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Win the War Against the Cold and Flu

It’s that time of year again. The sneezing, the coughing, it’s everywhere you turn. Cold and flu season is upon us. We know that colds and flu are not easy to avoid, but there are steps you can take to minimize your chances of contracting them. If you do become infected, there are several tried and true natural remedies to use for symptom relief and to shorten the duration of your illness.

First of all, what is the difference between a cold and the flu? The influenza virus can cause a wide range of symptoms including fever, muscle aches, headaches, cough, sore throat and congestion. Typically the common cold, which can be caused by one of over 200 viruses, isn’t as severe. Both cold and flu can be transmitted by hand-to-hand contact but can also travel through the air, particularly via coughs and sneezes. So, while hand washing is essential in preventing the spread of these germs, it may not be enough. Your best defense against these illnesses is a powerful immune system.

There are several ways to boost a sluggish immune system. You should start with a good night’s rest, which for the average person should get 6-8 hours of sleep per night. During these hours, the body’s natural defenses are at their peak. Stress, both psychological and physiological, should be avoided when possible. In times of stress, the brain releases cortisol, a hormone that attaches to receptors on the surface of white blood cells, one of the main components of the immune system, and alters their functionality. Also, avoid smoking, sugar, and processed fats. A proper diet is critical in maintaining optimal immune function. An immuno-building diet would include plenty of liquids, fruits and vegetables, garlic, essential fatty acids, and yogurt.

But, what if you do begin to feel the symptoms of cold and flu? There are numerous folk remedies that come to mind. Vitamin C has long been touted for the common cold. Dr. Linus Pauling, the father of vitamin C research, recommends taking vitamin C at the onset of a cold or flu; doses of 500 mg to 1000 mg every two hours. This may seem like a lot and it is, but research shows that vitamin C has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and immunostimulant properties. At this dosage level, however, some folks may experience stomach upset and loose stool. If one experiences these symptoms, it is recommended that they begin with a lower dose and increase over a slower period of time.

More recently research has targeted the mineral zinc in the form of a zinc lozenge that you dissolve in your mouth at the first onset of a cold or flu. Zinc aspartate is the form used and dosage is one 15 mg tablet every four hours the first 3 days. Zinc maintains a healthy immune system and promotes thymic hormone activity. With the use of zinc, the duration of the cold or flu has been shown to decrease.

Because the cold and flu virus implant at the throat site before moving into deeper sites in the body, I use a throat spray that includes a compound called beta 1-3 glucan. This compound has been shown to increase the macrophage activity of the immune system thus reducing the number of potential pathogens. I also use the herb elderberry extract for the same purpose. Both substances have been thoroughly researched and have been proven to be effective. Of course, the use of Echinacea, which I hope you are all aware, has been very effective in treating and preventing the spread of cold and flu.

Newly available in the U.S. this cold season is a traditional South African decoction of Pelargonium sidoides – a geranium unique to the region. Popularized as a “consumption cure” in England in the 19th century, the remedy is sold under the brand name Umcka. Umcka has been proven in clinical tests to relieve cold symptoms, reduce symptom severity and shorten the duration of the illness. It is available as a syrup or drop and can be used safely by adults and children.

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