Winter Immune Defence

Posted by Emma Mansfield

Respiratory infections such as the ‘common’ cold and influenza can occur at any time of the year but are most common during the winter months. It is estimated that approximately 4.5 million Australians experience a cold at least once a year. No wonder it is called ‘common’! Kids average six to eight colds a year and adults between two and four.

Colds and flus are not the same. Influenza is much more serious and in some circumstances can be life threatening. Those most at risk of very serious illness are the elderly, the very young and those with severely compromised immunity. Most people who are relatively healthy will recover from a bout of influenza within a few days. However if you don’t look after your immune system you will be susceptible to a relapse or to ‘catching’ the next infection circulating in your environment.

How can I prevent colds and flus?

There are many things you can do to improve and maintain a healthy immune system which will reduce the likelihood of succumbing to an infection.
Colds and flus are very contagious and spread from person to person via droplets in the air from sneezing or coughing. You can become infected by touching a contaminated surface or by shaking hands and then transferring the virus to your mouth, eyes or nose.

• Wash your hands frequently, particularly if people around you have symptoms of cold or flu

• Try to avoid crowded places as much as possible during ‘flu season’

• Drink plenty of water

• Eat a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables, and whole grains. This ensures that you get vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are essential for a healthy immune system

• Eat adequate protein. This can be obtained from animal sources such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy foods or from plant sources such as legumes and soy products including tempeh and tofu

• Have lots of onion and garlic for their antimicrobial activity. Ginger and chili are very warming foods and can be beneficial, particularly in the colder months

• Get plenty of sleep and make time for relaxation and enjoyable activities

• Engage in moderate exercise at least four times per week to improve immunity and aid the elimination of wastes through the circulatory and lymphatic systems

• Avoid processed foods – these are often lacking in essential nutrients

• Minimise or avoid the use of alcohol and caffeine – these leach many valuable nutrients from the body

Take Action Early
If you have a cold or flu infection you need to take precautions that will prevent its spread and reduce its severity and duration.

• Speak to your healthcare practitioner at the very earliest signs of an infection. If you begin taking the appropriate herbs and nutrients immediately you can often prevent the infection from taking hold

• Wash your hands frequently throughout the day with soap and warm water, dry thoroughly

• Always cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough

• Avoid close contact with other people as much as possible and avoid crowded places

• Take time off, rest and stay warm. Give the immune system a good chance to deal with the infection quickly and efficiently

• Eat nutritious foods and have plenty of fluids. Homemade soups with vegetables, ginger and garlic are great. They are very nutritious but do not take lots of energy to digest, leaving more energy for the immune system to do its job

• Avoid cold drinks and foods, fatty foods and foods containing sugar and artificial additives

• Keep in mind that excessive dairy foods may increase mucus production

• If you feel feverish make a cup of Immune Zinger, rug up and sweat it out. You can repeat this as often as needed until the feverish symptoms have passed. A hot bath can also help to induce sweating

Herbal and Nutritional Medicines
There are many herbal and nutritional medicines that improve immunity and help the body fight infection. Speak to your practitioner about which are most suitable for you.
Echinacea is one of the most well-known herbal medicines for improving immunity and fighting infection. It was traditionally used by the Native Americans for this very reason and the traditional use is now supported by scientific research and clinical studies. Good quality Echinacea should give a significant tingling sensation in the mouth. If it does not tingle it is not worth using.

Elderberry is another herb used traditionally to treat colds and flus. As with Echinacea this use is now supported by clinical studies. It has an antiviral activity against a number of influenza viruses and probably also enhances the immune system. Other herbs that improve immunity include Andrographis and Cat’s Claw.

Important immune enhancing nutrients include vitamin C and zinc. A deficiency of these nutrients depletes the immune system and leads to an increased incidence of infection. It is also probable that infections are more severe and last longer in patients with vitamin C and/or zinc deficiency. B complex vitamins are great for general health and immunity. Vitamin A is essential for healthy mucous membranes which line the respiratory tract.

It is advisable to see your practitioner if you wish to improve your immunity and stay healthy. Choosing your own products is common but by doing so it is possible to disrupt the body’s natural balance. Your healthcare practitioner will be able to prescribe good quality ‘practitioner only’ medicines that are best suited to your individual health situation.

Winter Immune Defence
Immune Zinger
Place the following ingredients into a mug:
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1 teaspoon of finely chopped or grated fresh ginger or 1?4 teaspoon dried ginger
• A pinch of chili powder or a little chopped fresh chili
• 1-2 cloves of garlic crushed or finely chopped
• 1-2 teaspoons honey
Add boiling water and cover for about 10 minutes. Rug up, stay warm and enjoy this delicious brew. It will encourage a mild fever and induce sweating. Fever is one of the body’s first defences against infection and may help to relieve the symptoms.
© Nutrimedicine 2008
Posted by Emma Mansfield N.D.