Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The body requires a balanced intake of nutrients as well as adequate rest for health and healing. After an extremely busy weekend, when my diet was negligent and sleep was in short supply, it was no surprise when I found myself sniffling and sneezing late Saturday afternoon. I had not given my body enough of what it needed to effectively stay in balance and defend itself from the daily onslaught of germs, and so it was time for me to slow down and fight back. As the weather travels its autumnal path, and holiday schedules make it harder for us to take good care of ourselves, sometimes we just can’t help but catch that cold or flu that is making its rounds. When that happens, I have a tested regimen and immune support arsenal that I use to combat those germs and recover quickly.

FORTIFY THE IMMUNE SYSTEM: As soon as you start to feel those early symptoms that indicate you are battling some kind of virus, your first priority should be to support your immune system, so that it can effectively defend your body and quickly get you over the cold or flu. There are a number of simple ways to do this.
  • The lymphatic system is responsible for cleaning the toxins out of your body. When you are battling a virus or infection, the lymphatic system is taxed. Swollen lymph nodes are sometimes an indicator of this. Manual lymph drainage massage is an excellent way to support the lymphatic system, although it may not always be available as a treatment option.
  • An Ayurvedic recommendation would also be to start your day with a glass of warm, lemon water or herbal (caffeine free) tea to stimulate lymphatic flow, as well as taking ashwaganda to improve the function of the immune system.
  • Raw garlic and ginger, which you can easily find at your grocery store, also help to support the immune system in fighting infection.
  •  A combination of zinc, vitamin C and Echinacea have also been found helpful in boosting immune function.
  • Reishi, a medicinal mushroom, is one of my favorite immune supporters. It also has a number of other health benefits when taken regularly (especially in the areas of respiratory and cardiovascular support).
  • When running the heater in your home, consider using a vaporizer at night, to keep moisture in the air. Dry nasal passages are more vulnerable to infection.
SYMPTOMATIC RELIEF: Although there are many over the counter medications available to treat symptoms, I avoid most of them. Many of their side-effects can cause other imbalances in the body and may actually lengthen the amount of time it takes your body to get well again. Drugs formulated to decrease mucus often also dry out the sinus cavities, which makes those areas more vulnerable to infection. That can also cause the body to produce more mucus to combat the dryness. Natural methods to treat symptoms may require more frequent dosing for a more gradual relief, but they also more effectively help your body with healing and regaining balance.

·         It can be helpful to decrease sugar intake and avoid dairy when dealing with a cold, as the former can subtly decrease immune function, and the latter can – when mucus is already present – increase mucus thickness and production.  
·         For colds or coughs, turmeric is helpful in drying up and decreasing mucus production. It can be taken in capsule form, used as a spice in food, and even made into a paste with honey and ginger (which is easier for children to take, and my kids do not mind the taste). Honey can also help with excessive mucus production, and local and/or raw honey has additional health benefits.
·         For colds, Traditional Medicinals’s Gypsy Cold Care tea contains herbs that help with sinus congestion (elder flower, yarrow, hyssop, eucalyptus, licorice root, peppermint, etc.). To be most effective, sip tea throughout the day, or try to have 3 cups a day.
·         For coughs, herbal teas or natural honey based cough syrups with Slippery Elm, Cherry Bark and marshmallow root can sooth the throat and help break up chest congestion.
·         Eucalyptus and Peppermint essential oils mixed in a carrier oil to be rubbed on the chest or steam diffused in boiling water will also give temporary sinus and chest congestion relief.
·         When a stronger expectorant is needed, Naturade Herbal Expectorant with guaifenesin is very effective.
·         There are also a number of homeopathic tablets that can be safely taken in combination with any of the previous suggestions, although homeopathics should be taken separate from food and drink.
·         If there is fluid buildup in the ear, or ear infection tendencies with a cold, ear oils (I suggest Wally’s Ear Oil) containing mullein and garlic oils will help soothe and combat potential infection.

As I finish typing, a zinc lozenge sits in my mouth and a cup of herbal tea is on hand. I can honestly say that after only three days of supporting my immune system and treating my symptoms naturally, I feel almost completely recovered. All I need is another restorative night of sleep, and I will be back in balance and good as new...