None of us enjoy being unwell with a cold or flu and the best way to reduce the number of days that you are unwell is to not get sick in the first place. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
These aren’t rocket science but it is always good to have a reminder. These are quick tips that you can implement all the time but especially when you are near high risk areas.
- Washing your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet.
- Reducing the amount of times that you touch your face.
- Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, immediately disposing of tissues and using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
Best to limit your exposure
Being mindful of your exposure to others that are unwell or potentially unwell is key. Our immune system is beautifully designed to deal with infections however we don’t need to test it just for fun. Depending on the type of infection (bacterial/viral/other) you may decide to change the way you interact.
- Reduce unnecessary touching of others.
- Create distance (termed social distancing if needed – 1.5 metres).
- Reduce the amount of time around actively infected individuals.
How might a naturopath help?
Cold and flu prevention and treatment is something that I see plenty of in clinic.
In the lead up to cold / flu season you can set yourself and your family as well, with some key nutrients that can support a proper functioning immune system. This might look like something that you keep in your cupboard just in case you feel like you have had exposure to infected people or something that you take on a regular basis to support immunity.
If you do become unwell, I offer short consultations that are targeted specifically to the symptoms you are experiencing, aimed at encouraging immune function as well as reducing recovery times. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
Please note the information here is general information and does not replace consultation with a health care professional.
Importance of food based nutrition:
Eating to support a healthy immune system is more than just eating what we normally do. Immune challenges are a time when our body is looking for additional amounts of key nutrients, so having a focus on consuming more nutrient dense foods is key.
Supporting immunity is not just about eating more nutrient dense foods but also about limiting your intake of foods that will impair your body to function at a level its designed to. This means that your body can focus on combating the infection rather than having to use nutrition in order to metabolise the food you consume (sugar as an example).
Some foods to focus on:
- Eggs (good quality)
- Bone broth
- Grass fed organic butter
Some foods to reduce intake:
- Highly refined foods – i.e. cakes / biscuits / cereal
- High intakes of dairy products – i.e. milk / cheese / icecream
- Foods with high sugar content – i.e. lollies / soft drinks
A great option of a meal that you can consume when feeling unwell is a chicken soup. My suggestion is to make a few serves up in advance in the freezer so that when you begin to feel unwell then all you have to do is to go home and rest and reheat a nutrient dense meal.
Serves: 4 x 500ml portions
Cooking time: 3-24 hours
Ø 500 grams of chicken drumsticks
Ø Bone broth or water
Ø Olive oil / ghee
Ø 2 brown onions, peeled and quartered
Ø Spices cut finely (your choice of ginger, garlic, chilli, rosemary)
Ø Other vegetables cut into chunks: parsnip, pumpkin, kohlrabi, swede, carrot, corn.
- Place your olive oil in the bottom of a large pot and add onion and spices.
- Cook for 2 minutes to soften the onion.
- Add the chicken drumsticks and vegetables or your choice.
- Cover with bone broth / water.
- Cook on a low simmer for 60 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Specific support of the immune system:
Although we may be getting enough nutrition from the food we eat when our immune system is actively involved with combating infection there are key nutrients that will allow our body to mount a more effective response.
When your immune system has access to key nutrients then it may reduce your susceptibility as well as reduce the duration of time that you are unwell.
Zinc is particularly critical for the intracellular signalling pathways in both innate and adaptive immunity and is essential for the development of non-specific immunity, such as neutrophils and Natural Killer cells, and stimulating the development of acquired immunity.
Vitamin C Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds and is increasingly efficacious when combined with zinc. Vitamin C stimulates white blood cell production and function, enhances NK cell activity and chemotaxis, supports clearance of spent neutrophils from sites of infection, increases serum levels of antibodies, and augments lymphocyte differentiation and proliferation, thereby facilitating innate and adaptive immune responses.
Vitamin D Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating immune function, with deficiency impacting the activity of T regulatory (T reg) cells, as well as the production of antibodies. Additionally, vitamin D enhances the adaptive immune response by increasing the differentiation of monocytes to macrophages and stimulating white blood cell proliferation, essential to the neutralisation or viral infections.
Sleep and rest:
Sleep is much more than just closing your eyes and resting, many of us think that because we don’t eat, don’t exercise and nothing externally happens then it must be a waste of time. However, sleep is one of the most active processes that our body undergoes.
There are many things that can affect the quality and quantity of sleep, by far the one that has the greatest effect is sustained stress. Long term or acute stress has been shown to lower immune function through associated sleep loss.
To give you an analogy of why immune function is enhanced when you sleep. Imagine run a school and part of the normal day to day things that needs to happen is that you need to clean the classrooms and grounds. You could do this at any time of the day however it is the most effective to do this when there are less people in the same space. This means that you clean a classroom when there is no class running. It means the classroom can be cleaned in less time as there is less obstacles to work around. The example of this is when your digestion is working to break down your lunch it means then immune system has to work around this. When you are feeling unwell what you can think about your rest is having less classes running on any given day so that your immune system (cleaners) has more time to get in and do the clean up jobs.
Here are some basic sleep tips:
- Dark as you can in the night time
- Reduce screen time in the last hour before bed
- Turn off computers / TV / wifi routers
- Reduce caffeine in the PM hours
The importance of convalescence:
Convalescence is the gradual recovery of health and strength after illness or injury. It refers to the later stage of an infectious disease or illness when the patient recovers and returns to normal, but may continue to be a source of infection even if feeling better.
This is an area that the Western world does not tend not to do well, there seems to be a ‘solider on’ attitude. This means that there are many people that will continue going to work or normal activities without feeling like their immune system functioning optimally. This pressure is felt as we feel as though we are letting the team down or there is no one else that can do our work, so our return to the workplace is often happens before we are fully recovered.
Taking time to recover is not a sign of weakness and means that you are more productive when you are back in the work space. Taking time to convalesce means that the spread of infection is lower.
Some key areas to think about when
- Scale back on non-essential activities until you are feeling well for a few consecutive days.
- Keep fluid intake consistent, often our lymphatic system needs extra support in this time.
- Encourage gentle movement (light walking or stretching are great options).
- Consume foods that will support your immunity.