The leaves are turning beautiful colours, there is a fresh bite to the air, and it's that time of year again -- cold and flu season!
So maybe not something to celebrate so much, but it is definitely something to prepare for. Did you know that it is estimated this year people will come down with approximately 50-million cases of flu and close to 1-billion colds in North America alone? These are not small numbers. Although the misery of cold and flu season might be inevitable, one thing is changing -- where we look for relief. Fortunately, there are many safe and effective natural treatments that are available to support a healthy immune system, even during the peak season for illness.
Many of us take for granted that getting adequate sleep, washing hands regularly, reducing stress, and reducing refined sugar in our diet are indeed core staples for an optimally functioning immune system. Applying these concepts alone are simple and effective tools to arm you and your family against unwanted invaders. That being said, life happens. As a result, the aforementioned fundamentals may go by the wayside at times. However, when this does happen -- do not fret. It's not about being perfect. However, it is about being proactive. Below are my top five Cold and Flu busters for you, your family, and friends (who are not perfect 365 days a year...).
1. Optimize Your Vitamin D
This powerhouse nutrient is very one of the most researched nutrients on the planet and for good reason -- it works. Fact check: when your Vitamin D levels are optimal, less sickness occurs. This not only lends to cold and flu boosting ailments but also in the prevention of Heart Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and various cancers. Sadly, it is also one of the most commonly deficient nutrients with close to two thirds of North Americans deficient. A simple blood test can be run called Vitamin D(25) that helps to understand proper dosing for YOU.
2. Add in Some Zinc
Zinc is one of the most important components of your immune boosting arsenal. Essential to human growth, zinc is critical for proper T cell and natural killer cell function and proper lymphocyte activity; meaning it may be directly involved in helping you fight any type of infection. Zinc is essential to many enzyme systems and for normal functioning of the immune system. Zinc is found in oysters (which have the highest zinc content by far), shellfish, meats, eggs, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Pumpkin and squash seeds are especially good sources. If you need to supplement, use a chelated form of Zinc to ensure optimal absorption.
3. Boost Your Vitamin C Levels
Did you know that humans are one of the few animal species that cannot store Vitamin C? Yet we need it to function daily. Throw in some stress, a slightly lacklustre diet, the occasional cocktail and not getting enough sleep -- and our demand increases even more! Vitamin C is a nutrient that has been demonstrated to have a substantial impact on human health. Decades of research has shown that Vitamin C concentrations in the plasma and leukocytes rapidly decline during infections and stress. A recent study done at the University of Texas showed that daily supplementation of vitamin C for as little as two weeks, was found to improve components of the human immune system such as antimicrobial and natural killer cell activities, and lymphocyte proliferation.
In other words, Vitamin C is a very powerful recruiter of the components of our immune system. Vitamin C can be delivered in small doses via supplementation but is best absorbed when combined with other anti-oxidants, this look for this when purchasing your supplements. Many individuals with chronic illness or immune dysfunction benefit in receiving much higher doses of Vitamin C via intravenous infusions.
4. Astragalus to the Rescue
Astragalus root is considered by many botanists to be the most powerful immunity-boosting herb. Native to Mongolia and China, the herb has been used for thousands of years to ward off illness, strengthen the immune system, and Chi-the building block of all spiritual and physical energy. This 'super herb' contains numerous components, including polysaccharides, flavonoids, triterpene glycosides, amino acids, and trace minerals. Most of its immune enhancing effects are due to polysaccharides. Polysaccharides work with other key components to strengthen and build the immune system. Research also indicates that Astragalus increases the production of interferon (an anti-viral and anti-tumour agent naturally produced by the body), and also stimulates natural killer (NK) cells needed to support a strong and healthy immune system. Be sure to keep any product with Astragalus in your medicine chest this year, you won't be sorry!
5. Give Garlic a Go!
If it works to ward off vampires... While there may not be much research supporting the latter -- there is a plethora of evidence demonstrating the powerful anti-bacterial/anti-viral effects of garlic, a true superfood. Garlic is packed with nutrients, particularly vitamins B1, B6 and C, iron, phosphorus and alliin which converts to allicin (thought to be the major antibacterial constituent of garlic). Eaten raw or in a capsule, research shows it is a good preventative medicine against coughs, colds and chest infections during the winter or as a natural fast-acting antibiotic if infection is present. During the First World War raw garlic juice was used as an antiseptic for bathing wounds and helped save thousands of lives. Add some garlic to tonight's meal and get your immune system rolling in the right direction!
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