Dr. Diane Moan is a Naturopathic Doctor, who graduated from Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington, an accredited naturopathic medical school. Licensed in the state of Washington, she practices in Seattle at Dahlia Natural Health Clinic.
Cold and flu season is upon us. The best way to avoid getting sick is through maintaining a balanced life style, which of course is not always possible. Numerous factors make us more susceptible. They usually include stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, too much exercise, overwork, eating/drinking too much sugar, including soda, fruit juice and alcohol, or too many processed foods and not enough fresh fruits and vegetables which contain protective vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. All of these things affect us mentally, spiritually and physically and suppress our immune system response. We can’t always control the source of our stress, but we can mitigate its effect on us through exercise, meditation, yoga, tai chi, Chi Gong, massage and spending time in nature. Most of us can control which foods we choose to eat. White processed sugar has no health benefit whatsoever. Brown sugar is just white sugar with a little molasses added. Honey, molasses and maple syrup, as well as the lower glycemic index sugars— agave and coconut palm sugar— have some nutrients but can also suppress our immune systems if consumed frequently and/or in large amounts.
The first sign of a cold is usually a scratchy throat, sneezing or runny nose, or a rundown, sometimes achy feeling. There are numerous natural remedies for both children and adults that can stop a cold from becoming full-blown. Of course, they work best if taken immediately. Even if taken later, they can shorten the length of the cold, especially if taken throughout the day for as long as the symptoms persist. These remedies include vitamin C, the homeopathic remedy, oscillococcinum, anti-microbial herbs that come in caps or tincture like elderberry (also in syrup for children), cat’s claw, eucalyptus and goldenseal (strong, bitter taste in tincture). For sinus congestion, neti pots or salt nasal sprays work well. For coughs, a good addition to the anti-microbials, eucalyptus and elderberry, are the herbs, hyssop and wild cherry bark, which are relaxing expectorants. Steam inhalation with a few drops eucalyptus or thyme oil added to a pot of hot, steaming water is helpful for both sinus congestion and coughs.
During a cold, rest, stay warm, fast from solid foods and drink lots of warm liquids to help with a speedy recovery. Fasting allows your body to divert the energy needed to break down foods to breaking down pathogens, and the liquids flush them out. The above-mentioned herbs also come in teas for both adults and children. If you’re hungry, cooked fruit, broths and miso or vegetable soups are easier than other foods to digest. Avoid dairy and wheat which create mucus. For diarrhea, try two teaspoons carob powder in a cup of applesauce. Probiotics would help as well.
A low fever (up to 102 degrees F) is common with viral colds and flus. Fevers are good—they’re your body’s way of fighting the invading microbes. Don’t try to bring them down unless they’re making you or your child very uncomfortable; in that case the homeopathic belladonna is a great remedy.
Over-the counter medicines usually suppress cold symptoms, like coughing and sneezing but don’t get rid of the virus and usually prolong the duration of the cold. Coughing and sneezing is the body’s way of expelling excess mucus.
Help prevent other people from getting your cold. Stay home when you’re sick. Wash your hands after touching any body fluids, wiping or blowing your nose or coughing into them. When in public, cough or sneeze under your arm if you don’t have a ready tissue. Be conscious of touching doorknobs and light switches with clean, dry hands. Wipe off weights and mats you’ve touched at the gym. Teach your children to do all of the above. If everyone followed this etiquette, we would all stay healthier during cold and flu season.