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Cold-Proofing, Naturally

Articles » Cold-Proofing, Naturally
HealthQuest
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Cold-Proofing, Naturally

It’s that time of year again. Cold season. We all know it, because most everyone during the fall or winter season has succumbed to the viral malady that can last 1-2 weeks and cause sneezing, scratchy throat, low energy, stuffy head, and a runny nose. In fact, according to the CDC, it’s still the number one reason for lost days at school and at work (1). With no cures on the horizon due to these numerous (over 200 types), ever-changing viruses, we focus on ways to reduce risk, improve our host defense mechanisms and shorten duration and severity in the event of ‘catching the cold’.

Before addressing effective and natural support measures for the common cold, we need to understand why and how we become so susceptible duringthe ‘cold season’.

First, when it’s cold outside we spend more time indoors. This typically means less activity and movement. Movement is what drives the circulation of our lymphatic system – the bodies’ immune vessel network. Less movement means less immune efficiency to get to any foreign bug.

Second, because we’re spending more time indoors, days are shorter, and the sun follows a lower daily path in the sky (unless you live near the equator), we get less vitamin D. This vitamin has been shown in numerous human studies to be a remarkable immune regulator (2, 3).

Finally, because of the dry air from forced air heating in our homes and workplace, our mucus membranes – those delicate immune barriers in our sinuses, eyes, respiratory system, and gut – become dry, weakened, and susceptible to invaders. Let’s not forget one more component: the holidays. For some,this is a time of celebrating with multiple social festivities and family gatherings where we eat too much, drink too much, and consume more sweets. Throw in some stress with year-end work deadlines, gift shopping, family quarrels or other elements and regardless of whether you’ve partied like a rock star or not, the combinations can be a ‘perfect storm’ of weakening our host defense. It’s no surprise we get colds. So what to do?

Protect your barriers! This means mucus membranes. According to Ayurveda, the ancient traditional healing system from India, Fall and Winter are times of kapha-vata disorders, where congestion and stagnation can build up. For our sinuses, this is bad news, as it’s a common entry point for cold bugs to invade and set up shop. Keeping them flushed out can reduce congestion tendency as well as flush out debris, viral particles and toxins

Sinuses – For this, I recommend to all my patients to buy a neti pot, or sinus irrigation cup. These can be found online or at health food stores. Simply fill the cup with pure, slightly warm water, and add a couple pinches of sea salt. Then occlude one side of your nose with the nozzle, tilt your head forward and to the side, breathe out your mouth, and tip the cup so that the contents start flowing into the nasal cavity and come out the other side of your nose. Do this for about 1/2 of the pot, then repeat for the other side. It can be repeated several times a day for severe nasal congestion. It’s easy, cheap, and effective for sinus health and clearing

Respiratory – I often suggest a cool-mist diffuser to be run in your bedroom at night while sleeping. Place essential oils into the provided water reservoir in most diffusers. My favorites for chest congestion are lavender, pine and eucalyptus. Add some oregano or thyme if there’s any sign of possible infection. (Note: do not use instead of seeking medical advice!) A good mix is 5-10 drops of these oils into the reservoir. Most oils can be purchased at any local health food store, or on our website’s Virtual Pharmacy. A great diffuser that I suggest on our pharmacy is made by NOW, called the Ultrasonic Real Bamboo Diffuser (code: N75215).

Gastrointestinal – This is the major immune regulation system in the body. Variousauthorities claim that the gut makes up anywhere from 70-80% of our immune system. In fact, our entire gut ecosystem (microbiome) contains many TRILLIONS of bacteria, more than our human cell population! The goal is to balance and enhance the beneficial population of friendly bacteria. Why? Because of the myriad of far-reaching beneficial effects the bacteria do for our immune system (not to mention brain). A recent article in the June 2012 Scientific American highlighted the importance of our gut ecosystem, and how ignored it is regarding our health. So how do we do this? Probiotic capsules are a start but typically inadequate for immune health. What I’m referring to is real, cultured and fermented foods! All traditional populations have always consumes a variety of cultured and fermented foods for good health and immunity. Foods like kimchee, sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, kefir, and many other fermented vegetables are literally PACKED WITH TRILLIONS of beneficial bacteria in each serving. Compare this to the average ‘high-potency’ probiotic, which may have 30-100 billion per serving. You’d literally have to consume an entire bottle of probiotics to equal a single serving (hand-size) of cultured/fermented foods. A great resource to find out more on fermented foods is www.culturesforhealth.com.

Note: some people will need to stay away from dairy sources of fermented foods, as they can be mucus forming. The bottom line is eat fermented foods often. I have my patients aim for a goal of 2 servings a day of whatever they like or tolerate. Ramp up slowly if there’s any gas formation.

 

Other support options -

  1. Reduce all sweets and white flour products. Elevated insulin and glycemic imbalance are some of the greatest immune destroyers. Replace all flours with whole, organic grains. Anything that’s a flake, noodle or cookie is probably a flour product. Put the bread down. Opt for warm, nourishing soups or stews. Take advantage of cooked millet, organic wild rice or quinoa instead of pasta for a side dish. Whole fruit is great too if room temperature.
  2. Eliminate all dairy products if you have congestion or phlegm.
  3. Eat lots of shitake and maitake mushrooms. The polysaccharides (beta-glucans) are tremendous immune supportive compounds for cold season. If you can’t buy fresh, get then dried and soak in water for 1 hour before using in a stir-fry or baking. Adding to salads is a wonderful addition.
  4. Take vitamin D. I like my patients to stay in the ‘sweet spot’ of blood vitamin D level, which is around 50-70 ng/ml (4). If you don’t get blood testing, then a good suggestion is 2,000 I.U. a day for the average adult during fall and winter seasons. Since both vitamin D, K2, and A compete for the RXR gene receptor, it’s a good idea to take a balanced vitamin D with a little vitamin A and K2. Vitamin A is especially helpful during cold season for mucus membrane immunity, as it helps balance the main antibody in those tissues called secretory IgA. Cod liver oil is too high in Vitamin A, according to some studies, so I recommend around 500-2,000 I.U. a day. No more. Try to find together with your vitamin D. My favorite is Vitamin D Complex (virtual pharmacy code: VDC060) .
  5. Herbal teas. According to Dr. Vasant Lad, a prominent Ayurvedic doctor, drinking equal parts of ginger, cinnamon, and lemongrass (optional: a pinch of cardamom) is a great tea to drink for both supportive and remedial measures. Steep the herbs for 10 minutes or more and drink when it’s warm (5).
  6. Elderberry, echinacea, andrographis and ginger are all good immune supportive herbs and may be taken through the entire cold season. Elderberry is particularly good tasting in a liquid form (important for children) and high in flavonoids, which strengthen the immune barriers (6).  The most clinically effective product we’ve used is Rapid Immune Response (virtual pharmacycode: RX-AD). Take 2 capsules a day for prevention, and 2 caps, 3 times a day if you get the cold. The biggest infection-fighter of all is ACS Spray (code: 900). Use double the max dosage on the bottle, 3-6 times a day for rapid relief and antimicrobial effect.
  7. Take warm baths. Consider 2 cups of Epsom or Dead Sea salts per tub of hot water, and soak for 10-20 minutes. Tremendously purifying as well as reducing coldness in the body. As an option you may add lavender, pine and eucalyptus oils (5 drops of each) into the tub, once a week or more as desired.
  8. For those with holiday stress contributors, consider ashwaganda and holy basil (tulsi) to reduce cortisol, amajor stress hormone. These can be taken as a warm tea, or in capsule form daily.
  9. Lastly, place a priority on getting good sleep. Keep the bedroom dark, without electric blankets, cell phones or cordless phones next to you. Put all electronic devices away (computers, tablets, phones, games, TV) at least 1 hour before bed. Yes, you can do this. Read a mellow book or listen to relaxing music. Best of all, take a hot bath.

NOTE: Most of the suggested products may be purchased on our website’s Virtual Pharmacy. All products are ALWAYS 20% off. First time to the Pharmacy? Simply click on either the Virtual Pharmacy rotating photo on our website main page, or the ‘Find Out More’ link under the ‘Virtual Pharmacy’ paragraph found just below the main rotating photos. Fill out the required info on the Virtual Pharmacy Welcome page, then click ‘Create Account’. Once approved, you can order any nutritional product by searching product company, product name, or product code (if known).

These supportive measures can help you sail through the cold season with little to no down time.

References:

  1. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/commoncold/pages/overview.aspx.
  2. www.vitamindcouncil.org
  3. The Vitamin D Solution, by Michael Holick, PhD, MD.
  4. www.vitamindhealth.org
  5. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies, by Vasant Lad.
  6. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy – Modern Herbal Medicine, by Simon Mills and Kerry Bone.