Avoiding the Cold and Flu

Cold and flu season is upon us.  In addition to being inside more, we also tend to be under more stress with the New Year upon us.  This is the perfect recipe for catching a cold or flu!  A mounting amount of evidence has shown that stress lowers our immune system.  To help you to stay well this cold and flu season, I have put together a little survival recipe for avoiding the cold and flu.  I have also included some natural remedies for helping to shorten the duration and lessen the severity of a cold or flu if you become sick.  In addition, we have provided a few supplement suggestions to help you prevent or fight a cold or flu.  Feel free to email me with any questions at danielle@vitalhealth.com.  Be well!

Prevention:

  • Vitamin D: Low vitamin D levels have been linked to increasing your susceptibility to colds and other infections. 2,000-5000 IU per day in winter is safe and reasonable.
  • 1-3, 1-6 Beta Glucans: Research has shown that these compounds strengthen the immune system and protect you against viruses and bacteria. These compounds are found in certain types of mushrooms.  They help your white blood cells bind to and kill viruses and bacteria.
  • Probiotics: Whatever your age, research suggests that the preventive use of probiotics can reduce the duration and severity of common colds. Health bacteria is also critical to a healthy immune response and reducing inflammation.
  • Stress reduction:  Practice a stress-reduction technique. Stress weakens our defenses and makes us more susceptible to becoming ill.
  • Exercise:  Get regular exercise. Exercise helps keep the immune system strong; however, don’t overdo your exercise, as this can weaken your immune system.
  • Sleep:  Get plenty of rest. Adequate sleep is necessary for the body to repair, heal, and fight infection (8+ hours nightly).  Interesting side note – a new study from Stanford shows that women need more sleep than men, because we use our brains more with multi-tasking throughout the day. We need additional hours to “recharge” our brains.
  • Diet:  Nourish your body with whole foods and lots of colors (from fruits and vegetables). Stay away from sugar, which can weaken immune cells fighting ability.
  • Hydration:  Use water as preventive medicine. A quick cold rinse after every hot shower is a good way to stimulate immune cell activity. In addition, gargling with plain water a few times per day has been shown to prevent colds.
  • Adequate protein:  Eat protein at every meal.  Protein provides the building blocks for your entire body.  This includes strengthening and repairing your immune system.
  • Attitude:  Laugh a lot!  Laughter can strengthen lower stress and strengthen your immune system.
  • Reduce your exposure to infection:  Wash your hands!!!

When you are sick:

  • Drink plenty of fluids in order to maintain water balance and to thin secretions.
  • Eat raw garlic, which kills bacteria and viruses. Crush a clove or two and add to foods like soups and grains just before serving.
  • Gargling with plain water 3 x’s daily removes mucus and keeps bacteria and viruses from sticking around.
  • A warm, humid environment created by a humidifier may provide some comfort while fighting off a cold.
  • Saline nasal rinses (3-6 x’s daily) (a standard 0.9% saline (sodium chloride) solution with trace elements and minerals in concentrations similar to those in seawater). Neti pots (small pots for nasal rinsing) and mineral salts to use with them are now widely available.  We have a few of these at the office or you can purchase one at a health food store or pharmacy.
  • Try a small amount (a few Tbsp daily) of some raw honey.  It kills bacteria and can soothe irritated mucous membranes. It should not be given to children younger than 12 months old.
  • Eat healthfully.  Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and lean proteins, as excessive sugar, dietary fat, and alcohol have been reported to impair immune function.  Pass on the OJ – it is very high in sugar.  Look for a lower sugar source of vitamin C such as eating an orange and drinking a glass of water.
  • 8+ hours of sleep nightly.

Helpful Supplements:

  • High Quality Multivitamin:  This is the foundation for a healthy immune system.  It provides all the vitamins and minerals you need for building blocks.
    • Example: Metagenics formulaPhytogenics without Iron
    • Dosage:  Take 1-2 daily with meals
  • 1-3, 1-6 Beta Glucans:
    • Dosage:  250 mg daily
  • Andrographis:  Andrographis contains bitter constituents that have been shown to stimulate the immune system, decrease inflammation, and fight infection.
    • Dosage:  400-2000 mg 3 x’s daily
    • Precautions:
      • Careful with gallbladder disease, autoimmune disease, kidney disease
      • Safety not known with pregnancy
      • Cytochrome P450 1A2, 2C9, 3A4
        Andrographis extract may alter how these drugs are metabolized.
      • Anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs
        Animal lab studies have demonstrated inhibition of platelet aggregation.  Use caution and talk to your doctor if you are taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications.
      • Chemotherapy drugs
        Andrographolide may have antioxidant effects. This may interfere with the actions of some chemotherapy drugs.
      • Blood pressure lowering drugs
        Andrographis may lower your blood pressure.
  • Vitamin C: Studies have shown that taking vitamin C may make your cold shorter and less severe.
    • Dosage:  1-4 g daily
  • Zinc Lozenges: Zinc lozenges used at the first sign of a cold have been shown to help stop the virus and shorten the illness.
    • Dosage: 1 tablet (20-30 mg) every 2 hours for 1st 1-2 days of FIRST SIGN OF cold or flu.
    • Do not take long-term.  May cause a copper deficiency.
  • Probiotic:
    • Dosage 10-200 billlion CFU daily
    • Efficacy of formula varies depending on bacterial strains and delivery system used
  • Vitamin D:
    • 2000-5000 IU daily
    • Best to have levels checked with a goal of 60-80 ng/mL
  • Olive Leaf: antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic
    • 1000 mg 4 x’s daily
    • Precautions:
      • Caution with Coumadin
      • Not to be used with pregnancy – safety not known
      • May have a die off reaction – start with lower dose
      • Separate dose 1 hr before or 2 hours after probiotics