As the weather gets colder it often is combined with the onset of cold and/or flu symptoms. As naturopathic doctors, we hope to prevent this with natural ways to prevent cold and flu. Getting a cold should not turn out to be a disastrous issue, and can even be the sign of a healthy immune system, but they are still a real nuisance to have and often leave us regretting taking our good health for granted. When you or someone close to you is suffering from a nasty cold, they may require some urgent family care, and there are many walk in care centres that can be visited for treatment. For now, it is time to work on some preventative measures and stock your supplements up for the long cold months ahead. By taking a few simple steps we hope that you will have a healthy and cold-free winter!
It really is true that washing your hands is the best way to prevent the spread of germs. Also, getting at least 8 hours sleep per night and getting to bed (and asleep!) before 12:00am midnight will help keep your body feeling well rested.
Amino acids found in protein decrease levels of our stress hormone-cortisol-which at high levels, suppresses our immune system. Protein allows for the building of immune antibodies and complexes. It also keeps our inflammatory load low and helps us balance our sugar levels throughout the day. So, snack on almonds and add chicken and beans to meals! Also, a protein shake is a great way to load up without grabbing less nutritious and protein-free snacks!
I suggest avoiding sugar and especially artificial sweeteners whenever you can. Avoiding dairy can also help fight off bugs. Both dairy and sugars create an environment that is conducive to bacterial growth.
Vitamin D strengthens the immune system, prevents infections and helps you fight off an infection more effectively! Scientists have found it is crucial in activating immune defenses, read the study here.
Only 1/3 of Canadians were found to have the blood level of vitamin D that is considered necessary for disease prevention. This is because of our decreased exposure to sunlight due to our northern latitude. It is important to get your vitamin D levels tested, you shouldn’t be guessing. This will allow you to understand whether you need to be supplementing and at which dose. You can ask your Naturopathic Doctor for that test. There are high dose therapeutic protocols of vitamin D that have been shown to be effective in prevention and treatment of infections, once you have determined your vitamin D levels a Naturopathic Doctor can work with you to assess if such a protocol is right for you.
Immune cells have vitamin D receptors: this means that adequate vitamin D levels allows for a stronger immune response especially at the first signs of infection. Vitamin D allows better bacteria recognition because it promotes the differentiation of immune cells called monocytes to macrophages which recognize and engulf bacteria. Vitamin D also suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokines which makes it a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the likelihood of contracting the influenza virus i.e the flu.
In the winter months, I suggest taking Vitamin D with a meal that contains fat in the morning – this is because it is a fat-soluble vitamin. You can also use it in a liquid like the Clear D3 at Clear Medicine which is already in fat.
It can be used prophylactically to improve resistance to infection as well as to reduce the symptoms of an already existing infection. Echinacea reduces the risk of recurrent respiratory tract infections and complications. It can also reduce mucous production in the respiratory tract during an infection. It induces immune cell activation and increases WBC count. Echinacea has been shown to have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects. When choosing a product to take you want to read the label and make sure that the product is standardized to contain alkylamides which is the active constituent of that plant which has been evidenced to provide the benefits we just discussed. There are also two types of echinacea; echinacea purpurea and echinacea angustifolia: purpurea has been shown to increase blood concentration for 90min which means that it will have an effect that lasts approximately 90 minutes whereas a combo of both has been shown to be sustained for 6 hours which of course has a much longer effect.
Our immune cells (neutrophils and phagocytes) store Vitamin C and require it to function. Vitamin C promotes epithelial barrier function, making it more difficult for pathogens to invade our mucous membranes. It is a powerful antioxidant that improves our resistance to stress which suppresses immune function. It is important to remember to take Vitamin C regularly to prevent an infection. Studies have shown that the best way to take Vitamin C is prophylactically which improves resistance to infection and shortens the duration signs and symptoms of infections.
Studies have shown that zinc-deficient patients have severe immune dysfunctions. Zinc also is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory actions. Zinc stimulates the immune system by activating immune molecules and compounds. This trace mineral has a broad impact on key immunity mediators, such as enzymes, thymic peptides and cytokines, explaining the paramount importance of zinc’s status on the regulation of the immune system. Zinc has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of the common cold as well as speeding up recovery. Check out Zinc and Whey Isolate online or at our Wellness Boutique.
This is a natural broad-spectrum anti-microbial: which means it is used to treat bacterial, viral and parasitic infections. It is especially effective for upper respiratory tract infections. It helps relieve symptoms and shorten the duration of upper respiratory infections and acts as a strong immunostimulant. Try to choose a product that is standardized to contain 50mg andrographolide.
Garlic is an amazing preventative and remedy during cold and flu season. I recommend you crush the fresh garlic to reap all the benefits. It acts as a natural broad-spectrum anti-microbial, anti-viral, antibacterial and anti-parasitic. Garlic can help relieve bronchial congestion. One study gave 146 healthy volunteers either garlic supplements or a placebo for three months. The garlic group had a 63% lower risk of getting a cold, and their colds were also 70% shorter. The antioxidant properties and immune modulating properties help keep illnesses at bay!
By Dr. Nadine Khoury ND