new_health (2006-44)

Buy Stock in Kleenex

Or, steal some of these preventative tips

by Wendy C. Smith

We’re entering the time of year when colds, flu and other annoying bugs start showing up in the workplace and at home. Why people get colds is always iffy, though there are some factors to consider as the cold season gets started. Lowered immune systems, need for rest, colder weather... all of these can help a cold establish itself.

First of all, hand washing is the most basic way to prevent colds, which can easily be passed hand to hand. Another thing to be aware of is that colds are viral. Therefore, antibiotics can not cure a cold. Antibiotics kill bacteria though and can help with some of the possible bacterial co-infections that may accompany a viral infection. For example, a cold might contribute to a sinus infection. 

If you’ve recently taken an antibiotic or are taking one, take a probiotic as well. A probiotic is a food (for example, yogurt or kefir) or a supplement that helps to recolonize the good bacteria that the antibiotic inadvertently kills.

A basic program of taking care of your body on a daily basis is the best way to prevent a cold or other such illness from cropping up. With cold and flu season arriving, it’s probably wise to get on an immune system optimizing program as well. A good antioxidant, a smoothie drink containing spirulina and vitamin C are all good starts to boosting your immune system. Most health food stores can recommend a program if you have no idea where to start or need some help fine-tuning your program.

If a cold starts coming on anyhow, what then? Boost the immune system by increasing vitamin C (with bioflavanoids). A lot of people do this by taking another dose or two, but they’re not increasing their intake enough. Linus Pauling, the two-time Noble Prize winner, wrote a book in the 1980s called How to Live Longer and Feel Better . In his book, he suggests 2000 mg of vitamin C every two hours to ward off a cold. That’s the equivalent of 20 glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice. That might be too much for some people, but at least 500 mg extra a day is needed.

Another idea is to take Echinacea. Echinacea is a native North American wildflower that is thought to help the immune system by increasing the production and activity of white blood cells. Echinacea can be used preventively all the time, but usage needs to be alternated, perhaps one week on, one week off. Many cold supplements contain Echinacea, and there are several nice tasting Echinacea teas out there too. One that I like a lot is Echinacea Plus by Traditional Medicinals. This tea contains Echinacea, lemongrass and spearmint, and it’s tasty.

Zinc is a cold-fighting mineral that has been added to all kinds of syrups and lozenges. Lozenges will work better because zinc is better absorbed sublingually (under the tongue), so don’t chew them. (Note that zinc taken over the long-term or in high doses can be dangerous for certain populations.)

Black elderberry is an interesting plant that has anti-viral properties. It is used to treat colds, respiratory ailments, infection and inflammation. Elderberry contains flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants that seem to act as viral inhibitors. There are several supplements that contain combinations of the plants and minerals I’ve mentioned.

If the cold arrives anyway, getting enough sleep is a very important part of recovering. A runny nose and a cough can make that difficult, though, and some colds will turn into sinus infections. Here are a couple of coping ideas. One is to avoid dairy products. They increase mucus production throughout the body. Another is to take something to break up chest congestion like MucoStop , a blend of enzymes that help break down mucus and decrease mucus production.

If a sinus infection seems to be coming on, try Xlear . It is a nasal rinse containing xylitol, which is a sugar with anti-bacterial properties. Or use a nettie pot to flush warm, salty water through the sinuses. The saltwater helps kill the bacteria that can cause a sinus infection. If a nettie pot is not available, use a bowl of warm, salty water and sniff the water into your nose and sinuses one nostril at a time.

Coughing and sore throat can be relieved by several natural methods. Slippery elm, a bark, can help soothe a dry, scratchy throat. Teas and supplements containing this ingredient coat the throat. Traditional Medicinals makes a yummy tea called Herba Tussin that contains slippery elm, licorice, black cherry and eucalyptus. Licorice also shows up a lot in throat/cough supplements as a throat-coat, and it is also good at relieving an upset stomach. Again, prevention is the best cure when it comes to colds, and it might be wise to think about boosting the immune system now in anticipation of the cooler weather. I’m going to go make a cup of Echinacea tea now.

Note: My brain burped and in my last column, entitled “Well, Bowel Me Over,” I mistakenly used the word Chlamydia when I meant Candida. Candida is yeast; we all have some of it in our internal organs. Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that, hopefully, none of us have.