BRENDA GILL: Ah Hah!! You Won't Get Me Now!!!!
It’s the cold weather season, so it’s time to boost your system so it can efficiently handle those pesky bacteria and viruses. Flus/colds can last two to three weeks and typically have the following symptoms: sore throats, sinus infection/congestion, cough with phlegm and sometimes slight fever and muscle aches, if you don’t take some preventative steps. Therefore, it’s time to get a handle on these colds/flus for the rest of the season!
The best way to start is to strengthen your immune system. The immune system is your body’s good army that not only protects you from invaders, but attacks and destroys them. It is made up of lymph organs such as the thymus and tonsils, white blood cells and other specialized cells, such as T-cells. Therefore, you need to give them all the support you can, so they can do their job.
On-going everyday help is, of course, the food we eat. Brightly coloured foods such as carrots, green leafy veggies, squash, berries and peppers provide bioflavinoids that increase absorption of Vitamin C, increase the number of white blood cells and help maintain skin and mucosal surfaces that act as an impenetrable wall to invaders. Bioflavinoids also act as anti-oxidants which protect the thymus from free radical damage and stimulates interferon, which inhibits viruses. Beta- carotene (plant source not artificial) and Vitamin A also maintains that surface and is found in fish liver oils and egg yolks.
Absorption is reduced with cortisone use, therefore, extremely important to add for those using cortisone for asthma, eczema, ulcerative colitis and any other inflammatory disease.
Other foods that ward off bacteria and fungal infections are garlic and onions. They have a potent component called allicin, which is anti-microbial. When buying a garlic product, one should look for standardized allicin amounts, if it is to be used to ward off infections.
Vitamin C plays a vital role in immune function, for it is required by the white blood cells to fight off infections; it has also been shown to be anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It also increases interferon levels, antibody responses and white blood cell activity.
Zinc is one of the most crucial nutrients, since it is involved in almost all of the immune processes. It increases the number of T-cells and white blood cell functions, is anti-viral and increases the output of the thymus gland. Zinc lozenges are very handy for this purpose.
Another nutrient that is often deficient is Vitamin B6 (or pyridoxine) and a deficiency causes reduced numbers of antibodies and white blood cells, shrinks the thymus gland and decreases thymus hormone production. Food sources are fish, liver, wheat germ, whole grains, egg yolks, legumes and prunes. However, one often needs to supplement since it is lost in cooking and processing.
There is a multitude of herbs that can also stimulate the immune system. Many of them are also anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Some of these are Echinacea augustifolia (Coneflower), Hydrastis canadensis (Goldenseal), Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice), Astragalus membranosus and Reishi (mushrooms), Lomatium and Ligusticum (Osha). I usually combine these in a formula with other herbs, such as lung herbs to achieve comprehensive effects that can be picked up at the clinic anytime. We’ve had great success using this tincture with the latest flus that have been a problem. I often have folks keep this tincture on hand, so, with the first signs of a cold, such as a scratchy, sore throat or sinus congestion they can start to use it. This usually takes care of the virus or bacteria and the symptoms are usually gone in 1-2 days.
Also, one must never underplay the role of a positive mental outlook, laughter, self-respect, affirmations, breathing exercises, meditation, exercise, yoga or whatever achieves that necessary balance in your life.
Many other treatments can be utilized, but, most importantly, rest, large amounts of fluids, preferably diluted vegetable juices, water, soups and herbal teas and limited sugar consumption maximizes the ability of the immune system to not only ward off those bugs, but, minimize their impact. Wouldn’t it be great to have an immune system working so well you hardly ever get a cold or flu?
Brenda Gill is a naturopath practicing in Rossland, BC.