The chilly, winter season is upon us with colds and Influenza,
caused by viruses, being our enemy to undermine optimum health.
A cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system. and can affect the nose, throat, ears and sinuses. Colds are a minor illness which usually last about a week and currently, there is little way to completely prevent colds.
Influenza or ‘flu”, is a more severe illness with symptoms including fever, chills, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, cough, body aches and pains.
The immune system defends the body against viruses like cold and flu, so a healthy and balanced diet, with a constant supply of nutrients, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods, is important to keep the immune system strong and working well to defend the body.
Some people opt for anti-flu treatments from their GP, whilst others prefer the body to get well naturally. If you choose the natural approach to strengthen the immune system, then fortunately, there are effective and natural flu and cold remedies you can utilise at home.
To assist immune function, start with sensible dietary choices, in conjunction with adequate sleep, fluids and moderate, regular exercise.
Nutrient rich food choices
Fruits and vegetables
Are a great source of vitamins and phytonutrients (health promoting properties found in plants), many of which act as antioxidants. Eating enough foods rich in antioxidants means the body has a better chance of fighting off cold and flu germs.
Variety is key as all fruit and vegetables provide us with different nutrients and antioxidants so aim to get as many different colours on your plate at mealtimes.
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamin C is essential for good health (200 mg
per day is needed to help fight colds) and is found in many fruits and
vegetables with best sources being capsicums, strawberries, blue berries, kiwi
fruit, oranges and broccoli.
Vitamin D is closely linked to the immune system, helping to support its proper function and fight off colds and flu. It is difficult to get all the vitamin D you need through your diet, however foods that contain vitamin D include mackerel, salmon, milk, almond milk, mushrooms and tofu.
Minerals and trace elementslike zinc, iron and selenium combined
with Vitamin C (to increase absorption) have key roles in superior immune
Zinc is found in whole grains (particularly wheat-germ and wheat-bran) as well as various seeds and nuts, celery, mustard and legumes.
Iron is found in legumes, tofu, and green leafy vegetables.
Selenium can be found in whole-grains and mushrooms, with the greatest quantities found in nuts, particularly Brazil nuts.
Pre & Probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria
that keep your gut healthy and strong, thus boosting your immune system. Probiotics are especially helpful for
children’s immunity, particularly during the winter months.
Available from both foods and
supplements, they can have powerful effects on health as the gut is one of the biggest players
in immune function.
To fight colds, 10 billion active probiotic cultures per day are needed which can be found in some yogurts and kefir with added probiotics. Probiotics, in capsules and pills, can be purchased from Health Food stores. Other probiotic foods include pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, kombucha, some cheese.
Prebiotics are types of dietary fibre that promote the increase of good bacteria in the gut, help with various digestive problems and boost your immune system. Prebiotic foods include onions, garlic, ginger, leeks, bananas, barley, oats, apples, cacao, flaxseeds, turmeric, wheat bran and seaweed
Protein makes up the building blocks for antibodies to fight infection. Ensure you include a good source at each meal such as meat, poultry, seafood particularly oily fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, and dairy foods.
Fluids are essential to moisten the lining of the respiratory tract to prevent dehydration which results in tiny cracks forming in the nasal membranes allowing viruses to enter into the body. Water (approx.8 cups per day) is the best fluid to consume. Additional fluids, in moderation, such as milk, juices, hot drinks such as tea, coffee and other drinks may assist.
Use lots of honey, lemon, and tea as home remedies.
While you’re hydrating with water, keep a nice, hot
cup of herbal tea at hand, and add organic honey and lemon not only for taste
and vitamin boost, but to soothe a sore throat. Honey also is helpful in
relieving your cough. Consider adding ginger too, mixed with lemon juice and
For adults, limit alcohol.
There is a large amount
of research which suggests that drinking alcohol suppresses immune function.
When it comes to alcohol and reducing the risks, ensure you follow the
guidelines which includes limiting your intake of alcohol to no more than two
standard drinks per day and having at least two alcohol free days per
What are the natural home remedies?
There are many excellent
at-home remedies that you should consider stocking up on before a cold or flu
hits you. Extra supplementation
can be via your diet, capsules, oils and teas. We’ll cover these in more detail in
another post, however some of the specific herbs and vitamins that can support your immune
Oregano oil for its antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
N-acetyl L-cysteine or NAC is a powerful antioxidant that helps boosts immunity and can reduce both the duration and severity of the flu.
Olive leaf extract a powerful immune booster and flu treatment.
Ginger naturally combats nausea and vomiting, making it an excellent flu treatment.
Echinacea my shorten the duration and decrease the severity of symptoms of colds.
Ginseng, both American ginseng and Panax ginseng may help boost the immune system.
We appreciate that there are a lot of natural remedies out there and even more advice! To find out the best information to suit you and your family, talk with your GP or a natural health expert i.e. a naturopath or a nutritionist (now located in many Pharmacies and Health Food stores). Remember, if symptoms persist or worsen, consult your doctor.
Wash your hands!
One of the quickest and
easiest flu remedies is to clean your hands! Hand washing can help to protect
you, your family members and others from spreading everyday illnesses at home,
school, or work.
So, stay on top of your good health by boosting your immune system with proper nutrition, a restful sleep each night and go for a brisk walk daily to ward off viruses, bacteria and foreign bodies that cause infection or disease.
Remember, a strong immune system helps to keep us healthy.