As we head into October there is the likelihood that you will bump into someone who is desperate to pass on their cold or flu to you. Whilst you may take every care and have a healthy diet, if you are stressed, overworked, or been on a plane recently! You might be a perfect host for the odd virus or two.
In the last post I looked at Influenza in more detail as it can move through a family or community rapidly with some serious health concerns for both the very young and old.
The key to preventing upper respiratory infections such as colds and flu developing into the more serious bronchial conditions is to make sure that your immune system is fully functional.
Catching it early
If you are suffering the early signs of an infection, you should understand that it is a secondary condition. The primary condition that you are suffering from is called Lifestyle Induced Health Crisis! It sounds a bit dramatic but the reason you have become susceptible to a virus or bacteria is that your body is not fit enough to fight it. The fact is that we all have germs in our bodies that lie in wait, looking for a chance to escape into the bloodstream and wreak havoc.
When we are poorly nourished, under stress and using too many stimulants, such as cigarettes, sugar, caffeine and alcohol, any pathogens we are hosting get the chance they have been looking for.
Then we have the external opportunists such as cold and flu viruses who are looking for a new host with all the facilities necessary to help it flourish. Both bacteria and a virus love oxygen starved, nutrient poor, acidic, sugar laden, immune impoverished host who has little or no resistance.
The key to not picking up frequent colds, flu and other viral and bacterial infections is keeping your immune system in good working order. To maintain a healthy immune system it requires constant attention. You cannot choose a couple of weeks a year to give it a boost. You have to maintain it with a mainly fresh, unprocessed diet of fresh vegetables, fruit and lean proteins for 80% of the time so that you can enjoy the other tasty foods we all enjoy 20% of the time.
If you eat that way and get fresh air and regular exercise you will find that you do not become susceptible to infections in the first place . If you do contract a viral or bacterial infection then you need to give your immune system a boost to help it out. Working with it rather than against it by consuming over the counter cold medication that drive the infection deeper into the system and only masking the symptoms. (Remember that antibiotics are not effective for viral infections such as colds)
Here is a link to a basic shopping list that provides the nutrients for a healthy immune system and in the header you will also find a nutrient directory that list those that are essential for our health with the foods that supply them.
Before I take a look at the foods, herbs and natural supplements that you can take to help fight, alleviate and protect you from an infection, I am going to give you the golden rules to follow that will support your body and let it heal when you are suffering from an infection of any kind. For those of us who have a pretty good immune system a cold will last approximately 7 days, and for children and young adults, will in fact mature and strengthen our resistance to future viral infections. The problem is for babies, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems following long term illnesses or the treatments such as for cancer.
So for the rest of us, provided you treat the cold symptoms and your body’s defense mechanism with respect you should not suffer beyond the initial misery of the first few days. Here are some tips to getting through them without complications to yourself or passing it on to others.
Oh and in case you did not read last week’s post.. it is lovely when you meet someone you know to stop and have a hug, a kiss or two on the cheek and to hold their hand in yours….. But do you know where they have been… and if they have a cold or flu? Be a little more circumspect from October to May…. might save you 7 days of coughing and spluttering.
- Rest is critical: your body, although great at multi-tasking under normal operating circumstances, needs to focus all its energies on fighting the invaders. Sleep is a great healer and you should just go with the flow. If you go to work you are going to pass on your cold to everyone anyway and you will also extend the length of the cold and possibly develop a more serious chest infection. Go to bed or lie on the sofa with a box of disposable tissues and plenty of fluids to hand.
- Fluids are also absolutely essential as your body will not only dehydrate but will be forming thick mucus in great quantities, blocking airways. You are likely to have a slight fever, which will raise your body temperature and you will also suffer chills that will make you feel cold. A combination of fresh fruit and vegetable juices and soups, along with 2 litres of fresh water will help flush the toxins from the body efficiently.
- The body, as I have just mentioned, needs to focus on getting rid of the infection and it has not got the resources to digest large and stodgy meals during the first few days. Little and often is the key and this is where the soups come in. I will give you the recipes for a chicken and vegetable soup, onion and garlic soup and a beef tea that are great, packed with infection fighting nutrients and can be served with brown rice, a little fresh-baked wholegrain bread or toast. Easily digestible foods such as milk free scrambled egg or spinach omelettes are ideal during this time.
- Dairy products increase the production of mucous and therefore congestion and I strongly suggest that you avoid them during the early stages of an infection. Also if bronchitis or other lung problem develops you should also give them a miss. Calcium however is very important in the battle against infection so you need to include other foods that contain this vital mineral.
- Bacteria and viruses love warm, moist, sugary and acidic conditions and so processed and sugar based foods and drinks are definitely off the menu. This includes all fizzy drinks, sugar on cereal and in tea and coffee, chocolate and heavily processed meats such as ham.
- The symptoms of a cold, flu and of bronchial infections are a detox process, with your body working extremely hard to get rid of the bacteria or virus. Taking suppressive over the counter cold remedies therefore drives the infection back into the body – and this is one of the reasons why something that begins as a simple cold, that the body can deal with, can turn into a more entrenched condition such as bronchitis.
- Use tissues rather than a material hanky and throw away after using – it may sound wasteful but if you continually apply infected nose mucus to your hands you will not only re-infect yourself but also others who your hands come into contact with. Put used tissues in a plastic bag and knot securely and dispose of safely.
- Wash your hands regularly or use a natural anti-viral hand lotion(see avoiding colds and influenza)
- If you are in bed or using a pillow on a sofa do remember that you will be sneezing and contaminating the pillow case during your infectious period. Change every morning and wash at high temperature.
- If you have a partner then if possible as soon as you have symptoms go and sleep elsewhere and do not share toothbrushes etc for the duration. Love might be blind but it is certainly not bug resistant!!
- If you feel a sneeze coming on then do cover your mouth and nose with a tissue so that you do not dispense germs across the universe.
Components of the immune boosting eating plan
This plan contains all the elements to help relieve symptoms and boost your immune system. The purpose is to boost your immune system as well as naturally support your body as it fights the infection on your behalf.
- Two litres of fresh water. Combats dehydration and helps flush toxins from the body.
- Fresh squeezed grapefruit and orange juice. Use ½ grapefruit to one large orange. Juice of a whole lemon in hot water with some Manuka Honey. Vitamin C and Manuka honey 15+ has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
- Cranberry juice – Antibacterial and for Vitamin C.
- Herbal Teas – Drink as many of these as you like.
- Green tea with juice of ½ lemon & teaspoon of honey. Antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidants, Vitamin C and energy. Soothing for throat and chest.
- Fenugreek & thyme tea with a slice of lemon and spoon of honey. Expectorant – ridding the body of mucous, tonic and soothes sore throats.
- Camomile tea with a slice of lemon and ginger. Soothing and anti-inflammatory. Ginger also promotes sweating part of the bodies defence system for getting rid of toxins.
- Elderflower tea – Immune stimulating, anti-inflammatory and relieves catarrh. You can mix this tea with Green tea and serve hot or cold with lemon.
- Soups – Have three times a day with a small piece of wholegrain toast or mixed with a tablespoon of cooked brown rice. Garlic and onion soup might leave your breath less than fragrant, but the combination of these ingredients provides many health benefits. Garlic, like the onion is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. With the current concerns that we have about potential ‘Super bugs’ it is interesting that garlic appears to be an effective antibiotic, even against some of these resistant strains.
- Chicken and vegetable soup – Chicken contains Cysteine an amino acid that has a similar action to a drug called acetylcysteine, which is used to treat patients with bronchitis and respiratory infections. This soup relieves nasal congestion, reduces inflammation caused by active white blood cells, and provides most of the essential immune system nutrients and fluid and warmth.
- Beef tea soup – This is an adaptation of the tea that has been used for hundreds of years to help invalids recover from most infections, particularly if they were bedridden for days or even weeks. This provides lean protein which the body needs to recover, the B vitamins essential to combat the stress of infection and rehydrates the body.
- As I have already mentioned, it is a good idea not to overload the body with heavy stodgy meals while it is trying to fight infection. Salads tend to be unappealing which is why soups are so good at this time.
- If you feel like eating something more solid then omelettes and scrambled eggs are light and easy to digest. Add spinach and onions to the omelettes to give you a nutrient boost and serve with a slice of toast.
- A bowl of porridge with honey and a mashed banana and rice milk makes a creamy and nutritious breakfast or snack. You can also make a rice or semolina pudding with rice milk and add dried fruit or honey.
- Apart from the fluids and juices that I have mentioned, eat whatever fruit appeals to you while you are feeling unwell. Any will give you a great boost to the immune system.
- One in particular though is great at this time and that is pineapple. Apart from the usual healthy properties it contains Bromelain which reduces inflammation in general but also in the glands that tend to be swollen during an infection.
- Pineapple also works to cleanse the body and blood and increase circulation, allowing toxins to be moved from effectively from infected sites and out of the body.
Thankfully, I do not often get colds but if I feel that I am getting some of the symptoms such as a scratchy throat and runny nose, I immediately start a course of 1,000 mg of Vitamin C three times a day with 30 mg of Zinc.
Zinc is also available in lozenge form and is great for sore throats. Both Zinc and Vitamin C are covered in more detail in the October Issue.
Increase the amount that you are eating as you begin to feel better but still stay with six light meals a day for a period of time until your body is fully recovered.
Recipe for Chicken Soup
Cook whole chicken. Take out of water and remove flesh before returning the carcass to the water for further hour to simmer. Remove carcass and add two finely chopped carrots (vitamin A and C), finely chopped large onion (antibacterial) ½ clove of crushed garlic (anti-bacterial and antiviral), bag of fresh chopped spinach (magnesium, iron and calcium). Bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add back chopped chicken meat and bring back to boil. Either add a tablespoon of cooked brown rice to the bottom of a soup bowl or serve with wholegrain toast with olive oil.
Recipe for Beef Tea
This is an adaptation of the tea that has been used for hundreds of years to help invalids recover from most infections, particularly if they were bedridden for days or even weeks. Take 1 lb. of lean beefsteak (lean protein and vitamin Bs) and cut into cubes. Place 1-½ pints of cold water in a pan and bring to the boil. Skim of excess fat that accumulates on the surface. Add the salt and simmer for about an hour. Remove any scum on the surface during this time. Liquidise. Store in the refrigerator until needed and then bring required amount to the boil in a saucepan. Serve again with a little brown rice or whole grain bread and olive oil.
Recipes for Onion and Garlic Soup
2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
2lbs (1kg) of peeled and thinly sliced onions
11/2 pints (900ml) of vegetable stock or water
2 garlic gloves, peeled and crushed
Salt and black pepper to taste
Chopped parsley or chives.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and then fry the onions until they are soft and deep golden brown but not burnt. Add the stock or water, garlic and a few drops of lemon juice. Bring the soup to the boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the chopped parsley or chives and serve with warm wholegrain bread or add two tablespoons of cooked brown rice.
Creamy Garlic Soup
8oz (225 gm.) potatoes scrubbed and diced but not peeled.
2 garlic bulbs broken into cloves.
1-tablespoon olive oil.
Salt to taste
2 ½ pints (1.5litres) water.
Put the potatoes and the garlic in a pan with the water, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potato is tender. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then liquidise and pour through a sieve into a clean pan. Add more water to adjust the consistency to your liking. Whisk in the olive oil and add salt to taste.
Gently reheat before serving with wholegrain bread or Pitta bread.
Next time some alternative help in boosting your immune system… thanks for dropping in and look forward to your feedback.. thanks Sally