It seems that as soon as Labor Day passed I started to hear sniffles and coughs in my yoga classes and see clients in my office fighting early-season colds. Now it is October and the air has cooled and the rains have come. Along with this change of seasons colds and flu happen, but there are things we can do to minimize our susceptibility and if we due get ill, shorten the duration and decrease the severity of symptoms.
The choices we can make to prevent and treat colds range from emphasizing whole foods and healing herbs in the diet to products that support the immune system and fight infection. I find that the people I work with in my naturopathic practice vary in their preferences to types of approach to staying well. There are those who prefer to use whole foods and home treatments and take the extra time that might entail. At the other extreme are those who just want the product they can purchase and use.
Of course, there are many people in between these two extremes who make an effort to make good dietary choices, and also want the herbs and supplements that they can use as adjuncts to that healthy diet. As I write about immune support I will make an effort to offer suggestions that cover the full spectrum of approaches and encourage you to choose those that resonate with you.
Let’s start with colored foods – specifically greens and reds. We all know that fruits and vegetable are important. Some people do a great job including abundant amounts of fruits and veggies in their diet and actually crave those foods. Many more people find that nutritionally dense fruits and veggies aren’t as convenient and just don’t make it onto their plate often enough.
When we study populations around the world we find that the people who live the longest healthiest lives are those who eat green and red foods in abundance. These populations do not suffer from the diseases of the modern world that are so prevalent in the US and other “developed” nations. The high incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancers can be directly correlated to our toxic environment and nutrient-void food supply. When given the proper nutrition, the body will naturally maintain good health.
Nutrient dense foods not only help to prevent these most-feared chronic diseases, but also the susceptibility to the common cold and flu. In recent years the strains of flu have been quite severe and long lasting and becoming resistant to standard medical treatment. We will never win the race against these bugs by creating more and more anti-biotics. The organisms are smart and will find a way to thrive (such as by becoming anti-biotic resistant).
Our best option then is to make our bodies just as smart as the bugs. Supporting the resilient self-healing-know-how within. Our immune system is developed when we come into this world. It learns from the environment how to protect itself and thrive. Mother’s milk contains some of the most important nutrients the immune system of the infant needs to learn how to interact with its environment.
We can teach our immune system intelligence by avoiding immune-system-weakening processed foods. Instead emphasize nutrient dense foods like green and red fruits and vegetables. Include immune supporting foods like onion and garlic and herbs like oregano and thyme.
For those who prefer a ready made product or supplement I highly recommend using a green powder to make a quick, easy and refreshing drink each day. There are many great green drinks out there – my personal favorite is Isagenix Greens. It not only contains multiple green vegetables such as brussels sprouts, broccoli and kale but also immune supporting mushrooms like shitake, cordyceps and maitake. It also contains a generous dose of spirulina making it a great vegetarian source of protein.
Garlic in capsule form is a great item to keep on-hand in your cupboard. Garlic supports immunity by killing of microbes, boosting immune function and supporting the body in removing debris. If I find myself with an early sign of a cold such as a sore throat, I take two Standard Process garlic capsules before bed and am always better the next morning.
To be extra sure I wake up in the morning feeling well, I also do the Warming Sock Treatment. This is a simple home treatment that has been shown to increase white blood cell activity, support movement through the lymph and promote a restful night’s sleep. Here is a link to an online description Warming Sock Treatment.
We can get the immune-educating information that infants get from mother’s milk in the form of supplemental colostrum. I believe this level of immune support is so valuable at this time of anti-biotic resistant, quickly mutating, and increasingly virulent viruses. I have seen great success in maintaining health through tough cold and flu seasons with the colostrum product Isamune Plus.
Here’s to a Healthy Fall and Winter!