Strengthen your immune system
Did you know? Being cold or being exposed to cold temperatures cause people to catch colds is a myth. A study showed that when volunteers (actually, prison inmates) were kept chilly or very cold, they were not more susceptible to the common cold. Cold viruses thrive better in colder temperatures, people tend to stay indoors and have closer contact with each other. Days are shorter during winter, and lack of sunlight leads to low levels of vitamin D which compromises our immune system.
Colds are caused by over 200 different viruses, the most common are called human rhinoviruses (HRV). Rhinoviruses can survive up to 48 hours on surfaces, such door knobs, shopping carts and key boards. A single cold virus can have 16 million offspring within one day, and a single sneeze can spray 100,000 germs into the air, which is why you should always cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing to prevent those around you from getting sick.
Symptoms will vary from person to person but can include:
- A stuffy or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Red eyes
- Swelling of lymph glands
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and some vomiting.
There is no cure for the common cold, prevention is the most important strategy. The advantage of natural medicines is that they are able to improve the body’s natural immune-fighting ability. It is also important to know that antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections, they only work against bacterial infections. Viruses and bacteria may produce similar symptoms but are very different kinds of microbes.
Choose immune-boosting foods – A diet full of refined, processed, sugary foods significantly lowers your immune defence for several hours. Choose bright green, yellow and orange vegetables, rich in vitamin C and Beta-carotene. The human body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, required for healthy mucus membranes. Mucous membranes are tissues that line organs and entrance points to your body such as your nasal cavity, lungs, nose and mouth, which are the first to be hit by unwanted invading microbes. Vitamin C helps to stimulate the production of white blood cells and antibodies, boosting your immune system. Vitamin C also contains powerful antioxidant properties, keeping your body healthy all year round.
Fats – Are required in the body to aid the absorb of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Vitamin A is required to build strong mucus membranes. Vitamin D strengthens your innate (non specific) immune system, identifying and eliminating pathogens that might cause infection. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells by neutralizing free radicals. Choose goods fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds in your diet. Vegetable oils such as soy, corn, sunflower, all contain a high concentration of the inflammatory fat omega-6, contributing to disease.
Proteins – Are made up of hundreds of smaller units called amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of the cells in your immune system. A lack of protein in the diet will compromise your immune system. High-quality protein includes, organic and grass fed meat and free range eggs. If you are vegetarian, you want to ensure you vary your diet so that you consume all the necessary amino acids. Include foods such as hemp seeds, quinoa, lentils, tempeh and nut butter.
Zinc – A trace mineral (meaning you only need small amounts each day). Zinc is required for boosting your immune system and wound healing. Get an adequate amount of zinc in your diet by eating oysters, beef, lamb, almonds, lentils, pumpkin and sesame seeds. If you choose to take zinc in a supplement form, always consult with your health care provider before taking any new supplements.
Keep hydrated – If you are dehydrated, toxins are more likely to accumulate in your body which can increase the overgrowth of unhealthy microbes and weaken your immune system. Herbal teas are a great way to keep hydrated during winter, squeeze some lemon juice for an added immune boost.
Broth – Your mum was right !! I’m sure you have heard of the healing benefits of chicken broth as a traditional remedy for colds and flu. Chicken broth is packed with immune boosting minerals and amino acids that have been shown to boost immunity, plus its easily absorbed by the body. Health benefits of bone broth and recipe
Reduce stress – Emotional stressors stimulate the secretion of adrenal hormones, which suppress immune function. Find ways to reduce stress in your day-to-day life. Enjoy a walk in the park, run a hot bath, read a book or catch up with a good friend.
Echinacea – Echinacea is a popular herb well know for it’s ability to boost immunity and treat upper respiratory tract infections as well as the common cold.
Panax ginseng – Its main active component ginsenosides, has been proven to have anti-inflammatory, immune boosting and anti-cancer properties.
Garlic – Best known is its use as a natural antibiotic, garlic provides antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-oxidant effects.
Astragalus – Used to strengthen the immune system. A number of clinical studies have been reported the use of astragalus for colds and upper respiratory infections.
Cat’s claw – Increase the immune response to help the body fight off infections and helps fight both viral and fungal infections
Elderberry – Packed with minerals as well as vitamins, A, B, and C. Elderberries have anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties to help strengthen the immune system and reduces the severity and duration of colds and flu.
There are many other herbal medicines and supplements that can be used to help promote a healthy immune response. Just be sure you get the right treatment plan from a qualified naturopath, based on your individual needs. To learn more about how naturopathy can assist your immune function contact B inspired healthy lifestyle
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