Did you know that autumn is the peak season for colds and flu? These viruses thrive in cooler weather when there is less humidity in the atmosphere. There are over 200 viruses that can cause the common cold, but rhinovirus accounts for up to 80% of infections. Unfortunately, there is no way to kill the infection or boost the body’s immune response once infected, all we can do is rest and wait until the body clears the virus on its own.
This doesn’t mean you can’t prevent a cold though! Of course, you can minimize contact with people who are sick and wash your hands every 5 minutes. But, if your immune system is strong enough, you should be able to survive the season without a sniffle.
Why do some people get sick more often than others?
The simplest explanation is that there is often a time lapse between the time a microbe enters the body and the time the body’s immune system conquers it. In between this time, the invader multiplies and introduces toxins into the bloodstream. The toxins are what cause the classic symptoms of the common cold like a runny nose, sore throat and cough. For people that have strong immune systems, they are able to destroy the virus a lot more swiftly before it invades the body.
Time to Rev Up Your Immune Response
Here are a few key nutrients, foods & lifestyle tips that can help to prevent a cold:
There are conflicting studies on whether Vitamin C prevents colds. But, if we look at the role of vitamin C for immune function, it makes a lot of sense as to why it is useful. Vitamin C increases the proliferative responses of T lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) and the production of interferon (a protein that defends the body against viruses), and prevents defects in neutrophils (another type of white blood cell). One study found that administration of a high dose of vitamin C, 500mg/day for 5 years, significantly reduced the frequency of colds per year. Unfortunately, vitamin C taken after the onset of cold symptoms did nothing to reduce the severity or duration of a cold.
Try this at home:
Citrus fruits are in season at the moment which are a wonderful source of vitamin C. They are also packed with bioflavonoids which work in harmony with vitamin C, strengthening its action in the body. Try drinking half a squeezed lemon in warm water before breakfast every morning, cut up an orange to have as a snack or squeeze lime juice over steamed fish for dinner. Other foods high in vitamin C include capsicum, dark leafy green vegetables, kiwis, berries, tomato, pineapple & papaya.
Pack a vitamin C punch: Cut a papaya in half length-ways and scoop out the seeds. Fill the cavity with your choice of berries, chopped kiwi & pineapple. Squeeze over some lime juice and top with chopped nuts for a delicious breakfast or snack.
A Cochrane review showed that when zinc was taken within 24 hours of symptom onset, it significantly reduced the duration of a cold. Used prophylactically, zinc is associated with a reduced cold incidence. Zinc increases immunity by raising the quality and quantity of T-cells whilst helping to inhibit the replication of cold-causing viruses.
Zinc lozenges are more effective at treating cold symptoms than tablets because they dissolve to fight the cold virus at the exact site of the infection – the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat. Have them on hand and use them at the first sign of a cold – one every two hours.*
Oysters, beef, wheatgerm, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews & cacao powder are all good sources of zinc.
Chronic stress is especially deleterious to the immune system as the adrenal glands (little glands that sit on top of your kidneys) continuously pump out the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol decreases lymphocyte and eosinophil counts (immune cells) which dampens the immune response and any inflammation when you encounter a stressful situation. Over time, if cortisol levels are constantly elevated, it can cause tissue damage and the body becomes less sensitive to cortisol which actually heightens the inflammatory response. Therefore, stress creates the perfect environment for which pathogens can thrive. The body is stressed! It doesn’t have time to fight off infections when it’s on the verge of breakdown! This is why stress reduction techniques are so important to incorporate into your lifestyle.
Try this at home:
Every day, sit or lie down for 5 minutes (working your way up to 20 minutes). Notice your breathing as you inhale and exhale. Notice the room you’re in – is it warm or cool? Can you hear any sounds? Can you feel any pain, tingling or pleasure in your body? You could call this awareness a form of meditation. It brings you to the present moment and stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system which encourages the body to rest, digest and repair.
Garlic is one of those amazing foods that is pretty much good for everything; it is anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. There is a compound in it called allicin which a sulphur-containing compound that gives garlic it characteristic smell. Allicin produces sulfenic acid when it is digested; a compound that reacts to quell free radicals faster than any other known compound. When used prophylactically, garlic has the power to nip viruses in the bud because of its ability to block them from replicating.
In order for garlic to be effective, it MUST be fresh. To activate garlic’s medicinal properties, it needs to be crushed or chopped before eating. Most of the alliinase (the enzyme that forms allicin) is destroyed within 10 minutes of cooking, so make sure to add into your meals at the very last minute.
Mushrooms have the ability to boost immunity as they increase the production of immunoglobulin A (IgA). Remember how I spoke earlier about people who can fend off viruses better because their body’s immune system destroys viruses a lot faster? Well, this is where IgA comes into play as the body’s first line of defense. One fascinating study showed that just 1 cup of plain white button mushrooms per day for 2 weeks increased IgA secretion by 50%! Stay tuned for my next post which talks in depth about these little buttons (excuse the pun).
Do you have a secret weapon against colds and flu? Or do you have any natural remedies? I’s love to hear them! Any questions or feedback are also welcome. Please comment below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org .
I hope everyone is having a lovely week so far.
Love Stace x
*Consult a healthcare professional before beginning any supplement regime.