If you live in Central Oregon, you are likely aware of the extraordinary upsurge of colds and flu cases happening right now. A simple trip to your local drug store or natural pharmacy reveals an unusual number of people huddled around the vitamin C isle, and often long lines at the pharmacy. But is there really an insurgence in cold and flu viruses?
During the pandemic when most everyone avoided personal contact, wore masks and experienced long periods of isolation our natural balance of seasonal virus exposure was put on hold. The extraordinary measures everyone took to limit exposure to the coronavirus also limited our exposure to other viruses. When we failed to come in contact with a normal cold and flu virus our natural immunity weakened, leading to what seems like an early surge of virulent infections.
This year’s cold and flu viruses are coming on strong and showing up with symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and inflamed sinuses, as well as coughing, body aches and chest congestion. Cold viruses usually differ from more serious flu viruses in that flu is typically accompanied by a fever and extreme exhaustion. Naturally there are more colds right now when the virus is most contagious and easily spread.
Strengthen the immune system
With seasonal viruses the body’s immune reaction can be tuned in advance to mitigate the severity and duration of the illness. With a little head’s up it is possible to fortify the body naturally before it happens and then shorten the virus’s duration and decrease symptoms once it takes hold. The first line of defense to most any illness is a good wholesome diet, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a regular fitness routine, all of which is crucial for immunity health. There are also many ways to supplement good health while charging the immune system. It’s always a good idea to consult with a qualified naturopath or nutritionist before self-supplementing to ensure the most appropriate supplement and dose for your needs
- Vitamin C – Of all vitamins, vitamin C is used to reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of the common cold. It is even thought to help lessen or prevent the most serious complications of viral pneumonia. For the best impact against a cold or flu liposomal formulations of Vitamin C has been shown to improve absorption – up to 93 per cent compared to 17 per cent for regular Vitamin C capsules.
- Vitamin D – Perhaps the most talked about supplement of the pandemic, vitamin D research shows how effective it can be in the prevention and recovery from viral infections. One large collaborative study confirmed that vitamin D supplementation can help protect against acute respiratory infections and routine supplementation has been shown to cut the risk of respiratory infection by as much as 50 percent.
- Zinc – Several studies have shown that when taken within 48 hours of onset, zinc works to shorten the duration of a cold or flu. Zinc plays a strong role in improving resistance to infection. People with low dietary zinc intake are likely to have lowered immunity. Zinc can help with many of today’s ailments improving immunity and speeding recovery.
- Probiotics – Considering that 80 percent of the immune system lives in gut, probiotics can enhance gut health. These tiny live organisms can have a big impact on physical wellbeing. The antimicrobial effect of probiotics promotes immune modulation warding off allergic and inflammatory responses while at the same time improving resistance to pathogens.
- Elderberry – Elderberry is one of most researched herbs and has been shown to be effective against viral infections. Depending on where you look, some sources laud elderberry supplements as a “cure” for the common cold. Elderberry has been shown to inhibit viral activity – especially as an extract, making it a potent agent for dealing with the flu. Dried flowers can be used to make an infusion that promotes perspiration in the body, helping induce fevers and combat the symptoms of cold and flu.
- Goldenseal & Echinacea – Goldenseal is viewed by many natural health practitioners as a powerful natural antibiotic, which is often recommended for colds and flu. Research reveals that goldenseal enhances the effects of echinacea, another popular herbal cold remedy, and is frequently combined in herbal preparations. Echinacea is a known antibacterial that also boosts the immune system.
- Propolis – Scientific studies have shown that propolis extracts (a natural substance produced by honey bees) is a good supplement that can help to naturally prevent and shorten the duration of the common cold. Propolis offers Immune-boosting properties as an antiviral, antibacterial and antioxidant. This supplement helps with most cold and flu-related symptoms including sinus pain and sore throats.
Dealing with Symptoms
For lung support reach for wild cherry and mullein
Both Mullein and Wild Cherry are known to be supportive for the lungs offering antitussive and anti-catarrhal properties which help to calm coughing and reduce mucous. When dealing with dry coughs, pneumonia and influenza these are excellent herbal options.
Salt water gargles and steam baths
When a sore throat becomes an issue try using Himalayan sea salt and warm water as a gargle. Himalayan sea salt contains less toxins and more minerals than table salt and is therefore better at promoting health.
Head saunas and steam baths can be very healing for stuffy noses and sinus congestion. For this remedy simply add 3 – 5 drops of organic lavender essential oil to a humidifier or diffuser. Lavender acts as an antiviral, antibacterial and is known to help promote restful sleep. The same is true about taking a steam bath where adding Epsom salt will offer another layer of immune boosting support while helping to relieve body aches and pain.
When it’s time to stop, rest and drink up
At the onset of illness, it’s important to know when to slow down and get ample rest. When symptoms such as sore throat, headache, congestion appear it is time to take it easy. The age-old advice to drink plenty of water is still very good advice. Filtered water, herbal teas and nutrient rich soups can all help to flush toxins out of the body.
Treating the whole body by engaging the mind
Of course, it is important to include the mind in any healing process. Research has shown that the brain produces endorphins that work to increase feelings of pleasure and well-being, and to reduce pain and discomfort. It also produces gamma globulin, which contains antibodies that protect the body against diseases and strengthens the immune system. Turning on these natural immune boosters has a lot to do with thoughts, feelings, and expectations. A sense of hope and a positive attitude will inspire the brain to produce chemicals that boost the body’s natural healing power.
‘Laughter is medicine’ may be an old saying but the importance of having a cheerful attitude, getting outdoors into nature, and spending time with loved ones all works together to positively inform the body, which naturally makes for a stronger immune system.