This is the time of year that people refer to as cold and flu season. Why does it seem like we catch colds and flus more this time of year? It has been scientifically proven that it really isn’t about the colder temperatures we are exposed to in winter months. The old adage about wear your coat outside or you’ll catch cold turns out to be false. Our bodies however are under more stress during cold weather as we move from heated homes and cars to freezing outdoor temperatures. We also suffer from the lack of moisture in heated environments. Viruses can enter the body through mucous membranes of the nose, eyes, and mouth. You can pick up or touch something with a virus, then touch your nose, mouth or eyes and presto, you have given the virus a way into your body.
The Immune System
Colds and flus are both viruses. When your immune system is not operating at its peak then you are susceptible to developing a cold or flu. According the “Natural Science Daily” it’s your cells that catch the cold first, and that happens when the cold virus binds to a cell. Once a cell becomes infected the virus can spread by reproducing itself and infecting other cells.
Did you know that the health of your digestive tract has a direct effect on how healthy your immune system is? Most people don’t realize that the majority of lymph nodes are around the digestive tract area. These protect the body from invader cells getting in through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.
Natural killer (NK) cells are an important part of your immune response. According to a paper published in “The Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association,” NK cells play an important role in neutralizing foreign invaders, including pathogenic bacteria, viruses, parasites, and diseased cells in the blood, lymph, tissues, and organs of the human body. When NK cells come in contact with these foreign bodies, they secrete biochemicals that neutralize them. That is, of course, why they are called natural killer cells. Scientific research shows that natural foods and herbs such as blue-green algae, astragalus root, and ginseng all support and boost the activity of NK cells.
Macrophages, a type of white blood cell, also play an important role in the immune system in defending against invaders. Macrophages have to be moving and circulating throughout the body to work. Scientific research shows that certain substances stimulate your body’s macrophages. Key among them is a substance found in brewer’s yeast: beta 1,3 glucan. Beta 1,3 glucan is a specially extracted ingredient of brewer’s yeast and is not the same as taking brewer’s yeast, which will not give you the same results. Beta 1,3 glucan, taken orally, stimulates your body’s innate immune system to, among other things, produce white blood cells, mobilize cells to “recognize” foreign invaders, and produce anti-microbial agents.
Colds vs. Flus
How do you know whether you have a cold or a flu? Both are caused by viruses, but cold symptoms are milder than flu symptoms. A sore throat usually kicks off cold symptoms followed by runny nose, congestion and cough. There can be a low temperature, but it is rarely over 101 degrees, and colds do not usually manifest with a fever. Cold symptoms commonly start going away after about a week. If they persist much longer, then there is a chance you have developed a sinus infection, allergies or some other condition than a common cold. Symptoms that start quickly and then see improvement after about a week indicate you probably have the common cold.
Flu symptoms, like cold symptoms, also can manifest with a sore throat, congestion, and cough but are usually also accompanied by higher grade fever, a headache, and achy muscles. Flu symptoms also show improvement after about a week, but can leave you lacking in energy and not feeling quite in tip top shape for weeks. If other symptoms persist longer than a week, you may need to consult your health care practitioner as flu can sometimes lead to other conditions such as pneumonia.
Regardless of whether you have a cold virus or a flu virus, the treatments are much the same. Antibiotics are only useful against bacterial infections and therefore will not help with colds and flus. The best treatment of course is prevention by keeping the immune system strong and allowing your body to naturally resist catching a cold or a flu when it is going around. If you do have a cold or flu, there are natural solutions that can help to relieve symptoms.
Natural Solutions to Colds and Flus
1. Get extra rest so immune cells can regenerate.
2. Water, water, water. Use water two ways. Wash hands frequently with warm soapy water for 20 – 30 seconds to get germs off the skin. AND drinking water is the most important ingredient for healing since you need it to flush the colds and flus out of your system
3. Eat more foods with antioxidants like bright colored fruits and vegetables. Stay away from sugary and processed foods.
4. Feed your friendly bacteria in your intestine by supplementing your diet with probiotics. Probiotics, especially acidophilus, produce substances which are antiviral and antifungal. Probiotics also support the immune system by supporting the function of the digestive system.
5. Demulcent and expectorant herbs like marshmallow, slippery elm, comfrey, mullein, and fenugreek help thin and clear out mucous. You can find most of these herbs in tincture form at your local health food store.
6. Supplement your diet with this immune system support product that contains a combination of reishi, cordyceps, maitake, shiitake, Turkey Tail, and Agaricus blazei mushrooms with astragalus, beta glucan and Wild Bluegreen Algae. Pure, whole particle beta glucan helps with inflammation by mobilizing white blood cells to areas of injury or inflammation. These white blood cells (macrophages) remove damaged tissue quickly before it has time to trigger more inflammation. Adding a single capsule of this supplement each day to your diet causes your body to more actively defend against invading germs, viruses and antigens. This supplement can stimulate the macrophages into action, which in turn triggers an entire chain reaction of defense mechanisms in the body.
7. Take Vitamin C and bioflavanoid supplements as they will provide potent antioxidant benefits and support healing of the lung tissue.
Prevention is always the best medicine. So if you haven’t caught a cold or flu so far this winter, now is the time to start strengthening your body’s immune system and getting it ready to fight off the many viruses that can lead to colds and flus.
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