How to Prevent the Common Cold

It’s that time of year again….Cold and flu season.

With flu season going strong, your immune system is putting up a fight every day. So why not lend your body a helping hand by giving your immune system a little boost?

What Causes Colds and Influenza?
  Both colds and various influenza are caused by a wide variety of viruses (not bacteria). The most common way these viruses are spread is via hand-to-hand contact.
If your immune system is operating at its peak, it should actually be quite easy for you to fend off the virus without ever getting sick. If your immune system is impaired, on the other hand, they can easily take hold in your body. So, it’s important to understand that the reason you catch a cold or flu is that your immune system is impaired. It’s not an inevitable event based on exposure alone.

DID YOU KNOW?
  Are you aware that 80% of your immune system is located in your gut!! Thats why it is important to discuss diet when talking about cold and flu prevention.

Diet
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

Eat foods with Vitamin C:
It is widely known for its ability to prevent and reduce the severity of the common cold, .
Our bodies are unable to manufacture Vitamin C, so it must be obtained through the diet or in supplement form. Best sources: citrus fruits, berries, orange vegetables, leafy greens, tomatoes.

Pass the Garlic
  This is a powerful natural antifungal, antiviral, antiseptic and antibiotic that fights germs and helps the body fight off any bad bacteria. Chop or crush and add to your veggies for extra flavour.

Avoid Sugar
Sugar decreases the function of your immune system almost immediately. One of the ways it does this is by unbalancing your gut flora. Again, 80 percent of your immune system actually lies in your gastrointestinal tract. It is especially imperative to avoid sugar if you feel you are coming down with something, but keeping sugar out of your diet for the long haul will do wonders for your health

Eat lots of Greens
Greens are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants. Antioxidants help fight free-radicals that prevent damage to cells. They also fight against bacteria and viruses by helping to produce white blood cells. Increase your greens over the winter months to prevent a cold and flu.
Sources: Kale, spinach, broccoli, sprouts, wheat grass, barley grass, and spirulina.

Probiotics
  Basically, friendly living organisms that live in your gut to help you digest food, absorb it, and keep bad bacteria at bay. If you are catching every bacteria and virus out there, evaluating the state of your belly is a good place to start. If you find it difficult to consume good bacteria from food, you could also look into purchasing a bottle of probiotics from your local health food shop. Between 10-20 billion is a good daily well-being dose. If you are coming off antibiotics. Billion(s) sounds like a lot, but humans carry more bacterial cells than human ones. So get your billions.
Other names: Friendly bacteria, gut flora, acidophilus, and lactobacillus.
Sources: fermented foods such as: sauerkraut, miso soup, kimchi, komboucha tea, good quality cow or goat yogurt.

Omega 3
 EFAs have to be obtained through the diet because our body can’t produce them on its own. They help lower cholesterol and inflammation, support cardiovascular health and cognitive function, maintain the health of hair, skin and nails and play an important role in immunity. They help to increase white blood cells which are the body’s defence against bacteria and viruses.
Sources: nuts & seeds, flaxseed, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna)

Supplements

  There are hundreds of supplements to take out there that can help fight off a cold – echinachea, elderberry, oil of oregano, the list goes on. So I’m just going to highlight a couple of important nutrients

Vitamin D3
 It’s both a hormone (regulating calcium) and a fat-soluble vitamin (meaning that its stored in fat and doesn’t need to be consumed on a daily basis). D3 is synthesized in the skin from sunlight, and cannot be obtained from food (we obtain 90% from the sun and only 10% from our diet ie: mushrooms, cold water fish), so it’s best to supplement it during the winter. Vitamin D3 enhances immunity as well as other necessary functions. It is essential for growth, especially for bones and teeth, and prevents muscle weakness and osteoporosis.

Echinacea – is it needed?
  Echinacea is a powerful immune booster. It can be taken for longer periods of time, however it takes up to 3 weeks to get into your system. So if you just take it when you’ve come down with the sniffles it will shorten the duration a bit but you won’t experience the full benefits. Works great for strep throat.

Lifestyle

Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands will decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or other people. If your immune system is strong, it should be able to fight off the virus if it does enter your body, but washing your hands provides a bit of extra protection.

Drink drink drink
  Keeping well hydrated is important to hydrate mucous membranes that can be susceptible to irritation and inflammation. Water, freshly squeezed juices and herbal teas are a great source of hydration.

Don’t Let Stress Become Overwhelming
  We all face some stress every day, but if stress becomes overwhelming then your body will be less able to fight off the flu and other illness. Findings show that reducing levels of stress through relaxation techniques, daily exercise, and coping skills helps your body maintain physical and emotional health.

Exercise
  When you exercise you increase your circulation and your blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of fighting an illness before it has a chance to spread. In a sense, exercising helps your immune system to be more efficient in weeding out and acting upon viruses and diseases

 

Stay Healthy!

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About Hannah Pidgeon, RHN

Graduated from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in 2011. Consulting in Charlottetown, PEI. Mama to a beautiful baby girl.
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