This cold and flu season has been a doozy! I talk a lot about protocols you can follow to prevent yourself from catching every little bug out there but, what do you do when you actually catch something?
We all know getting sick really sucks. You try to suck it up and not complain but it's tough. Especially when it really lingers. Here are some of the remedies that I recommend when you are suffering from a cold.
1. Vitamin C - This vitamin has long been known to support the immune system and fight off bacteria and viruses. You want to spread your dose of Vitamin C out throughout the day as our bodies use it up very quickly, usually between 2-4 hours after consumption. Typically I recommend taking Vitamin C up to bowel tolerance. It naturally loosens stool so you want to cut your dose off before you're running for the toilet. Most people can tolerate between 2-4 grams per day broken up by 4 hour intervals. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C as well as peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, asparagus, and dark leafy greens. You can also ask your Naturopathic Physician to add this to a vitamin IV in a higher dose such as 10-25 grams during times of specific illness, especially viral infections. Please note it is generally not recommended for pregnant women to take mega high doses of Vitamin C (over 10 grams) during pregnancy due to "re-bound scurvy" that can occur in new born babies. Ask your practitioner if it's right for you.
2. Vitamin D - This is a fat soluble vitamin that is absorbed through the intestinal wall when ingested. Because it is a fat soluble vitamin it is stored in the liver, skin, brain, spleen and bones and has a greater chance of potential toxicity, however most people are actually deficient. Vitamin D has many functions in the body one of which is to reduce the incidence of the common cold and for the treatment of one. In the summer months we get most of our Vitamin D from the sun. However in Raincouver, where the winter is long and grey, our requirements become much higher. Depending on the individual dosing can be anywhere from 400 iu to 4000 iu. It is recommended to have a vitamin D blood test done through your physician before taking really high doses for longer than 1 month.
3. Vitamin A - There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this vitamin over the years. Vitamin A is another fat soluble vitamin that is stored in the body. About 90% of Vitamin A is stored in the liver. During times of great stress or illness stores become depleted quickly unless intake is increased. Food sources of Vitamin A include liver, egg yolks, milk products, yellow and orange vegetables, and dark leafy greens. Vitamin A has many functions in the body, one of which is supporting immune function. It helps protect mucus membranes and maintains cellular structure. It has been shown to block the activity of certain viruses. Toxicity of Vitamin A can occur when doses of 25,000 iu per day is taken over extended periods, such as 2 months, or from very high doses 600,000 iu per day over a shorter period of time. For acute illness, dosing between 50,000 iu to 100,000 iu for a couple days and gradually dropping your dose back down to 10,000 iu per day can give you the boost you need to fight off a viral or bacterial infection. Again, it is always best to chat with your practitioner to see if this regime is right for you. I do not recommend more than 10,000 iu of supplemented Vitamin A per day for women who are (or may be) pregnant.
4. Elderberry Syrup - This is a nutrient that I commonly recommend for families with children that are in school or daycare for the prevention of colds and flu. It has also been used for centuries for the treatment of viral infections. There are several ways to consume elderberry but I most commonly recommend it in a syrup made with minimal ingredients such as elderberry concentrate, honey or agave, and sometimes propolis, which in antimicrobial. Keep in mind that often elderberry lozenges and gummies are made with sugar which actually lowers the immune system.
5. Zinc - This mineral has been shown to support immune function by regulating the way that white blood cells function. It is commonly taken for the common cold and has been shown to reduce symptoms. Because zinc has so many important functions in the body including many enzymatic systems and needs to be in good balance with other minerals such as copper and iron I recommend to work with a practitioner to get the correct dose for your individual needs.
6. Probiotics - These have been shown to boost activity of immune cells in the gut. Typically I would recommend to take a multi-strain supplement that includes at least the following two: Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Probiotics should be stored in the refrigerator.
7. Immune Supporting Herbs - Echinacea, Astragalus, Goldenseal, Licorice, Reishi, Schisandra, and Aloe - studies have shown these immunosupportive herbs to be effective against bacteria and viral infections. They can boost the immune system by helping white blood cells work better. Herbal medicine can have strong effects on the body and can be a contraindication with certain medications and health conditions. I recommend to work with a practitioner before self - treating with herbal medications especially if you have a diagnosed autoimmune disease.
8. Garlic - I recommend increasing your consumption of garlic during a cold or flu to support the immune system. Garlic is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal.
9. Listen to your body - often times during illness our appetite decreases. If you're not hungry sip on bone broth, smoothies, or herbal teas to keep your fluids up. The decrease in appetite is our body telling us it is too busy fighting off a virus to keep up with digestion.
10. REST - This is so important. Often we start feeling better so we start doing too many activities only to crash again the following day or get sick again the following week. In order to let your body heal you need to rest. Take some time off work, send the kids to the grandparents for the day. Be patient with your body. You won't get better if you don't take some time off.
11. Stay away from others - Illness spreads because people don't take enough time to heal. With ALL illnesses it's a good idea to keep to yourself as much as possible from the onset of symptoms. If your kids are sick, keep them home from school so that they can rest and to prevent the spread of illness. A cold may just be a cold to you, but to a newborn baby, the elderly, or the immunocompromised it could mean life or death.
12. Add cool mist to the air by using a humidifier. This can help to loosen up congestion. Ensure you clean it and change the water frequently. Mold can grow causing far worse symptoms of respiratory illness.
13. Antibiotics - If you have an ongoing fever, green phlegm, and a raspy cough it would be wise to get checked out by your Family Doctor or Naturopathic Physician. Make an appointment to ensure you don't need antibiotics. It is true that most colds and flu do not need antibiotics but there are cases where they need to be prescribed. Antibiotics work by stopping bacterial multiplication and giving the body a chance to heal. They can be necessary and lifesaving. Antibiotics do have side effects and are often used incorrectly so it's important to listen to your doctor in severe cases when they need to be prescribed. I recommend to replenish good bacteria by taking probiotics 2 hours away from antibiotics, in between doses.
As always I don't recommend to self-treat or self-diagnose. If you need support in finding what is best for your individual needs then let's talk! Book in for a consultation so we can start working towards your health goals.