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When a change in weather, the start of school term, or holiday indulgence leaves you full of cold or flu your first response may be to reach for over-the-counter medications. Whilst these can relieve the aches and pains, they don’t address the underlying cause of your cold or flu, or support your body in healing.
Luckily there are lots of natural ways to kick that cold to the curb, supercharge your immune system, and support your body’s natural healing processes.
Yes, we’re officially giving you a green card to take a day off. The single biggest factor which impacts your overall health is stress. So whilst being the office hero and trooping to work might score you points with a work-focused boss, the cost to your recovery could be far greater than the cost of a day without you to the company.
So down tools, snuggle up with a boxset and relax. A stress-free day allows your immune system and repair mechanisms to kick in and get to work in fighting that cold and fixing that flu.
You may feel throat lozenges or ice-cream bring relief to your sore throat, but they’re both packed with sugar. Sugar can depress your immune system for 4-6 hours after eating it, which gives the bacteria or virus which is causing your cold of flu plenty of time to get to work and rebuild numbers. So avoid the sweet stuff and focus on foods and nutrients that support your body. Read on for these.
Your white blood cells - the cells which attack cold and flu-causing invaders - need vitamin C to function. So when you’re ill, your body’s need for vitamin C kicks up a notch or 5.
Take a good supplement and spread it out over the course of the day. Vitamin C is water soluble which means your body will release any excess when you go to the loo. So taking vitamin C to ‘bowel tolerance’ is how you know your body has had enough. What this means - if you get to the stage of running to the loo, hold off the vitamin C.
But aren’t bacteria what caused you to be sick? Possibly, yes. But bacteria come in good and bad forms and are a critical part of the ecosystem that is your body.
70% of your immune system is housed in your gut, and this is the home of many of the friendly and health-supporting bacteria. So keeping your gut in good working order is essential to your immune system and its ability to fight off colds and flu.
Populating your gut with friendly bacteria from fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, and taking a probiotic supplement, is powerful. It’s critical if you take antibiotics.
Think of essential oils as ancient plant medicines. Whilst modern pharmaceutical alternatives are not easily metabolised by your body’s cells. Essential oils are. Every single cell in your body has a double layer of fat in its outer wall, which means they easily integrate the plant oil.
Essential oils of lavender, oregano, clove, eucalyptus and cinnamon can be really effective in fighting or preventing colds and flu.
We’ve established healthy gut = healthy immune system.
Bone broth is hugely nutritious and super healing for your gut, which we now know, houses 70% of your immune system. Bone broth helps your gut heal by providing the building blocks it needs to regenerate and repair. Your intestine renews every 3 days so it needs a lot of building blocks!
Chicken broth also specifically contains a chemical that helps limit the side effects of cold and flu.
If you’re vegetarian, L-Glutamine (an amino acid) can be used to heal the gut. But it is missing the mineral content that makes bone broth so nourishing, and it will take longer to have an effect.
The active ingredient in turmeric – curcumin - is anti-viral and anti-fungal.
Turmeric has also recently been placed under the microscope for its incredible antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. When you have a cold or flu, inflammation is your body’s response, and it’s also what causes that feeling of pressure, pain and soreness.
Turmeric root is now more commonly available so go for the fresh stuff and add it to juices or smoothies. Or, mix the fresh juice or powder in a shot with black pepper to massively increase its absorption in your body.
Rather than just relieving (hiding) cold and flu symptoms, Echinacea is naturally antiviral and also supports the immune system by increasing white blood cell production. Your white blood cells are your warrior cells that are fighting the invading nasties which are causing you to be full of cold.
Coconut ‘anything’ has been under the spotlight recently and for good reason. Coconut water was even used in wartime instead of saline drips. Coconut oil is naturally anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial, as well as containing lauric acid which has been shown to enhance immunity.
Vitamin D is essential for our immune systems to function properly and is synthesized from exposure to sunlight. Given our boxed-in indoors lifestyles, many of us don’t get enough, especially in winter when our exposure may be limited to just our hands and face for a short time on our lunch break.
And if you’re dark skinned you need even more exposure to sunlight to stimulate the synthesis of vitamin D.
Vitamin D3 supplements are widely available including high dose.
Possibly the most surprising and fascinating of the list: yes meditating is an immune system booster.
When you’re calm and relaxed, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, and your immune system gets to work. More than that, your thoughts and emotions are transmitted to your immune cells. When you meditate, these messages change in important ways and a more positive environment is created for the immune system to flourish.
Studies also show that meditation directly boosts antibody levels. (Antibodies are on the frontline of your body’s immune response to cold and flu invaders).
If you're interersted in what causes illness and how to achieve ongoing vitality, check out my blog on Epigenetics.
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