Health Matters – What To Do About Colds and Flu?

Dear Dr. Katie,

It’s that time of year again’the change of seasons and influx of cooler weather are causing everyone around me to catch colds or the flu. Help! What can I do to keep my family well?

Happily, there are many natural options from which to choose.

First of all, check out your lifestyle. This one’s not optional! If those 10 trillion cells in your body are functioning well, chances are they might be able to evade infection. Are you providing your body with grassroots nutrition? If your diet is lacking in fruits and vegetables (you need the Canada Food Guide’s recommended total seven to ten servings of fruits and vegetables daily) or protein (your immune system needs adequate protein to function properly), you’ll want to change your diet around.

Review your other habits, too. If You’re getting eight solid hours of good-quality sleep in the total dark?with no computer or TV screen glowing?You’re likely okay here. And don’t forget about exercise; at the very least, you should aim to exercise aerobically a minimum of three times per week, for at least 30 minutes per session. For example, you could walk, cycle, swim, or dance; these aerobic forms of activity use the large muscle groups, and provide cardioprotective benefit.

In addition to lifestyle changes, certain supplemental vitamins can be helpful. Vitamin D, for instance, is exploding as the new super-researched vitamin. The number of positive studies linking vitamin D use and immunity are impressive! Essentially, vitamin D increases the activity of natural killer cells in the body, and also improves macrophage activity (macrophages ?swallow? and thus destroy invading germs). Additionally, adequate vitamin D levels are correlated with increased amounts of an antimicrobial peptide in the body; again, the end target here is destroying unwanted invaders.

Finally, check out this plant: astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus). Astragalus originated in Asia, and its root is a potent antimicrobial and can ward off infections (especially colds and flus). It’s one of my favourite herbs! Many Asians make a ?change of season soup? to stay well when fall arrives, and one of its medicinal ingredients is astragalus. But a note of caution: those who are immunosuppressed should consult their practitioner before supplementing with astragalus.

You can surge through this year’s cold and flu season, armed and ready!

Dear Dr. Katie,

I’m sick with a cold?yet again. Is there anything natural that I can take to recover more quickly than last time?

It’s rarely enjoyable to be ill. However, there’s good news: there are many things you can do naturally to help your body recover quickly, and also, very importantly, recover fully.

You could try using botanical medicine. Certain plants have pharmacological properties and exert physiological influences on the body. In other words, these plants? naturally occurring compounds may, according to scientific studies and traditional herbal wisdom, help you get well more speedily.

What plants might do the trick? Many of us have heard of echinacea (Echinacea spp.), a perennial coneflower plant. When You’re sick, your body relies on its white blood cells, part of the immune system, to fight the infection. Echinacea boosts your body’s white blood cell count, meaning a more effective battle against the illness.

A lesser-known plant is the elder plant. Its small yet juicy, blackish-purple berries are high in anthocyanins (compounds that stimulate immune activity) and good old vitamin C. For adults, a dose of two tablespoons daily of the crushed berries offers potent antiviral activity. Colds and flus, beware!

And don’t forget to give your diet a quick review. Although a healthy diet most likely won’t create an instant sick-to-well change, it will give your body the nutritional power it needs to fight the infection more effectively. For example, minerals like zinc (found in foods like chicken, oysters, and pumpkin seeds) help the body keep certain immune system cells at optimal levels for fighting infection. If there’s no zinc, the white blood cells can’t work effectively, either.

Whatever you choose, remember that getting well and staying healthy involves more than popping pills. don’t forget the valuable contributions of diet and exercise!

Katie D?Souza is an AU graduate and a licensed naturopathic doctor. She currently lives in Ontario.


The information contained in this article is for personal interest only; it is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Readers are always encouraged to seek the professional advice of a licensed physician or qualified health care practitioner for personal health or medical conditions.