Holistic Tips for Winter Colds
The weather barometer is dropping again which seems to instigate colds, "bugs" and flu's. Whether it is an influenza virus, an ear infection, or a persistent sore throat, antibiotics are not the answer.
Antibiotics are for bacterial infections and ineffective on viruses or colds. Think of your immune system as your front line defense team and the sneezes, coughing, runny eyes, vomiting and diarrhea are tools your body employs to expel the enemy. Taking an antibiotic will wipe out your entire defense and the weak invaders. However, your body will have no defense for the next attack and it will be far worse at defending itself against the stronger invaders.
Taking a pill to stop the vomiting or diarrhea will keep the invader in your system for longer just as suppressing the immune system will not allow your body to sneeze the offenders away.
You are better off using these 10 holistic tips for dealing with winter colds.
1. Stay Hydrated
Water is the best antihistamine! When your body is trying to get rid of the invaders it will often resort to sneezing, runny nose, coughing, vomiting or diarrhea. All of these actions use water and the body needs to be replenished. Make sure to avoid dehydrating sodas, juice, coffee and alcohol when you are sick and keep your water intake at half of your body weight in ounces. Sprinkle a pinch of unrefined sea salt to a glass of water if your electrolytes are low and squeeze half a lemon, lime or orange into your glass for vitamin C. Please note: store bought orange juice is often pumped full of sugar and chemical perfumes which devastate the immune system and dehydrate you. It is not a valuable source for natural vitamin C.
2. Starve a Fever
The old adage is "starve a fever, feed a cold." A fever signals that the body is in a state of immune system emergency and the body will be in a sympathetic "flight or fight" mode. Digestion is not possible in this state; the body needs only rest and water. If you do not have a fever, you can simulate one by taking a very hot bath or sitting in a steam room so that you can "cook" the bugs and sweat them out. The fever is an important step to "burn up" the invaders and kill the infection. If you take a fever reducer, the healing time will lengthen and the infection may persist. You must realize that you are taking a pill for comfort but the body is still fighting the infection. Running around believing you are better will further fatigue the body and suppress the immune system. Keep a fever hydrated and take cool baths if the pain is unbearable. If the fever is over 104˚ or has persisted for 48 hours it is time to go see the doctor.
3. Feed a Cold
What should you be eating if you have a cold? The easily digestible healing bone broth that contains minerals like calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, protein, collagen and gelatin for rebuilding cells, water to hydrate, and essential fatty acids to help the immune system. Start with simple broth, then add lots of garlic for fighting infections and see how your body does before adding cooked vegetables that are also easy to digest. It is crucial to avoid sugar and empty carbs when feeding a cold; sugar is the immune systems's enemy. It not only feeds the bad bugs, but a constant high blood sugar reduces the white blood cell activity, creates stress in the organs, and forces us into a sympathetic "fight or flight" state. This will lengthen the recovery time.
4. Stay Home and Sleep
When I am around people in public coughing, sneezing and wiping runny eyes I wish I had a paper mask like the photo. Staying home will prevent the spread of contagions, but more importantly the body is desperately telling you to rest and we often ignore it. The thyroid is the body's thermostat and hot and cold shifts occur when the body is having trouble regulating itself. Thyroid is latin for shield and it is the body's defense mechanism, giving you the physical message that you need to go back to bed and allow the immune system to have priority. If you continue on, the thyroid will give up and ask the adrenals for back up. The adrenals will start to produce cortisol, put you into a sympathetic state and help you exhaust your energy reserves. The thyroid can only "say wolf" so may times before the inevitable break down happens. Likewise the adrenals were only meant to send in cortisol for emergencies and many people today suffer from adrenal exhaustion. Most doctors will agree; you need to sleep well to get well.
5. Will Supplements Help?
Absolutely, but unlike over the counter pills that hide symptoms temporarily and have adverse side effects like ulcers, leaky gut, and yeast infections, we want to focus on taking things that beef up the immune system. Remember the days of castor oil? Castor oil is a fatty acid which supports my constant nagging about increasing your essential fatty acids. Current research has found cod liver oil to benefit the immune system even more with its high amounts of Vitamins A, and D. People often catch more colds in winter because there is a lack of sunlight and hence less Vitamin D. Make sure to get out in the sun without sunscreen for at least 15 minutes every day. Zinc can be taken to help boost the immune system and has been shown to reduce the duration of a cold. I have found zinc elderberry lozenges which double the bang for your buck. Elderberry is antiviral and a powerful antioxidant that reduces swelling, fights infection and boosts the immune system.
I am not an expert on homeopathics, but what I have learned from doctors that are, is this. If you were to experience watery eyes, you would take allium sepa or onion which naturally causes watery eyes in a dilute dose so that your body activates against it. We can think of them like natural vaccines, but instead of injecting a dead engineered virus into your body, a homeopathic is a natural substance of plant, animal, or mineral. The most commonly prescribed homeopathic for the first signs of flu is Oscillococcinum and I can personally claim it has been effective even with my children. Homeopathics are easy to purchase at a health food store; they usually list the specific symptoms you are trying to treat specifically. For example: Belladonna - High fever of sudden onset with perspiration.
7. Wash Your Hands
We are doing a terrible disservice to our children in schools that are forced to use hand sanitizer. I know it seems like killing off other kids' germs is the way to go, but that is not all that is happening. These hand sanitizer are so strong that they kill off the natural bacterial defense on our skin and dehydrate the hands to eczema like states. Nothing can make the skin more vulnerable to the next sneeze than a fresh coat of "kill everything" sanitizer. We need to stress the importance of good old hand washing with soap and warm water. There are many reports out that the beneficial bacteria on our bodies outnumber even the human cells. It is time to embrace this fact and develop a healthy immune system that can fight off the other germs.
8. Healing Teas
When your throat feels scratchy and swollen, drink a hot licorice tea. Licorice root is soothing on the throat, heals the gut lining, and acts as an expectorant to help reduce phlegm. Phlegm is one way the body packages up germ intruders in order to expel them. Fresh ginger is anti-microbial, helps with nausea, upset stomach and flushing the liver of toxins. It is best to simply grate some fresh ginger root in a cup of boiled water and steep. Add raw honey if it is too spicy for you and to coat the throat. A lemon honey tea is excellent for doses of vitamin C and to neutralize free radicals. Chamomile and lavender can be excellent to help you relax and peppermint is useful to relieve congestion. I like to make a garlic tea by steeping a few cloves in a cup of hot water and then add a pinch of sea salt to gargle for a very sore throat. If you need an excuse to stay home and be left alone; do your garlic gargle in the morning.
9. Soothing Baths
A nice hot bath with epsom salts can be soothing on muscle aches and pains. Add a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil to relieve congestion. Try adding 2 cups of Hydrogen Peroxide and 1 Tbsp of ginger powder to clear congestion and help settle an upset stomach. A mustard powder bath like Dr. Singha's will help with muscle soreness and flushing toxins and a simple bath with lavender essential oil will calm nerves and help make you sleepy. A very common bath to remove toxins from the body is to add equal parts apple cider vinegar, epsom salts and baking soda to the water. You may want to use an essential oil so you do not leave smelling like salad dressing. If you do not have the energy to take a full bath, make a foot bath and hang your head over your feet to breathe in the essential oils. If you are fevering, a lukewarm bath is best to bring the temperature gently down.
Chest rubs with white camphor essential oil and eucalyptus stimulate oxygen flow and break up chest congestion; they can make a child feel better fast! I don't like the harmful petroleum in Vicks, but if you do not have a natural chest rub on hand you can simply add one drop of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil into a dollop of coconut oil and rub that in gently. Mustard oil with a high amount of Vitamin E can be rubbed into the feet to stimulate circulation and boost your immune system. The wonderful thing about massage is that it helps the ill person feel loved and cared for, it moves lymph and helps flush toxins in the body, and many of the essential oils added have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and healing properties.
I am often most worried about the people who say "they never get sick." Uh oh, I think, I hope they have an immune system for the next big outbreak. It is actually quite healthy to have a couple small colds over the course of a year to keep your immune system strong and active. Be proactive and pick up a few of the key ingredients at the store next time. Epsom salts, licorice root tea, mustard oil and zinc elderberry lozenges just may make your next cold a shorter and less painful experience.