities can make us more prone to URTI’s because of constant inflammation and irritation the mucous membranes covering the ears, nose, throat and respiratory tract and gastrointestinal tract – This is actually one piece of continuous mucous membrane, and what happens in one area can affect what results I another area.  This is one reason why dairy and gluten will often cause glue ear for example.  It’s not from putting the food in the ear!  It’s the response from the mucosal immune system in the gut, affecting what’s going on in the ears, nose, throat, bronchials and lungs.  The production of mucous provides a warm moist breeding ground for microbes, creating an environment ripe for infection.

Dysbiosis – an imbalance of the good bugs and opportunistic bugs in the gut – can also make you more prone to colds and flu.  Most of the immune system – 80% of it – is located in the lining of the gut wall.  Our gut flora regulates much of how the immune system responds to different triggers – whether they be potential allergens or potential pathogens.  So working to restore healthy gut flora goes a long way to improving immune function.

Nutrient deficiencies are another major reason why we can become susceptible to infections.  Nutrients are the ingredients all of our cells need to manufacture all the enzymes and hormones and neurotransmitters that carry out all of the functions in our body!  It’s truly amazing!  So it makes perfect sense if there’s a nutrient lacking that’s required for the production of a white blood cell or an antibody, then immune function will be affected.  Major nutrients that come into play here are vitamins A, B, C, D and the minerals selenium, iodine and zinc in particular.  Other nutrients such as bioflavonoids (relatives of vitamin C, found in plant foods) are also a huge boon for immune function.  As we get less vitamin D from sun exposure in winter, this is another time where risk of infection increases.   Our intake of foods rich in vitamin D in our fat phobic countries are typically too low, so we often see the impact of low vitamin D in the form of viral infections, recurrent infections or slow recovery from infection (often along with depressed mood as well).  Vitamin A is one of the most effective anti-virals on the planet, yet according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Health Survey 17% of males and 14% of females get inadequate vitamin A for basic needs (let alone situations of increased needs, such as a viral infection).  The group worst hit by this is 14-18 year olds for whom 33% of males and 24% of females do not get enough for basic requirements.  One reason why I’m a big fan of including liver in the diet is because it’s an exceptional source of vitamins A, B, C and D – not many foods can boast that, while cod liver oil is a fantastic source of vitamins A and D.  Inadequate protein absorption (whether from inadequate intake or inadequate digestion) can also mean we do not have the building block to make the immune cells and complexes we need to keep our immune systems in top nick.

Of course we can’t forget stress in this picture.  It is well established that the impacts of stress on our endocrine (hormone) system and autonomic nerve system impact on our ability to fight infection.  When our sympathetic nerve system (fight or flight ) is in over drive, lymphatic circulation declines and  immune function diminishes.

What you can do to prevent yourself getting colds and flu this season?

  1. Manage your stress levels – time in nature, meditation, 10 minutes of deep breathing exercises daily, gentle forms of yoga, tai chi and chi gong are all great options to get your parasympathetic nerve system singing along nicely.
  2. Get adequate sleep. The cheapest and most effective medicine on the planet.  Sleep is not only when we rest, but also when we repair and rebuild.  Sleep is incredibly important for our endocrine function and inflammation management – both which directly affect our immune function.
  3. Drink 2 Litres of clean filtered and remineralised or spring water each day
  4. Eat good quality proteins, fats and loads of green veggies.
  5. Avoid sugar. One of the biggest insults to immunity!
  6. Keep your body clean – eat plenty non-starchy vegetables, especially dark green leafy veggies and cruciferous veggies.  This group includes broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, cavolo nero cauliflower, collard greens, bok choy and water cress.  These foods are high in a compound called di-indolylmethane (DIM) which supports phase two of liver functions.
  7. Be sure you’re getting enough zinc and selenium – both these minerals are involved in many detoxification pathways, including methylation, and help to deactivate toxic chemical substances in the body.  The best sources of zinc are oysters, beef and sesame seeds (tahini).  The best sources of selenium are found in Brazil nuts.
  8. Eat fermented foods daily
  9. Drink bone broth daily
  10. Make fresh green juices at home (wheat grass, parlsey, cucumber, celery, lemon balm, coriander with lemon, ginger and a just little bit of carrot or apple – for example. (no fruit bombs).

When life makes all the above impossible, or when you just need some extra support:

  1. Take a good quality probiotic. Probiotics are the army of the immune system. Keep your defences high with a regular intake of good bugs. Some probiotics have the added advantage of being made from fermented foods – so you are getting some greens and loads of antioxidants in with it.
  2. Take a good quality Cod Liver Oil – 1 tspn a day for children. 2 teaspoons per day for adults (up to 4 teaspoons a day for a week for adults with acute infection)
  3. Good quality Zinc supplement – at least 30mg – 60mg of elemental Zinc per day for 1-3 months. Zinc picolinate is particularly well absorbed.
  4. Good quality vitamin C – at least 4 grams per day. 8-10 grams per day for adults (or until bowel tolerance – i.e. the dose that gives you diarrhoea, and then take 1 gram less than that the next day).
  5. Drink immune stimulating herbal teas or tinctures (echinacea, calendula, pau d’arco, lemon balm, licorice, etc). I really love Weleda Echinacea and Thuja Comp drops for kids and adults – fantastic for any type of infection.
  6. Drink hot bone broth – warm fluids help loosen mucous and free up the mucous membranes. Base your meals on broth based soups.
  7. Drink hot water with slices of fresh ginger and lemon (and turmeric if you have access to it)
  8. As much as you can.  Your body will clear the infection (and detox) best when you are at rest.

Cough Syrup:

Thinly slice one onion.  Separate layers a bit and place in a bowl.  Pop a couple dollops of raw organic honey on top.  Cover the bowl with a plate and leave over night.  By the morning you’ll have an antibiotic onion syrup which is excellent for soothing coughs and painful sore throats.  Have 1 dessertspoon as needed.

By Helen Padarin

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