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Battling the Bugs

Seven natural ways to fight off colds and flu

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It’s October, and the season of sickness is well underway–kids are back at school, adults are in full swing at work, and the weather is getting cold–put simply, germs are running amuck.

It’s October, and the season of sickness is well underway–kids are back at school, adults are in full swing at work, and the weather is getting cold–put simply, germs are running amuck.

Cold and flu viruses are especially common at this time of year, and although there is still no cure for either, there are many ways of effectively staving off a viral infection and alleviating symptoms.

Prevention

The most effective way to prevent coming down with a viral infection is to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle all year round–keep your immune system at its best by exercising regularly, getting lots of fresh air, and, of course, eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid sugary, starchy foods, as these can weaken the immune system by inhibiting the ability of white blood cells to fight infections. Also try to keep stress at bay.

Sometimes, though, there’s just no avoiding a cold or flu bug (like when your whole family and everyone at the office has had it three times over.) Fortunately, the following tips will help alleviate the fever, aches, sore throat, and sneezing, and make the virus leave your body quickly.

1. Drown it

Drinking lots of fluids is one of the best things you can do to get rid of a virus–water prevents dehydration and constipation, and helps the body eliminate toxins quickly and efficiently. Drink plenty of clean water, and for sustenance try vegetable broth, herbal tea, and fresh vegetable juices. Beet, parsley, celery, watercress, garlic, lemon, and carrot juices all cleanse the blood and digestive tract to promote healing. The old chicken soup myth does have some truth to it–chicken soup eases congestion and inflammation by increasing mucous production.

2. Ingest what’s best

Once you feel the need to eat solid food, stick to raw vegetables and fruit, as these will provide the body with the nutrients necessary to fight the infection. Flax seed and flax seed oil are beneficial because the healthy fats strengthen cells to fight disease. Garlic, cayenne, and marjoram are helpful decongestants and can bring down a fever–use them to flavour simple vegetable dishes. Limit your intake of sugars, even the naturally-occurring kind. Eating just 3.5 oz of sugar (even from honey or fruit) can significantly reduce the ability of white blood cells to engulf and destroy bacteria. If you must have fruit juice, dilute it with water.

3. Take your vitamins

Get plenty of vitamins A and C, which are potent antioxidants that boost immunity. Foods containing vitamin A include dark green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange fruits, and veggies. Foods with high vitamin C content include citrus fruits, broccoli, cantaloupe, green peppers, strawberries, green leafy veggies, kiwi fruit, spinach, and cabbage. Zinc lozenges help soothe sore throats.

4. Have some helping herbs

Echinacea is a powerful immune booster, and should be taken as soon as you feel symptoms coming on. Twenty drops of tincture three times daily or a 1,000 mg capsule three times daily is the recommended dose (avoid if you have an autoimmune disease). Astragalus also promotes a healthy immune system–take 200 mg three times a day. Both echinacea and goldenseal can also be taken in tea form, as can slippery elm, catnip, and rosehip. Add some warming spices, such as cinnamon or ginger, and some lemon for flavour.

5. Breathe deep

If you’re suffering from a head or chest cold, try a steam inhalation: add a handful of fresh or dried herbs to three cups of boiling water in a large bowl. Breathe in the steam for about 15 minutes. Chamomile, eucalyptus, and thyme all heal the nasal and bronchial passages. Onion, nasturtium, and gingko kill bacteria, disinfect, and heal. Tea tree oil also helps clear nasal passages and blocked sinuses.

6. Break a sweat

Fevers usually accompany the flu, and that’s natural–they’re our bodies’ way of heating up to "burn" off a viral or bacterial infection. However, any fever (especially in children) over 102 F should be monitored closely. To break a fever and induce sweating, try drinking lindenflower, lemon balm, thyme or rosehip tea, or acerola juice. Rest and let yourself sweat for an hour, then dry off, change clothes, and try to sleep. If a fever gets too high or persists for more than a couple of days, seek medical attention.

7. Try homeopathy

Homeopathic remedies can be very useful in alleviating symptoms and breaking fevers. For the flu, try Aconite if the fever is sudden and accompanied by thirst. Belladonna may work for a sudden infection with a high fever but no thirst. If neither of these apply, try Ferrum phosphoricum. For a head cold that causes a runny nose during the day and a plugged nose at night, try Nux vomica. Natrum muriaticum may work for sneezing and runny noses, while Pulsatilla is good for children’s colds and sinus colds.

Remember, healthy living when you’re healthy can prevent a virus from attacking. Healthy living when you’re sick makes the virus sick, and helps you get well!

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