You’re standing in front of a supermarket, chemist or health-food aisle with a multitude of supplements for colds and flu wondering where on earth to start…
So what would a naturopath advise? Apart from my 4 Power Food Tips, here are some of my favourite supplement and lifestyle recommendations (the ones I personally can’t live without) to help beat colds and flu this winter:
- Vit A, Vit C and Zinc – All are needed to produce secretory IgA (sIgA), part of our innate or “first-line-defense” immune system. sIgA is an antibody that’s found in mucosal tissues like the nose, mouth, throat and gastrointestinal tract (GIT), the areas where viruses first attack the body. Its role is to stop bacteria, viruses and other pathogens before they have a chance to replicate and invade further.
Vitamin C is also a great back-stop for your adrenal glands to help fight the fatigue through illness, an antioxidant, immune booster and a down regulator of histamine (so anyone suffering severe bouts of sinus, hay fever and allergies with the damp and/or windy weather, resulting in sinus headaches and sore throats, jump into the Vitamin C powder)
- Prebiotics, Probiotics and Immune Co-factors – in ferments like kefir, kombucha and kimchi and apple pectin (from stewed or baked apples) or as a supplement help maintain a healthy gut microbiota and stimulate sIgA (above) which aids your natural immune function. For any high histamine people out there, fermented foods will not be your best friend (and can make your symptoms worse) so it’s important to know when a supplement may be a better option.
- Chinese Mushrooms – Cordyceps, Coriolus, Reishi and Shiitake have been shown increase immune function against mild viral infections, may stop viral replication, and help relieve sinus mucus congestion.
- Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia and purpurea) with high dose alkylamides. Echinacea is the master immune modulating herbs. Sometimes it can get a bad wrap, but that is mostly because of the type used and amount of active ingredient included in retail supplements. Typically, a great quality will be from Echinacea angustifolia or a mix of both angustifolia and purpurea and if taken in a liquid form, you will notice a high-quality dose will give you an intense “buzzing” mouth-feel, like a double-strength Fruit Tingle. It will also set off all your salivary glands. If you don’t get this effect from your liquid herb, it’s a good idea to seek out a practitioner who can provide the highest quality herb for efficacy. Echinacea is a respiratory tract antiseptic and is effective against bacterial, viral and parasitic infection. Great for any respiratory infections including colds and flu, fever, sinusitis and tonsillitis, it’s also now known to have a key role in adrenal function as well as fighting fatigue and brain fog.
- Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) – used for lowered immune function, respiratory infections and the cold virus, it can be used before and during infection to boost immunity.
- Herbs such as Golden Rod (Nigella sativa), Myrrh (Commiphora molmol) and Elderberry/flower (Sambucus nigra) are antiseptic, antibiotic and antiviral and great to help clear sinus congestion, relieve fever, boost immune function and ease the upper respiratory symptoms of colds and flu.
- Go retro with salt-water gargles and steam inhalations:
- Saline gargles help draw water from mucosal tissues and reduce swelling which help feel your throat feel better, as well as creating an environment in which most bacteria will want to run a mile from.
- Steam inhalations help open nasal passages, clear sinuses and help reduce those head-cold headaches.
- Boost your Vit D – We need adequate sunshine to create Vit D, essential for robust immunity. You can increase dietary sources from grass-fed butter, wild salmon and oily fish, cod liver oil, egg yolks, mushrooms and organic liver, but your best bet is still via sunshine. We can only create Vitamin D from the sun via UVB rays, and they only come out to play between around 11am and 4pm, when the sun is at an angle of >35 deg. So get your limbs/torso/as much exposed skin as possible out in nature for between 7-30 minutes (fair skin) and 20 minutes-3 hours (dark skin)* each day during this time. *Source: Osteoporosis Australia
- Stop stress – Reducing physical stresses like alcohol and smoking, foods that may be irritating or inflammatory to the gut like gluten and sugars and emotional and mental stress is essential to ward off infection and keeping a healthy immune system. sIgA is affected by high stress, negative moods and conditions like coeliac disease and IBD. By focusing on improving your mental health, incorporating meditation or yoga, and cleaning up your diet, your immune system will be able to fire on all cylinders and help keep you colds and flu free.
There are a multitude of other natural immune boosters. What are your failsafe supplements to beat off colds and flu?
Kate is a qualified naturopath who is passionate about helping women heal from hormonal havoc and inspiring women to know their own power, worth and wisdom.
Kate offers one-on-one Skype consults for irregular cycles, PMS and period pain, endometriosis, PCOS, peri-menopause, mood swings, fatigue and mental and emotional stress.
Simply drop me an email to see how I can help you!