We're still in the midst of cold and flu season. Here's the rundown on common cold and flu symptoms--so you can make sure you know what you've got--before you start treating it.
The common cold is caused by viruses that infect the upper respiratory tract (including the nasal passages). Most people only suffer one or two colds per year; any more than that can be an indication of an under-functioning or compromised immune system.
Cold symptoms are usually short-lived (3-4 days), but can include general fatigue, malaise (vague discomfort), fever, headache and/or upper respiratory tract infection (runny nose, sore throat, etc.). One can generally distinguish a cold from the flu by the severity of the symptoms, since flu symptoms are much more severe and usually occur in epidemics (contact your local Public Health Department to inquire about current flu trends). In addition, flu symptoms often come on rapidly and intensely, and include fever, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, headache, chills, dry cough, sore throat, sneezing and runny eyes.
So what are the best strategies for beating cold and flu symptoms? Because they're caused by viruses, antibiotics aren't an effective solution (antibiotics work against bacteria, not viruses). In addition, antibiotics can potentially decrease your immune function because they destroy the healthy gut flora in your body.
Instead, try vitamins and supplements that can help boost your immunity and lessen symptoms. Here are my recommendations.
Natura's Flew Away: A wonderful formulation that uses herbs to increase immunity. Can be taken at the onset or in the midst of the flu, or even preventively throughout the flu season.
Rainbow Light Counter Attack: This is great to take the moment you feel sick. It works fast and helps curb illness while easing sinus and respiratory discomfort.
Plantiva ColdDx: One of our most popular herbal cold and flu supplements. This blend of Eastern and Western herbs offers proactive immune defense as well as anti-viral and antibacterial properties.
Natura's Throat and Gland Spray: A fantastic blend of herbs for immediate soothing of a sore throat.
Host Defense MyCommunity: A medicinal mushroom complex that is strategically formulated to give comprehensive immune support.
Boiron's Oscillococcinum: This top-selling homeopathic formula may be one of your best defenses against influenza (body aches, fever, headache, chills, fatigue). Oscillo has been shown in clinical studies (and approved by the FDA) to both reduce the severity and duration of flu-like symptoms.
Vitamin C: 4,000-6,000 mg of vitamin C (divided into a couple of doses throughout the day) has been shown to shorten the duration and severity of symptoms of the common cold, as well as boost the body's immune function to reduce flu risk. Try American Health's Ester-C (a buffered form that's gentle on the stomach) or HealthForce Nutritionals powdered Truly Natural Vitamin C.
Echinacea: Though there are many herbs to help support immune function, echinacea is the herb that has the most scientific support behind it. I like Herb Pharm's Super Ecinacea or Gaia Herbs' Quick Defense.
Zinc: Zinc has been shown to reduce the duration of symptoms, serves as an immune-system enhancer and is anti-viral. Take zinc either in pill form (I like Jarrow's Zinc Balance) or in lozenge form (try Zand's Elderberry Zinc Herbal Lozenges).
Probiotics: Populating the gut with healthy flora will greatly increase your immune response. I like Bio-K, Udo's Choice Adult Blend, and two that don't require refrigeration, Jarro-Dophilus EPS by Jarrow Formulas and Dr. Ohhira's Probiotic 12 Plus.
Elderberry: A very good source of immune enhancement with anti-viral activity. I like Gaia Herbs' Black Elderberry Syrup and Flora's SambuGuard.
And don't forget to take care of yourself!
Rest up and de-stress. During your deepest level of sleep, your body releases immune-enhancing compounds that greatly increase your immune function. And stress has been shown to increase the risk of flu infection; try to decrease stress with relaxation, visualization, meditation or exercise.
Drink plenty of liquids. Keep your membranes hydrated-it's more difficult for viruses to attack when you're hydrated. I highly recommend drinking hot herbal tea, especially ginger tea or Gypsy Cold Care by Traditional Medicinals. Stay away from beverages with concentrated sugars (i.e. fruit juices with added glucose, fructose, sucrose or honey). And try using a vaporizer or a humidifier (look for Crane Humidifiers at Pharmaca) to keep the membranes of the respiratory tract hydrated.
Avoid sugar. Sugar can impair immune function, so limit your consumption to less than 50 g per day.
Try a neti pot for sinus congestion. Wash the sinus passages with a saline rinse to beat germs. Himalayan Institute makes durable neti pots and a neti wash solution that is soothing and moisturizing.
Wash your hands! Decrease the possibility of spreading viruses and other germs by washing your hands frequently and carrying an essential oil-based hand sanitizer, like those from Pharmaca, with you.
Come in to Pharmaca today for a free health consultation on how to beat the common cold or flu. You can also shop online at pharmaca.com to find these great products for getting yourself through this cold and flu season.