The summer is over, the weather turns colder and we begin to succumb to colds as well: we sneeze and cough, splutter and feel a bit of a sore throat. We shiver and fight the brain fog that descends on us. Our eternal enemy – the common cold virus – strikes again.
A cure for common colds?
As late as the 1970s there were still research centres that tried to find a cure for common cold but then these attempts were abandoned. The trouble is that the virus constantly mutates so it is almost impossible to create an effective vaccine or medicine, as by the next season the virus would have changed its form rendering them useless.
In the past, people used to take to bed for a few days, sleep, keep in the warm, drink plenty of water and herbal teas, have their chicken broth and allow their body to recover. Today we live in a fast-paced world with incredible work pressures and taking time off seems unthinkable. So we soldier on, infecting our work colleagues in the office and spreading the virus to other passengers on the public transport.
A cold is a virus
If you’ve caught a cold, there is no point in bothering your GP. Antibiotics are usually prescribed for bacterial infections but they will not be effective for a virus. Why? Because a virus is not alive so it cannot be killed. It’s a piece of DNA material, which inserts itself into our body cells and starts replicating itself, more like a photocopying process rather than live division which is the case of bacteria. People’s immune system has to get to grips with the attacker and activate the body’s own defence mechanisms.
Boosting your immunity to fight a cold
What can be done to assist our bodies to recover quickly, minimise the unpleasant and sometimes debilitating symptoms, or even fight the cold off as soon as you feel that warning tickling in the nose or throat?
First of all, you need to give your immunity a boost. This is done with good quality Echinacea. A teaspoon in little water 3-4 times a day will usually do the trick.
Another immune booster is elderberry. You can make your own preserve, cordial or syrup with it, but a quick and easy way to address your impending cold is to buy Sambucol, an elderberry extract equally liked by adults and children, in a health food shop. Sambucol Immuno Forte has vitamin C, zinc and propolis in it and taken together with Echinacea will knock your cold on the head.
A few words about vitamin C. A virus cannot function properly in an environment saturated with vitamin C, which has demonstrated antiviral properties. It is neither manufactured nor stored in the body, so it is important to have it through your daily diet. The best absorbed vitamin C comes from food (citrus fruit, cauliflower, parsley, strawberries, bell peppers, guavas, kiwi, blackcurrants, green leafy veg).
Zinc is a very important mineral for our immune system. Good sources of zinc are seafood, fish, meat, ginger root, pecans, wholegrain rye and oats, buckwheat. Zinc lozenges are great for a sore throat or mouth ulcers but don’t supplement zinc in huge amounts during an active infection as it may be hijacked by the pathogen (a disease causing virus or bacteria) and make it stronger.
Iron deficiency paralyses the immune response. Run down or slightly anaemic people are more likely to catch germs and viruses. If you notice that you are excessively tired, out of breath, feel cold, have brittle nails and hair, pale complexion and bluish eye sclera, you may have iron deficiency anaemia. There are two types of iron. Heme iron is found in animal sources such as meat and poultry. It is easily absorbed and used by the body. The body finds it harder to absorb non-heme iron found in dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, grains, eggs and dried fruit and needs to convert it into a heme form.
Do not supplement iron during a full blown cold. Our immune system keeps invading viruses and microbes in check by depriving them of iron via a specific immune defence substance, called lactoferrin, made in the intestine. During an active infection (viral or bacterial) our body strives to lower iron levels to starve off the invader. It is better to ensure you are not anaemic in the run up to the cold season.
Olive leaf extract (Comvita) will help you to overcome the exhaustion which accompanies colds. It will infuse your body with antioxidants much needed to stop the overactive inflammatory response, which can persist too long after destroying the virus. If this response does not subside as it should, it will start to negatively affect your own body cells.
Garlic is a wonderful antibiotic and antiviral, and is most effective if taken fresh and raw. Crush 2 garlic cloves and add in soups, salads, stews and casseroles.
Vitamin D, which is produced in our skin from cholesterol under the influence of sunlight, plays a major part in good immune defences. It triggers and arms the body’s T-cells that seek out and destroy any invading bacteria and viruses. If the T-cells cannot find enough vitamin D in the blood, they won’t be activated and will remain dormant. So there are many good reasons to catch a bit of sun during the summer months, introduce oily fish into your diet or supplement vitamin D3 when you are prone to colds and infections.
Cold and flu remedy number one
Don’t forget cold and flu remedy number one: chicken soup. It contains a mucus-thinning amino acid called cysteine, and some research shows that chicken soup helps control congestion-causing white cells, called neutrophils. Make your own home-made chicken broth by boiling chicken bones – they are full of minerals and nutritious bone marrow which will provide extra healing properties to the soup. Stock-cubes consist mainly of salt and chicken fat. Add fresh ginger root (warming and antiviral), parsley (diuretic) and garlic (a natural antibiotic and antiviral). Bon appétit and get well soon!
Finally, ask your grandmother what homemade remedies she was given as a child to overcome a cold. I would love you to contact me with old recipes from which we can all learn.
This blog was written by Marina Townsley, a practitioner at Sutherland House Natural Health Centre, offering services as a qualified Naturopath, Nutritional Therapist and Herbalist.